Tori Amos never sits still. This latest album see’s her drop band instrumentation altogether and produce an absolutely sublime orchestrated album. Underpinned by the trusty piano, vocal cameo’s from family members and some lovely interpretations of classical themes, it’s a cracking album.
Opener “Shattered Sea” is growling and dark. The low rumbles of piano thunder against the crashing string and wind instruments as they build and roll like waves of power over the speakers. What’s great about this and every other track is that they are variations of classical themes of the 16th to 18th century. I’m not one to be able to pick out the themes but then going and finding the original tracks after, it’s interesting to see how they’re woven into the track. After the fierce opener “Snowblind” introduces Tori’s daughter Natashya Hawley as a vocal where the two interplay off each other. Natashya’s vocals have a real husk to them and convey a lot of soul. Should she want to, she could have an interesting musical career from the voice alone. The two voices sit very well together as the bluesy and sprawling piano floats in and out.
“Battle of Trees” in a near nine minute epic. The strings in this song are beautifully arranged are they pluck the main melody. Tori’s vocal’s also shine here too with a lot of different ranges hit. It’s not the catchiest song on the album at all but it still has a knack of standing out and staying with you longer afterwards as a general feeling. “Fearlessness” is another track that emotes a feeling as they piano and oboes flow effortlessly. What I will say about both tracks is that upon each listen I find new instrument flourishes and appreciate them ten times more each play through.
“Cactus Practice” is a song that reminds me of Fantasia for some reason. It’s heavily wind instrument based and of all the songs, this is the one that sounds like it still is in the 1800’s. Natashya’s vocals really suit the oboes and bassoons. “Star Whisperer” is the longest track at just under ten minutes. Slow and deliberate, the track slowly evolves and has some beautiful transitions, particularly the “I heard you scream from the other side of the mountain” where Tori is able to flex her piano chops and sound utterly adorable. Tori’s vocals are on top form throughout but the instrumentation often takes the limelight. Here in this track there’s a lovely instrumental section where the track creates a frenzy before it moves into its final few minutes and it’s some of the best music I’ve heard all year.
“Job’s Coffin” is an excellent track. A simple piano riff embellished with horns and clarinets. Natashya takes the lead vocals here with Tori playing backup. It’s just a simple song that sticks in your head for a long time after and it was after Shattered Sea, the next track I stuck straight on repeat. “Nautical Twilight” is very classical with thick arpeggios and a theatrical turn of vocal display. I love how the verses build up to a specific climax which she fades away to reflection straight after. “Your Ghost” is another track that’s got a strong melody and it actually feels very Christmas orientated for some reason and sounds like it sound be on Midwinter Graces! Beautiful and quaint.
“Edge of the Moon” is a song of two halves. The first half is a downbeat and careful and the second half is a full free-flowing burst of energy. I actually thought it was two separate tracks at first but they go so well together with some great dueling vocals. “The Chase” is fantastic track that has an underlying tension throughout as Tori and Natashya dual each other with some fantastic lyrical parries. It’s just something completely different to anything Amos has done before and so refreshing. “Night of the Hunters” introduces for just one track Kelsey Dobyns as a third voice and her vocals are sublime and angelic. A song of many faces and moods, it shapeshifts around between nostalgia, freeform and some beautiful interplaying and overlaying vocals.
“Seven Sisters” is a gorgeous instrumental between the piano and the clarinet. It really showcases Amos’ power as a composer, a performer and an emotive musician. This is also captured in the album closer “Carry” which is about as close to a single as you could get on this album. A ballad of sorts, it’s the most conventional song alongside Nautical Twilight and Jobs Coffin but holds a completely different emotion. By the time you’ve finished you feel almost like you’ve been reborn by how the previous track feels light an enlightening and Carry feels like a walking away from the wreckage piece.
I’ll make no bones about it, Tori Amos is one of, if not the favourite artist of mine musically but I can absolutely see why others wouldn’t appreciate or like her music. Night of the Hunters will not bring back old fans who want Little Earthquakes part 1,000,000 but this is generally like nothing she’s done before and deserves to be listened with fresh ears and classical lovers will find a new album that they can enthuse over. I for one am bowled over yet again.