There’s something about a truly atmospheric, dark alternative sound that can be spellbinding. I was looking forward to the new A.A. Williams album As the Moon Rests because of how great her 2020 record Forever Blue was, and yet somehow this album is even better. The album released on October 7th.
I have no idea what A.A. stands for, but she hails from London. I also don’t know the lineup on this album, though I’ve tried to research that. This album, then, is something of a mystery, and basically par for the course with this style anyways. It feels fleeting and abstract in more ways than one.
I’ve seen A.A.’s music described in various ways. There are obviously post-rock and post-metal elements here, including plenty of shadowy, soaring shoegaze portions. There are bits of neoclassical and doom in her style, though, and the mood can swing from pensive to explosive within seconds. Perhaps that is why A.A. just labels herself as “alternative” and leaves it at that.
Yet, this album is more rock in its tone than her 2020 debut. That album had the same hovering ambience with a couple crescendos mixed into the pot. As the Moon Rests is more dynamic, more layered, and more the better for it. I love how she can mix haunting vocal harmonies with metallic riffs and classical strings, adding each layer by layer with dramatic effect. Yes, this album does feel quite dramatic, yet also brooding, and yet also hopeful in the sense of coming to terms with oneself.
I realized on this record why I like A.A.’s melancholy vocal style, though. I appreciate how she keeps in character, so to speak, as she remains soaked in emotion and sadness. I really like, too, how she can lay down a drawn out, dramatic vocal line, but cut it short suddenly at the end. It adds texture and maybe even a little vulnerability to her sound. It honestly reminds me of Daniel Gildenlöw of Pain of Salvation, especially on the last two PoS albums. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to it.
Yet as dark and gloomy as the album can be, and as introspective and lonely as it can feel, the rising and fomenting emotions quite often break through into light and self-confidence. I like that about the lyrics, yes, but the music communicates this really well, too. It gives the album a sense of soul and enlightenment, like coming through the deepest darkness of your life to find epiphany at journey’s end.
Of the eleven songs, I think that seven of them need to be highlighted, though they are all terrific. I love the opener “Hollow Heart” with its instantly attractive rhythm, haunting chorus, and slow rise near the end. Next comes “Evaporate”, a stunning single with eerie violin, a lingering chorus, and a fantastic closing crescendo with lots of vigor; you can truly feel how dried up and numb she feels. My favorite track overall is the potent “Pristine” and its follow up “Shallow Water”, which together close the first half of the album. “Pristine” feels like a dialogue with a hurting person, and its slow burning arc is so hypnotic. The final minutes, though, are magnificent as she adds layers of melody and texture; and, when she finally adds her vocals back into the mix, the emotions are truly devastating.
The second half of the album is wonderful. “For Nothing” and “Golden” follow one after the other. The former is ambient and unsettling in its gothic vibes, but the pay off is full of distortion and grim accord. The latter is considerably bright, though, with beautiful vocal harmonies and a very catchy chorus that I sing to myself quite often. I love that pair.
Two more songs need to be highlighted. “Alone in the Deep”, for me, is the quintessential song on the album. It has all of the layering and atmosphere that I love about this release, and the lyrics communicate the depth of the lyrical darkness clearly. Even just the imagery of being alone in the deep is one that is simultaneously simple and yet exquisitely complicated. The album closer is the title track, and this song has really been growing on me. It is the longest track on the album, and so it has time to evolve and grow. I like that it transitions between various sounds that the album has given us thus far, and I especially like the humming harmony that A.A. uses to close the record.
As the Moon Rests is A.A. Williams’ best album so far, and it has really connected with me. I love everything from the vocal delivery to the sincere lyrics to the mix of genres. There is an air of elegance and grace here that feels like a dark trance, one that is difficult to leave, even when the album ends. The record is mesmerizing in that way, and something I feel I’ll be listening to quite often moving forward.
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