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Album Review: Tori Amos – Night of Hunters

Photo: Yessaid

Tori Amos, is that you? Performing alongside her daughter with no sign of Matt Chamberlain or Jon Evans and (most surprisingly) producing an album that doesn’t push twenty tracks; many would be forgiven for mistaking her as she releases her latest album ‘Night of Hunters’. The material on this work, her first with classical record label Deutsche Grammophon, is almost unrecognisable too. Miles away from the easy listening style of pop boasted by ‘Abnormally Attracted To Sin’ whilst sitting a little closer to it’s predecessor ‘Midwinter Graces’, the only real constants with Tori’s recent releases are the emphasis on piano and Tori’s inimitable, charismatic voice.

Tredging through the rough terrain of a deteriorating relationship, the concept of ‘Night of Hunters’ guides us to a woman rebuilding her marriage and acknowledging her own, as well as her partners, shortcomings as she journeys through Ireland. The album is, as much as a musical venture, a narrative that holds as much beauty as the arrangements themselves.

‘Shattering Sea’ hosts intimidating piano and strings that set the atmosphere of post-conflict frustration perfectly. Evaporating into a mellow calling of ‘shattering sea, closing my eyes’,  the opener flits between a violent anger and the inevitable fragile comedown.

Much has been mentioned about Tori’s daughter, Natashya Hawley and she takes on the character of Anabelle for the first time during the next track ‘Snowblind’. Sounding nothing like her mother, she provides an antithesis with her raspy deliverance that, whilst sounding mature, manages to retain a welcome sense of childish innocence. She stands as the lead vocalist in the mesmerizing ‘Job’s Coffin’, one of the standout pieces from the record and later duets with her mother on the back-and-forth ‘The Chase’ and ‘Cactus Practice’ which sounds as if it was lifted from a deleted scene of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Some of the repetition and reiteration of thoughts can be bothersome, as the title track and ‘Cactus Practice’ prove. The former displays potential to be one of the standout tracks from the album, harnessing a Celtic touch to Tori’s vocals as she cries out ‘Rose so red, this night of hunters’ and proves to be a grower. It’s repetitions can be grating, but the chanting towards the end straddles the line between annoying and addictive perfectly.

The lengthy tracks, ‘Battle Of Trees’ and ‘Star Whisperer’, push the nine and ten minute mark with the former building gradually and the latter finding it’s crescendo standing in the centre of the track, providing a sonic representation of the mountain Tori sings of; ‘I hear you scream from the other side of the mountain’. Initially the dense nature of the music make the epics difficult to digest and whilst you may feel they are still overly long, familiarising yourself with the pair will bring quite a few rewards.

The dark, tangible atmosphere begins to shed it’s skin as the story progresses from night to day and the protagonists self-loathing turns into a hope for change. ‘Nautical Twilight’ serves as a turning point on the album as Tori admits ‘I must activate the force of which I am made’, signalling a departure from the widely melancholy first half.

The story opens up during the final two tracks, with the entirely instrumental ‘Seven Sisters’ leaving you to make your own interpretation on where the protagonist leads. The finale of ‘Carry’ closes the narrative with either a tale of reconciliation or loss, depending on your interpretation; whether that loss be of her partner, Anabelle or a part of herself.

The concept of ‘Night of Hunters’ is captivating. It even invokes a little guilt when you replay ‘Shattering Sea’, bringing the woman back from her comfort to the billowing fires of her relationship. But persevere, the album is unlocked by repeated listens and the complex arrangements, layered instrumentation and lyrical outpourings provide much to discover on future visits.

Shifting into new scenery doesn’t mean Tori has left behind the themes that have been prominent within her career. You can slap a tick next to feminism (‘Job’s Coffin’), a taste of Cherokee (‘Night of Hunters’) and a sizable portion of insanity (‘The Chase’) on your clipboards, but it isn’t only in the lyrics that Tori’s usual stamp is felt. ‘Edge of the Moon’ soars in a second half, which sounds like it has been lifted straight from ‘Under The Pink’ and ‘Fearlessness’ forges recognisable Tori and the classical genre beautifully.

This is the album that Toriphiles have been holding out for – a chance for Tori to prove that her incredible talent has not diminished in the slightest. Making brave steps into the critical classical genre will certainly earn her respect, but the greatest aspect of ‘Night of Hunters’ is that Tori has managed to succeed in bringing classical music to the ears of a new audience, just as her rock infused pop rang through the Peabody institute all those years ago.

Photo: Yessaid
Words: Simon McMurdo

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