After her many issues with music labels, after “American Doll Posse”, Amos took the decision to go with independent labels from then on, labels that would give her the creative space she required and that also would do as much as possible to take her as a serious act, much unlike previous big-name music labels had, since her relationship with her labels hasn’t been good for a long time, if at all.
One of those smaller labels she works with is the classical label Deutsche Gramophone, a division of Universal Music Group, and the label that actually requested a classical inspired album from Amos, from where “Night of Hunters” was created.
Tori Amos’ first album for Deutsche Gramophone comes in the form for a classical-inspired album, an album that highly defies any and all the musical styles she had tackled before, sending her for the first time into chamber music territory, and as a result creating an album that’s at the same time relaxing, haunting and enthralling.
“Night of Hunters” threads around terrain that Amos hadn’t explored before during her musical career, or at least the most public part of it, since it is widely known she got kicked from a conservatory because of her taste for rock music and insistence on playing by ear, which tells us she must have at least learned a little bit of classical music during her stay there.
Amazingly enough, at no point does Amos sound uncomfortable with the classical style, instead making the album flow from the get go, helping Amos’ vision of crafting an aural story through the album. This is an album where songs flow easily into each other; where the style truly remains the same from the beginning to end and where stopping the album before it ends becomes hard, simply because stopping it means stopping the melody.
All of the songs in here would be well labeled to be considered chamber music, and for the first time since perhaps “The Beekeeper”, there isn’t a single trace of rock music in any of the compositions; In fact, there isn’t a single trace of anything in this album that isn’t pure academy music and its derivates, to the point where even Amos’ trademark piano and voice take a backseat to the beauty of the background music that permeates the whole of the album.
And that’s the actual truth about this album, it isn’t without its faults (we’ll get to that in a bit), but if there’s anything in it that can’t be considered flawed that should be the beautiful compositions that serve as background music during the whole of the album, for said compositions are actually what makes the album, and you could easily take away everything in the record but the orchestra and perhaps the piano from some songs and you’d still have an amazingly beautiful album you can just sit down and relax to, just as I found myself doing several times during my first listen to it. The music in here will enthrall you and create a whole environment around you from which it’ll be hard to escape, and if I had to describe what this album feels like, I’d say being in a very old dark Victorian mansion during a stormy afternoon, while you listen to a mother and her child play on the piano – A piano that isn’t there.
For all the praise I’m giving to the orchestra, that doesn’t mean the vocals are terrible here, either. Certainly, this isn’t Amos at her prime, there are several flaws with her interpretation, the most noticeable one being the fondness for singing like a little girl she picked up sometime after “The Beekeeper”, which instead of making her sound tender makes her voice sound horribly weak, which is pretty bad considering Amos has a nice voice, even when it alone will never get her a Grammy. When she’s not pretending she’s five years old, however, her voice is listenable and likeable enough, and the songs where she sings with her daughter (Who plays Annabelle, a spirit that appears in the form of a fox to guide Tori through her problems with her fiancé) are probably the best songs vocally, where the contrast between Tash’s young voice and Amos’ full grown tone succeeds at making the song appealing.
Lyrically, this album is both straightforward and abstract, often at the same time. For all its references to literature, history and astronomy the main story of Tori and her issues with her fiancé can easily be gathered by listening to the record while paying attention to the lyrics, but reading between the lines will allow the reader to understand many more meanings hidden within the song, as usual with Amos. This may not be the best work Amos has produced as a lyricist, but the idea behind it works well enough, and for perhaps the first time since she started crafting albums around concepts and stories the actual story is out there for anyone to see, since even “Scarlet’s Walk” required the listener to abstract themselves in order to get the story.
As a closing comment, I must say I wasn’t all that thrilled about that album prior to listening to it fully. Sure, I was much hyped when it was first announced, but after the first single (“Carry”) was released and I listened to it, it sounded rather boring to me, which managed to hype the album down for me. And I wasn’t entirely wrong by it, since “Night of Hunters” is an album that works together as such, and only a few of the songs can actually stand strong when taken away from its source material. However, this doesn’t detract the album too much, and I don’t think it is that big of a flaw, especially when we consider the album is meant to tell a tale, and tales are seldom good when you start reading them by the 7th chapter, or when you only read said chapter.
All in all, this is an album that’s sure to please the most classical oriented part of Amos’ fans, anger the ones who feel Amos is only good when angry and, hopefully, get her some new fans. As for my recommendation, give this a try, at least a few listens. There’s too much in here you could miss by skipping it, this album is the most melodic Amos has ever been and maybe the most melodic she’ll ever be.
Final review rating: 4.5/5
Availability: The album is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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