Bound To The Wheel

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Long Live Death’s second album finds the sextet making its beautifully mysterious way through another set of often striking songs, showing not only that there’s a continuing place for mournful, reflective folk but that there’s a way to put a good individual stamp on it. In Long Live Death’s case, a lot of it comes from vocalist/drummer Daniel Janssen, whose singing (as well as how his voice is recorded) feels clear and crisp, sometimes even rough and raspy rather than murky or lost — not a criticism of that approach at all, to be sure, but Janssen’s singing is a fine variation on the norm. It lends pronouncements like “Our lives are more than this!” at the end of “Awaken” a definite gravity. The band’s self-admitted fandom of groups like Current 93 and the Incredible String Band is perfectly apparent throughout, and if Long Live Death don’t have quite the full artistic range and depth of either, they are after all only two albums in and on a good and potentially very rewarding path. Anna Messing’s cello and James Sarrsaguard’s performances on saw and melodica are both crucial, adding not merely depth to the arrangements, but a truly haunting atmosphere, at once beautifully meditative and unsettling. The instruments are familiar enough in such a style of music, so the trick lies in making the most of both, and at that both performers excel, while the chiming bells on a short song like “Seven” are equally beautiful. Meanwhile, for all the melancholic atmosphere, songs like “Praise” and “Join Us” feels both celebratory in its massed vocals and handclaps as well as aware of a little wry humour — how else to explain a line like “Blood and semen mix/like burning candle wicks.”