Album Review: HANGING DOLL – THE SACRED & PROFANE
‘The Sacred & Profane’
The band hail from the West Midlands, Walsall to be precise, and take their name from a scene in a computer game called Silent Hill in which a doll can be seen hanging from the ceiling of a room. They formed about ten years ago and recorded a demo before the tragic passing of the original singer, Rachel Lilley, and it was several years before they came to terms with their grief and began the process of writing again. A new vocalist in Sally Holliday was recruited and fitted right in with the band’s dark and focussed, melodic and very metal sound, adding her operatic voice and HANGING DOLL were back again. They released two albums before Sacred & Profane; their debut in 2007 – What Lies In Truth, and then in 2008 – Reason and Madness, and could be seen playing festivals here in the UK as well as abroad.
I came across HANGING DOLL a couple of months ago when I was sent a link to a well-known public video website, (they ain’t paying me to advertise them, so…), to view the new video for an as yet unknown-to-me band. I just had to watch it over and again several times to take in how good this band was! Carnival of Sin really captured my attention fully with HANGING DOLL’s refreshing construction of a truly amazing song. It contains a gentle piano intro from Aryan Amoli before hitting us with the metal that is at the core of this band. Holliday’s melodic vocals assail us before taking us up several octaves with her operatic style. Cue some throaty accompaniment from bassist Kev Wilson and guitarist Daniel Leddy and this song was really taking shape. A great guitar solo from Leddy slices through the middle section without over-shredding, and the song continues with its powerful, yet dark melodies and enticing operatic vocals, and all the while underpinned by thunderous accompaniment on the drums from Alex Cooper. It was too much to take in on just one watch, so I had to go at it again. Several times, in fact.
It was a while after that before The Sacred & Profane came into my possession, and I felt like a kid with a new toy at Christmas! Except, being all growed up now, I handled myself with some decorum and waited a whole five minutes before jamming it into the cd player. The thirteen-track album kicks off with Cradle to the Grave and sets out its stall immediately with a tune that defies you to listen to it without nodding your head and stamping your feet. Before long, you’ll be singing along with the chorus as well! Carnival of Sin is next before moving on to the infinitely blacker Dark Narcissus (The Forest). This track has an eerie feel with its powerful, yet steady, march on the senses and bringing a shiver to your spine. Lacrimosa is much more of a ballad interspersed with emotional keyboards and soulful guitar. Sally Holliday truly adds a feeling of longing to this track. Only in My Reveries gives us a more classic rock style of melody, except with a more metallised guitar, if you can grasp my meaning. And, when Immortal Beloved begins with just Amoli’s keyboards and Holliday’s vocals I was wondering what direction this album was taking. However, over half way through normal service resumes and pushes us back and slaps us for the fools we are for believing that this is other than an album of metal. Tincture gives us an eclectic intro before easing us into track and some more operatic vocals. More metal and head-nodding tunage ensues, varying the tempo for effect and to give that dramatic feel. The title track, The Sacred & Profane comes next and is possibly my favourite on the entire cd. From the off, you cannot keep still! It’s the kind of song that makes you want to get up and party along with the band; air guitar in one hand and air drumsticks in the back pocket just for good measure. The vocals are shared between Holliday and Leddy and it really works as though it were the most natural thing in the world. I just love this song! Then you get a surprise after all that energy-sapping leaping about with a totally chilled-out classical guitar piece that will sooth some of your madness with Flames of Woe before normal service resumes in The Final Descent. It takes you along on a smooth journey with the vocal duties being shared again, before dropping to a darker spoken part from Holliday and then being lifted again by Leddy’s guitar and finishing on a mournful note. Bound in Servitude departs from the metal norm with a haunting sound and song. A definite tune for headphones on a dark windy night! The Inauspicious Host turns us back onto the metal footpath with a solid backline sectioned with keyboard interludes whilst the guitar and vocal give me the impression of an old horror movie. It builds the picture of an old black and white film where the damsel is being hunted throughout the old mansion on the hill by a benign being. Well… it does to me, anyway. Listen to it, close your eyes and let your imagination run wild. The album closes with an epic track that lasts for practically eight minutes. A Question of Faith opens with an extravagant spoken intro accompanied by keyboards before hitting a very dark tone. It then turns nasty with some throaty vocals and heavy guitar work before Holliday works her magic. It softens out a bit about five minutes in, but don’t be fooled; this is only part of the drama of the song. Stabbing guitar and screams lift you out of your reverie and the metal carries you through to the end where you can relax and start breathing again!
I have to say that this is one of those albums which will reassert your faith that there is still great music being written, recorded and performed live. There is so much formulated stuff being churned out en masse that bright sparks like HANGING DOLL will grow and become shining lights in this mundane world of crass opportunists. The Sacred & Profane has it all for me; quality vocals, musicianship and songs that will stay in your memory for all the right reasons. The album is released on Rocksector Records on 12th September, 2012 and I can readily recommend it to you. You can also see them live at SOS Fest at Radcliffe Civic Hall, near Bury on Sunday, 22nd July. Fan the flames that are HANGING DOLL and turn that spark into a bonfire.