Charlotte Wessels – Tales, Vol II

My review backlog has been insane this year, and some albums end up getting covered much later than I intend.  I’ve been listening to the new Charlotte Wessels record for a couple months now, and I feel like it is only getting stronger.  The album is called Tales from Six Feet Under, Vol. II, and it released on October 7th.

You know who Charlotte is and what her career has been until now.  I’m more focused on her current music as it continues to evolve and diversify.  As with the first volume, she brings some guests along for the ride, this time being Timo Somers and Elianne Anemaat.

Much like her debut, this album is a dark blend of various sounds.  You will hear clear genre lines along the pop, rock, metal, and industrial styles, sometimes combining them within a single track and other times choosing to keep a single track within a single genre.  It makes for great diversity and does feel like a roller coaster ride in that way.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Charlotte’s songwriting is evolving.  This album hits really hard in the chorus department with weaving, reeling, multi-octave choruses that are expertly written.  Many of them do take a few listens to appreciate fully, but I was surprised at how well they hold up and develop as I continue to play them.  This album does lean more into rock and metal than the debut, and so that may influence how I absorb the music, but there is no denying that this album is supremely catchy, but also artistically rendered.

I would also say that this album is poetic.  I really like the lyrics across the board, from the powerful “Venus Rising” to the tender “Against All Odds”, or from the clever “Good Dog” to the formidable “A Million Lives”.  It’s a great set of tunes with sharply written lyrics that definitely stay with you, whether because they are meaningful or because they are fun. There is a fine line there where a great balance can be achieved, and I think this album has it.

Volume II has 10 tracks and I like them all.  The opener “Venus Rising” is a strong and confident pop song with deep lyrics and a mighty chorus that gets mightier as the song progresses.  “Human to Ruin” is more metal and has one of the most ethereal and haunting choruses I’ve heard in a while.  “The Phantom Touch” is similarly dark and metal-oriented, though I like the space it has and the acoustics. 

I think the next few tracks are the best on the album.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the spunky pop of “Toxic”, and the pair of ambient ballads that close the album in “I Forget” and “Utopia”.  That last one is eerie and beautifully composed, and both of the ballads are pleasantly nuanced.  However, my favorites overall are “Against All Odds”, “A Million Lives”, “The Final Roadtrip”, and “Good Dog”.  “Against All Odds” is an acoustic love song dripping with sincerity, possessing a chorus that I find myself singing often.  I really like how gentle and gracious it is, yet also daring.  “A Million Lives” is, without a doubt, my favorite on this album.  Its metallic, spiraling sound grows and grows into a towering vocal performance near the end that is impossible to ignore.  It can leave your nerve endings seared for a moment. There are a few songs on this album that can have that effect.

“The Final Roadtrip” is an interesting song because it sounds exactly like its title suggests.  The rock sound here feels, I don’t know, quite 90s like it was written by Soul Asylum or something.  I like how the chorus seems rather faint and fleeting, yet twists upwards a few octaves and becomes really unique.  I called “Good Dog” clever earlier, and I mean that.  The lyrics are well written, and the song itself is shadowy and ominous with a dark loud-soft dynamic that really works.  It is a fun song that is pretty damn catchy.

Overall, Charlotte’s career is alive and well, and her artistic integrity seems more unique and intact than ever.  This album is a clear step up from the debut, and it makes me wonder if she will continue that trend. I do think I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of her not pursuing symphonic metal whatsoever, too.  If you like a blend of genres and excellent writing, this album is definitely for you.


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