Cellar Darling

Cluny 2, Newcastle

24 October 2022

If you read my reviews, you'll know I'm not a metal fan. I like Cellar Darling for their sense of melody and unusual instrumentation, but they are still basically metal and therefore at the extreme of what I would normally listen to. So I went into this gig with some trepidation. I honestly thought there was a chance I simply wouldn't enjoy it.

There are three bands on the bill, and everything runs a bit late, so no band gets a really long set. First band on, Black Orchid Empire, impress me with their song structures and with their front man, who's not only a great singer but engages the crowd well. They are let down by a sound mix that leaves the guitar sounding thin and weedy, but other than that a solid set.

The second band, Kassogtha I think, I already know I won't like when they sound check: they have growled vocals. With apologies to the band, it's just not a sound I like. I can admire that skill it takes to perform, but it's not for me.

Cellar Darling do have a sound I like, and my fears of being overwhelmed by noise are unfounded. Ivo Henzi's guitar riffs are clear and powerful, but Merlin Sutter is the star of the show with stunningly fast and precise drumming. The trio have a guest bassist on tour, and I'm sorry I don't know his name but he sounds just fine.

But you know I'm actually here for Anna Murphy, right? And she sounds incredible, her voice cleanly soaring above the guitar and drums without apparent effort. She also plays keyboards, flute, and hurdy gurdy, and it's these latter instruments that give the band their unique character—though to be honest, for something that's one of their main selling points, the hurdy gurdy is used very sparingly.

So, yes, ultimately, it's a metal band, and I shouldn't like metal bands. But it's a metal band with enough other dimensions to suit my tastes. I like the flute and hurdy gurdy sounds. I like the way a montrously powerful song will stop dead for a simple piano-and-vocal passage. I like the vocals, obviously. And I absolutely love Sutter's drumming.

A very good band, and one I'll look for again on their next tour.