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Westenra - First Light (2021) - Review

Band: Westenra
Album title: First Light
Release date: 4 January 2021
Label: Self-Released
Genre: Gothic Rock/Dark Rock

Tracklist:
01. (Dark Meets The Dawn) First Light
02. Empowered
03. Shadow Of A Ghost
04. Soul Shine
05. Daemon Inside
06. Sirens
07. Pandora's Lullaby
08. Trinity
09. The Last Beat Of Our Hearts

The English trio Westenra are newcomers to the gothic rock scene since they formed in 2019 and First Light is their debut album. I guess that they took the name of the band after the fictional character from the Bram Stoker's novel Dracula; Lucy Westenra, the 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy family and Dracula's first English victim. This female-fronted band consists of vocalist Luciferia, bassist Dominique and guitarist Karl. I don't know about any past music endeavours of these three musicians, but one thing is sure, Westenra can create some astonishingly dark, accessible and fresh gothic rock.

Westenra's take on gothic rock is a bold mixture of strong rhythms, intimate melodies, sometimes fragile but mostly powerful vocal lines, haunting dark atmospheres, and captivating melodic lines. The music sounds fresh, and many of the songs are enjoyable, yet there can be easily found some resemblances with bands like the recent The Danse Society, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Birthday Massacre, La Scaltra, early Fields Of The Nephilim, and maybe a little bit of early Faith And The Muse. Now imagine this kind of a mix, can you? There's as well kind of deathrock, post-punk and cold wave smell in certain parts of the songs, especially when the driving dirty rhythms take the lead. You'll hear many great guitar lines with some nice leads, driving reverberate and thick bass lines, and mesmerizing vocals that can be compared with Maethelyiah, Siouxsie Sioux and Monica Richards, to name a few.

First Light consists of nine songs with around 40 minutes of playtime, and we are thrown into some kind of a misty dark music ride, where certain songs stand out as inimitable creations, while on the other side some fillers don't meet the artistic heights of what this band can offer. If only this album would be diluted a bit, or maybe reduced to an EP with just the best songs in here, it would be fantastic. Yes, the pieces like it's the emotional "Shadow Of A Ghost", the catchy "Souls Shine", and the poignant epic goth/metallic creation "The Last Beat Of Our Hearts", are stunning and wonderful pieces that will melt the hearts of those who are into the atmospheric side of gothic rock.  On the other side I'll try in the future to skip the songs like "Pandora's Lullaby", as well the groovy and punkish "Daemon Inside", and the strange rather psychedelic "Sirens", at least the major part of it. Westenra should stick with their haunting and captivating vibes, as that's what they do best.

First Light tells the tales of heartbreak and self-doubt, but it deals also with ancient magick, reclaiming identity, and the power of unity. The ability of Westenra to create memorable songs amazes me when I listen to before mentioned "Shadow Of A Ghost", Luciferia shines here, or the intriguing "Trinity", with those sparkling goth rock guitars and driving rhythmic line. The album certainly doesn't get boring, even after many consequent spins, because the band nicely manoeuvres the listener through different moods with many twists and high dynamics.

Westenra's debut is a good album, and it should appeal not only to those who got stuck with goth music in the 80s and early 90s but also to those who like more contemporary approach in this genre. Westenra knows how to create emotional heights, melancholic ambience, and as well they can rock hard. Nevertheless, even if in here we deal with certain heights and some lows, some enthusing musical creativity, but also mellowness, First Light is a must-have genuine dark rock album for every fan of gothic music, and even though that the songs were done in the tumultuous year that was 2020, I think that Westenra's music can be a killer when played live.

The review was written by Tomaz
Rating: 7,5/10

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