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Most good albums you don’t like the first time you hear them. They take time to grow on you. Occasionally you find a good album you like from the first spin but it loses its spark after a while but still stays by definition, a “good” album. More uncommon is an album that’s enjoyable from the first spin and stays good for spins to come. Rarer still, is an album that you love from the first listen and after that with every listen you come to enjoy it even more. Wuthering Heights’ “The Shadow Cabinet” is that kind of album.
I have often cursed this Danish band and their ineffable sound that varies from album to album. If you played every Wuthering Heights album to someone who’s never heard them before and he’ll swear every album is from a different band. If you thought they would continue the bombastic folky progressive power metal you heard on “Far From the Madding Crowd” you’d be dead wrong. Well, it’s still bombastic folky progressive power metal but ummm... crap, you get the idea, right?
Actually, The Shadow Cabinet is a bit more straightforward than their other albums but only to the point where you can give a slight idea of what the sound is through words. It’s dark and nihilistic power metal. They lose the extremely prominent folk influences from “Far From the Madding Crowd” and instead attain a more symphonic and riff oriented sound but still keep folk influences alive. The heaviness factor that was escalated in the aforementioned album has been increased tenfold. From the moment the album begins you know this isn’t any sort of Wuthering Heights album you heard before. Want to know why? This is the first Wuthering Heights album to not start with an intro and instead goes straight into the wicked, neck-snapping opener “Demon Desire,” which sounds like a fiendish version of “Hunter in the Dark” from their first album.
The soothing and medieval atmosphere found on the previous two albums has been replaced with complete apathy and merciless coldness. Sure, one would expect Wuthering Heights to release unique sounding albums but this is such a big turn around it’s completely depraved. It’s so full of deathly emotions and utter misanthropy it’s unspeakable. Not to the point of depression, however, instead the malign music somehow initiates feelings of joy. Not the typical joy but the twisted feeling of sick pleasure you get from knowing the world around you is vile and black. Amidst this onslaught of depravity, there’s an almost mute voice inspiring you to escape harsh reality and find a path of your own. To quote the album: “...I shall count these the last days of the sun, and seek comfort in darkness 'til my lifethread is spun.”
Vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson stays for this album. Wuthering Heights made a smart decision keeping him since there isn’t a man whose voice can project these bleak emotions so beautifully. Not all the vocal work on this album is evil and malice. Listen to the first verse to “Carpe Noctem” or the song “Sleep” to see exactly how talented this guy is as a vocalist and the diversity of this album. Speaking of “Carpe Noctem,” the vocal interlude “Reason...?” that comes before is just so utterly perfect it’s a wonder why it isn’t part of the song. Wuthering Heights are one of the few bands with enjoyable interludes and intros and I’ve never missed out on listening to “Carpe Noctem” without listening to “Reason...?” first. Want to know why? Johansson just unleashes those crushing emotions of hopelessness and desperation so well with that 30-second piece it would be unfathomable to not listen to it before “Carpe Noctem.” That’s how incredible this guy’s vocal work on this album is.
The folk influences on this album are sparse but not altogether gone (see the ending of “Faith – Apathy Divine”). What stays is the perfect production and top-notch instrumental work. The guitar work in songs like “Beatifool” is just astounding and give a listen to “The Raven.” Why, it makes you wonder why it took so long for Erik Ravn to write a song called “The Raven” and it makes you wonder if you’ll find such flawless bass work anywhere else. Although there isn’t a mind blowing instrumental here like on their previous two albums, give a listen to the intro of “Carpe Noctem” if you want jaw-dropping guitar work.
And for four straight albums in a row Erik Ravn has blessed us with great lyrics. So many mind-numbingly catchy choruses and quotable quotes it’s utter insanity. Perhaps because the lyrics on this album are a lot more personal than previous albums so they’re a lot more involving and inspiring.
Once again I’d like to urge all people to get this album. I recommend it to everyone except dipshits. I don’t care what your taste in music is, if you don’t like this album you aren’t human by any definition. My only quarrel with this album is I don’t have the Shadow Of A Gipsy cover bonus track. I will soon, though, money well spent I tell ya!