Due to unforseen delays to the release of the band's tenth full studio album, provisionally titled "Starfire of the Goddess" and now due at Beltaine 2006, Samhain 2005 saw the release of an EP, "Witchqueen", featuring eight tracks, some new, some re-workings of previously released material not yet available on any album.
Witchqueen is a very interesting mix indeed of a variety of the band's styles, and includes one track that is certain to join the already impressive list of "classic" tracks that no fan should be without - the truly stunning all-acoustic version of "Dia de los Muertos". This track alone would be more than justification for anyone to buy a copy of the EP, but the other seven are also very fine indeed.
The full track listing is:
All Hollow's Eve (2005 Mix)
Crush (Different Mix)
Dia de los Muerros
The Best In Us All
Title track of the EP, and a storming rocker of a track that has already been wowing audiences during live gigs in 2005, this studio version sounds very similar to the live recording available on the band's Soundlclick website. The track starts with a classic McKormack drum intro, almost immedieatly the bass and backing cut in, followed soon after by a simple yet adictive guitar line, and then Candia starts to sing, and the magic is in full flow. Inspired by the birth last year of baby Carmen, this is no soppy ballad, but a stomping piledriver of a track, a blistering tribute to the strength and joy of motherhood. It rocks!
Another full-on rock track, Intravenous also opens with a drumbeat, but almost immedieatly shoots off in an entirely unexpected direction as the melody and vocals start up. Tony gets to show off during this one, with a longish guitar break following the first verse. The track itself is of course another Vampire tribute, the ultimate intravenous love affair.
All Hollow's Eve 2005
This track was originally recorded as a duet in 2004, in response to requests from several fans on Ametyst's "Supernature" web forum to hear more of Tony's vocals. But people who know that version are in for a surprise, as the vocals, by Candia alone this time, sound very different to the original, so much so that on first hearing it sounds completely "wrong" if you know the original. That feeling doesn't last long though, and the layered vocals and Candia's rich voice soon win you round, and while this song may never quite reach the giddy heights of their all-time classic "Samhain" from the long-ago "Belladonna and Aconite" album (was that really 16 years ago?), it's still a great track for the passage of Year's Turning and the opening of the dark half of the year.
Now here is something completely different, and very very engaging. The track opens with a bodhran beat, soon joined by the piano, playing deep and threatening chords, before a very dark guitar and orchestral backing comes in. The whole tone of the song is dark and sinister, and that's before the decidedly twisted lyrics start!
She will enslave you and she'll set you free,
A fantastic track, deep, dark, twisted - Lady Geneva is coming for you!
Crush (Different Mix)
Crush is a track with a bit of history behind it, it's been available in different versions since the days of MP3.com, and was I think on "the Web Album". This is a new take on it, remixed with more guitar, and it stands here as a superb track in it's own right.
Dia de los Muertos
And then we come to the masterwork. Quite simply, there is no other way to describe this astounding piece of music, in this, it's definitive acoustic version. Close your eyes as the unmistakebly Spanish guitar begins, and you are transported to the warm darkness of a candle-lit Mexican cemetery, the gentle breeze wisping your hair as the gipsy siren summons the spirits of the departed to gather with the living once more. Candia's voice is absolutely perfect for the song, and she sings it faultlessly, hauntingly, and both words and melody will stay with you long after the song has finished. This track surpasses "Gypsy Lament" from Wytches, and I don't say that lightly. An absolute Inkubus Sukkubus classic, this track simply must be heard.
Firmly back to electric tertitory with this one, and back to the classic formula with a detailed orchestral backing beneath the drums and guitar. The intro and choruses are rich and deep, driving forward and enveloping you in sound, the verses seem a bit plain by comparason, but the overall effect works well. I'd like to hear this one played live some time.
The Beast In Us All
Another interesting track, opening with Candia's voice over a sparse yet deep set of piano chords, soon joined by storm sound efects. The vocals are compulsive, rich, and threatening at the same time, reminding us that as nations rise and nations fall, we all carry "the beast" in our genetics, for good and for evil. "We're never free from our animal chains, we've got the beast in us all". Tony does some backing vocals on the choruses on this one, and the results are stunning. Definetly another high-point of the EP, and delightfully placed where you least expect it.
Recorded at the band's second gig of 2005, in Bristol (see review elsewhere on this site), this is the same version that's been available to download for the last few months, and the first live recording of an electric track the band have released since "Away With The Faeries" back in 1998.
To sum up - a great EP, full of surprises. It takes a couple of plays to really get the best out of it, as each track is worth exploring in detail. Buy it. Inkubus Sukkubus have proved yet again that they can deliver the musical goods in a manner other bands can only dream about.
"Witchqueen" reviewd by Jack (email@example.com), Samhain, 2005.