A few years ago we had an unforgivable “rock-duet” of Ville Valo and Natalia Avelon covering the old classic “Summer Wine” (by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood), and my, my, my how bad that turned out. Now we have a romantic, dark duet that is much closer to Nancy and Lee or Nick Cave and PJ Harvey – Zach and Sarah really hit so many right buttons and take the (positively) necessary turns every and their “wine” is much more seductive than the Ville’s and Natalia’s.
Much of that attraction derives from Sarah’s and Zach’s skills on each of their instruments. Especially Sarah’s violin is rich in sound and her skills turn the remarkable tunes into sparkling diamonds in a sea of sound. That sea is laid out and based on Zachary’s guitars and rhythm instruments. Especially the drums which he lays out are woven into such a wonderful blanket that even when he goes a little against the rhythm with certain fills or kicks that it is a welcoming embrace. If we add the violin parts when Sarah accompanies the drums with a deep-tuned passage. Those passages then work like a second guitar which is highly welcome, as Zach mostly plays and acoustic on “Slowdance Macabre”. The acoustic guitar is also part of this welcome, homely feeling that their first record together emanates.
Interestingly, the full-length also has a very nice build-up when thinking of the arrangement of the songs on the record because the first few songs are a bit more laid-back in the sense that they feature a more gothic pop oriented sound while some of the songs of the second half tend to be more post-metallic especially “The Worst Way” which could also be a SubRosa-track.
Noteworthy is also the use of the echo effect on some of the instruments and on Zachary’s vocals which makes them sound even larger than life. That is one of the things that make this quite the standout-record: the vocals. Both have already shown how amazing their voices can sound but here in this combination it is like witnessing a happily married couple going strong onto its 20th wedding anniversary and singing their own stories together. In some songs the timing and intonation is so perfect that it is nearly non-intelligible that they are not a thing for more than a few years. Especially in the title track and its near 9.30 minutes it becomes obvious that there a two master musicians at work here with lots of experience and a perfect feeling for how to write songs, how to build moods and how to reach their audience.
This is definitely a perfect blend of the two original bands with a vocal duo that is amongst the best when it comes to creating a candlelit doomy mood without sounding like Paradise Lost or Type o Negative as Asphodel Wine’s focus is on the sparkling of the lights and not the darkness of the shadows.