Band: Ego Likeness
Album: When the Wolves Return
Label: Metropolis Records
Members: Donna Lynch- Vocals/Words/Piano/Synths::
Steven Archer- Guitar/Vocals/Synths/Drums/Programming::
Mike K. Johnson- Drums::
Mindcage Rick- Drums::
So once again I am stepping outside the box and trying something different by reviewing an album that came out in July 2015. I have been keeping these reviews generally to new albums but while waiting for their newest release I will take some time to discuss the glory of Baltimore’s greatest dark couple. . I actually love discovering a band in reverse, finding the new album first then working my way back through the catalog and watch in reverse as they evolve. Makes me feel like Merlin. For me the album When the Wolves Return really highlighted what was possible when you bring a true partnership into your music. Often when I hear modern darkwave electronica I tend to pull apart all of the different elements and feel them at different times. It’s almost impossible to do with Ego Likeness. Donna Lynch and Steven Archer are in such total lockstep in their music. It really has no seams or edges. Every song is a twisting snake of smoke. Or in this case a wolf pack circling you in a clearing. Mike Johnson who I am convinced may be the only drummer left in goth music because it seems he is playing in about 73 bands and touring with them all. (Potential cloning experiment) is so sought after for a reason. Simply he is consistently outstanding in his style and ability to place subtle touches along with electronic elements. For as electronic as this music is with flavors of Switchblade Symphony, Rasputina, Dead Can Dance or Skinny Puppy both the music and Donna’s dynamic vocals have such an organic flavor. This is a rock band with a bleeding heart in it’s mouth, that just happens to be played over a grinding jerky machine cacophony. This album in particular holds such rawness, I don’t know exactly what was happening in their lives at this juncture but you can really feel a lot of it was splayed open and held up raw to the listener.
Donna has a vocal style that to me is all about dynamics. Her lows are growls and chants. Her highs are lovely and revealing. She is a true bard, you can hear the contents of her lyrics are just as important to her as the way she sings them. “I am blessed, I am cursed, never sacred, never worse” Steven is a painter both on the canvas and on the keyboard. A bard needs a stage and this album has such fierce driving drumbeats and rising falling cascades of synth sound. Needles of bright guitar burn and twist but never overshadow. Those pounding drumbeats are the beating heart of every song and the story is told in every tempo and range. I know I am getting a little gushy on this one, even for me. I have really been digging deep on this album lately in preparation for going to see their show this weekend but also because it is a turbulent moment in time for me and this album is a tempest of processing emotion.
Leave a Light on Thomas – The album opens with this sky splitter. It’s a tiny echo whisper from Donna. While Steven smashes together giant symbols of sound. Tiny dancing melody notes. I also love the effect of Donna’s electric sounding echo voice. I’m not sure who Thomas is but I love this pleading call for him to have faith in this dark moment. This song is pure emotion and waves.
Darkness – I love this track on it’s own. It has another medium tempo but with an almost fantasy feel of hero’s traveling a a bleak and dangerous land. The music edges forward and uses large brass sounding warmth. Then the electric Guitars crash a call to battle “I’ll call them in to cast you out” Another band I have reviewed and love 11 Grams do a remix of this song which is one of my favorite polar opposite remixes. Truly a ying and yang when heard back to back yet it is still one voice.
When the Wolves Return – Holy shit what a heart wrenching ballad. “There is nothing to forgive, it’s the price you pay to live” This one really can make me a little misty. Swelling, giant, synth pads of loss and regret. Then at 3:30 the drums start marching to a sound of triumph! The music builds to a fevered crescendo. I hate to be such a nerd but hearing this song reminds me of the first time I read the Return of the King and you realize the boats are full of ghost soldiers repaying a debt. Sorry Spoiler alert. It’s pure majesty and triumph.
This album is a must own. This band is a must see live and I am giddy with anticipation for the chance this weekend. If you don’t know this record you need to grab hold of it by both ears and cling to it tightly.