Everything you would want to know about The Visit’s album, Through Darkness Into Light, is placed right there on the front cover. Much like the barren winter wasteland that these two Canadian musicians are standing in, the album is a bleak, desolate, and often beautiful oral landscape. Listening to this self-released debut is like spending fifty-five minutes in a black painted room, bathing in your self-loathing with the weight of the world uncomfortably pressing down upon you. At its most dire, this record is straight up apocalyptic but, don’t worry because through it all there is a small crack of light peaking through the drapes.
By combining the doom and gloom of black metal and the sheer grace and beauty of classical music, cello virtuoso, Raphael Weinroth Browne, and the angelic vocalist, Heather Sita Black, create an offspring of the two that is unmistakably unique, paradoxically minimalist, and cinematic in scope. Due to their classical leanings, the closest band you could compare them to is Apocalyptica, although you would still be way off. The Visit doesn’t use guitars or drums, but the emotionality that these two draw from is as devastating as any full metal act with the intentions of making both ears and hearts bleed.
On paper, none of this should work! How many metal acts use only one classical instrument and a voice. More importantly, how many orchestras utilize heavy metal riffs and emulate sludge? Even if you end up hating this album, which you shouldn’t, Browne and Black both deserve props for trying something so outside the norm of what one would consider “heavy.” Thankfully, they are so unbelievably talented that they seamlessly conjure black magic out of thin air.
The mood these two create is beyond dreary but also mesmerizing. The entire time listening to this album, the hair on my arms stood as if to tell me that something horrific was bound to happen. The only comparable emotion I could relate this album to is not another band but last year’s psycho-drama film, Foxcatcher. Both pieces of work expertly create a sense of unease that, although not particularly enjoyable or fun, are effective and emotional.
Even though Browne possesses a tremendous range and incredible dexterity on his cello, and Black’s vocals, which is mostly wordless, can suck the air right out of me, their lack of instrumentation is at times detrimental. There is a lack of tonal diversity. Don’t get me wrong, there are countless dynamic switches on the opening track, “Without This Flesh,” while “Offering” expertly adopts middle-eastern melodies. Ultimately, though, we are subjected to spend almost the entire album under a very dark cloud. It’s not a short album either so if you haven’t slipped into a depressive episode by the end, count yourself one of the lucky ones.
Not all hope is lost, however, as the final track, “Into Light,” is an uplifting relief that The Visit has kept the promise of the track as well as their album’s title. Even though it may seem impossible to adventure through the fog, this record is a well worth journey through the darkest depths of hell to the redemptive glow of heaven. I promise that even though the music is challenging, you are in for an experience unlike any other. I have no idea where they could take us next but, if the experimentation of this album is any indication, we are in for one hell of a trip.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy