Anna Von Hauswolff - Dead Magic Album Review
When working in niche genres, it can be difficult to stay within the parameters of the sound without sounding too much like fellow artist in the genre. The lines become blurred between the genre’s sound and the sound of a specific artist, often holding back an artist’s ability to put their own personal voice into their work. On Anna Von Hauswolff’s latest neoclassical darkwave album Dead Magic, she’s able to overcome these odds for an album that will rank as one of the most haunting of the year.
Much of this haunted sound Hauswolff owes to the forebears of neoclassical darkwave before her though. The production tricks and instrumental blending of classical music with atmospheric synth work are the same tricks heard on foundational albums in the genre from the likes of Dead Can Dance and Elend. Hauswolff utilizes these techniques effectively to craft an album that can stand among those that came before Dead Magic, but the spark of innovation and experimentation built intrinsically into those albums is gone. Listening to Dead Magic captures the emotions of the genre perfectly, but in doing so loses the inherent experimental wonder the genre has always embraced full heartedly.
But while Hauswolff stays unapologetically inside the sonic conventions of neoclassical darkwave, her songwriting and vocal performances is what raises her work far and above simply being an homage to the genre. Hauswolff’s most commendable success has to be how long she’s able to hold the listener’s attention with a single song, with the average song length coming in at around nine minutes and the longest (and best) song “Ugly and Vengeful” coming in at 16 minutes. What could have easily been a drone filled snoozefest is saved by the beautiful textures Hauswolff implements, most notably through her signature organ playing and tortured vocals. While such a combination may sound like a dissonant clash on paper, Hauswolff’s songwriting uses these tools to effectively build and release tension seamlessly.
It’s difficult to come away from Dead Magic without it feeling like a masterclass work in the neoclassical darkwave genre, and for many listeners that will more than likely be the case. Hausswolff’s slow but steady growth as a songwriter over the past eight years pays off in spades finally. But there’s little here that longtime or hardcore music fans haven’t heard before. It’s extremely easy to praise Hausswolff’s songwriting, but great songwriting can only carry an album’s artistic merits as far as the artist's ambitions will take them. Thematically Hauswolff even stays par for the course within the genre’s set parameters, meddling around in sombre and mysterious reflections on death that don’t feel as cutting edge as they once did over 25 years ago.
Had Hauswolff attempted to bring something new to the table in these respects, it would be easy to site the album as a modern classic. Instead, it’s an album that is a nostalgic return for longtime fans of neoclassical darkwave and an exciting entry for listeners new to the genre. Hauswolff has fully proved on Dead Magic that she is capable of achieving a modern classic, she just has one final stage left in growing as an artist to get there.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Senior / Public Relations