REVIEW: Butterfly Messiah - "Priestess"

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chain Border

This album would be easy to categorize as New Order turns Wiccan if it were only that simple. With a respectful nod towards eighties new-wave, while embracing contemporary dance and Goth-industrial sensibilities, Butterfly Messiah has assembled a notable album that engages, raptures and only seldom irritates.

One can hear the unmistakable influences of alternative gurus of yesteryear such as Siouxie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen and Dead Can Dance (and, daresay, Skinny Puppy) scattered throughout Priestess. Yet it's the nostalgic leaning towards simplistic, beat-driven tunes peppered with casual - and often wistful - synthesizers that ensures the overall success of the album. A celebration not only of its affinity towards post-modernism, but its pagan playfulness, Priestess revels by offering unashamed, catchy hooks that are as much in style today as they were in the days of M and Gary Numan.

PriestessWith the exception of the overblown The Wicked, which is best enjoyed while gazing at a lava lamp due to its irregular beats and the tendency to fall short of even a second-rate Enigma, Butterfly Messiah smartly orchestrates a homogenized dance-Goth sound with credible production and sharp syncopation. Alas, for all of its daring approach, Butterfly Messiah is at times afraid to pull the trigger during its crescendos; its sporadic weakness is its coyish sighs in league with the conservative.

Nevertheless, Robert Nightshade (aka Robert Davis) delivers savvy backbeats and intelligent programming, while his near-monotone vocals work best while blended with his originating partner-in-crime, Shannon Garson. Garson's ethereal harmonies serve to personify the album's nom de plume; her floating falsetto works splendidly for the most part, though it misfires from time-to-time. Gorgeous as a whole, amateurish once in awhile, Garson is best when assuming command of the lead vocals where she rages vibrant. Together, with the added keyboards of Josh Harrington, the troupe weaves tapestries around their sensuous lyrics that allows one to forgive their very few shortcomings.

Introspections, which comes off as Erasure meets the later incarnations of The Damned and Killing Joke, hints a subtle brilliance for crossbreeding two generations worth of indie music. Visitor is a pleasant, apparent homage to The Sisterhood with its twinkling synths and intertwining vocals that is only lacking Andrew Eldritch to complete the picture. Ring the Bells is haunting and cerebral, albeit enticingly eccentric. The single, Serpentine, charges into overdrive with high-octane energy as Shannon Garson attempts a convincing Siouxsie Sioux, minus the trademark yowls. The group frolics in its own enchantment during Eternal Undone, and the listener frolics right along. When Autumn to Winter Resigns is a solstice chant which soothes the listener before delivering a highly satisfying payoff in the closing song, Reverie, the exquisite finale which expertly transpires from trance to dance.

Butterfly Messiah is an exciting group with serious potential. Left unhinged, Butterfly Messiah can assume bragging rights to the unoccupied throne of Medieval-inspired Goth abandoned by Dead Can Dance.

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Buy "Priestess"

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