In 2014, the release of Annabel Dream Reader propelled The Wytches to becoming one of the biggest cult bands in the UK; at Reading 2014 it seemed that at least one of every group of teens had a Wytches t-shirt. Two years and two EPs on, the band find themselves free of the ‘next big thing’ hype that initially surrounded them and their latest release, All Your Happy Life, sees the band more assured and experimental than ever.
The album opens with Intro, which sounds like an eerie lullaby played through an antique radio (or maybe even through a baby monitor… spooky). Chilling synth harmonies welcome you into the weird and wonderful world of the LP and the journey continues with lead single C-Side, which would also have felt at home on Annabel Dream Reader, alongside cuts like Gravedweller or Robe for Juda. It closes with a psychedelic whirlwind of keys, droning guitars and feedback, leaving the tone well and truly set and the listener hungry for more.
The two EPs released since Annabel Dream Reader, last year’s Thunder Lizard’s Reprieve and this year’s Home Recordings, hinted towards the darker sound found throughout the album. The darkest is contained to the middle of the record: Throned, Ghost House and Bone-Weary show off the Wytches at their most sinister, all combining big, sludgy riffs and Bell’s satanic cries. Can’t Face It begins with fuzzy chords before vocalist/guitarist Kristian Bell launches into the verse. The song escalates until it erupts into a chorus of almost incomprehensible screams.
For a band like The Wytches who specialise in heavy and angst-fuelled tracks such as these, it may be surprising to find that the quieter moments are some of the most interesting, but the fact is they have become masters of versatility in their five years together. A Feeling We Get is an album standout and sounds something like a campfire song for Halloween, although more Alice In Chains than Monster Mash. “Every day I get this feeling I can’t shake when the sun beats on my face” are the most feel-good lyrics you’ll find in a Wytches track, although in the context of the album it feels like the sun briefly breaking through dark clouds.
The record isn’t short on creativity and experimentation. Crest Of Death initially feels like its going to be a difficult listen; each syllable of Bell’s screams is greeted with thrashes from drummer Gianni Honey and bassist Daniel Rumsey. However, the layers unfurl until we are gifted with a creepy yet oddly harmonious chorus of: “You’re never going to find your way out”. Repeated listens allow you to see the full picture of the track, which shows The Wytches at their most ghostly. The penultimate song, Dumb-Fill, even finds the band experimenting with country-style piano, which isn’t necessarily something I was expecting to write in this review.
Much like Annabel Dream Reader, All Your Happy Life closes on a simple and poignant moment, Home, which combines acoustic guitar with the tender vocals that Bell boasts when he’s not screaming. The track gently releases you from the world The Wytches have brought you into, although at this point you may find yourself fairly reluctant to leave.
On their sophomore album, The Wytches continue to prove they’re one of the most exciting bands out there. It’s refreshing to listen to a band who create without limitations, a band who have discovered their own unique sound yet are still willing to expand it, not just rest on their laurels. You also get the sense that The Wytches’ music is an honest representation of themselves, and that makes the whole experience more worthwhile.