White Ring

Gate of Grief

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With their eerie yet seductive blend of trance, industrial, trap, and dark synth pop, White Ring seemed like one of the more promising acts to be tagged "witch house" during the early 2010s. However, they seemed to disappear along with the rest of the scene around 2012. In reality, they had begun working on their debut album in 2010, but personal issues, particularly vocalist Kendra Malia's health problems, delayed its completion throughout the decade. Eventually White Ring gained a second vocalist, Adina Viarengo, who began touring with the group once they resumed performing in 2017. Both Viarengo and Malia sing on White Ring's much-anticipated debut full-length, Gate of Grief, although the ghostly, echo-tunnel vocal distortion makes it impossible to tell which one is singing on any given song. In a lot of ways, the group sound like they're picking up where they (and witch house as a whole) left off. A lot of the style's hallmarks are here, from macabre atmospheres and distorted spectre-like vocals to skittering drum machines and haunting synth melodies. As recognizable as it might sound to anyone familiar with the genre, the material is clearly stronger and more developed than earlier White Ring releases. It's also more varied, ranging from gorgeous ethereal pop songs like "Angels" and "Fields of Hate" to the full-on goth-trap-trance of "Puppy." There's also a heavy industrial crunch to many of the songs, with grinding distortion dirtying up the intricate midtempo beats of opener "Heavy Self Alienation," and both "Nothing" and the particularly aggressive "Burn It Down" riding atop a steady yet disoriented EBM thump. "Home of the Brave" sounds a hell of a lot like Clams Casino, with half-dissolved voices sighing through a thick froth of white noise and sluggish beats. The feelings of yearning, sadness, and grief expressed through these songs aren't beholden to any genre or time period, and the album sounds fresh and poignant regardless of when its songs were written or recorded. Gate of Grief easily fulfills the promise of White Ring's earlier efforts.

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