Tori Amos sings a slightly different tune with her first album for the legendary classical Deutsche Grammophon label. With Night of the Hunters, she creates an orchestral woodsy gothic atmosphere that plays more like an opera than an album.
This is precisely her intention as the tracks unfold in a song cycle instead of a mere track list. Although the opener, “Shattering Sea” is misguided in its musical delivery with aggressive and jarring tones, she sets sail beautifully with second track “Snowblind.” Enlisting the help of her 11 year-old daughter, Natashya Hawley,who has a surprisingly mature handle on her own voice, the track puts the listener in the right atmosphere for the thoughtful album.
Amos’ classical background is no secret so perhaps this is the album she was meant to make. She doesn’t miss the mark with luxurious instrumentations that belong in a different time — like in Middle Earth. Titles like “Battle of the Trees,” “Star Whisperer” and the title track give way to such an ambiance, as does her mystical voice.
As beautiful as the poetic nature of the album is, it gets a little wearisome. Fourteen tracks is a heavy load to bear with such complexities and I wished she had gone for a less is more approach.
Perhaps as two albums, this would be more digestible but there’s confusion here. The tone is epic, but some of the songs feel cut short to fit in here. While some songs run six, eight, nine minutes long, others are shaved down to three like “The Chase” or the instrumental “Seven Sisters.” Her proficiency at creating these songs is on the mark, but I felt myself wishing she’d explore further with the music keeping in tone with the vastness of her album’s scope.
Patience is a must for Hunters. Amos’ lyrics are gorgeous, but take time to soak in. She works magic weaving words that are poetic and abstract while still evoking a tear here and there. “Your Ghost” is a delicate romantic moment that is heart shattering and yet, I couldn’t help but listen to it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
“Job’s Coffin” features her daughter again with astounding poise. She displays the huskiness of Duffy or Adele. There’s such a pleasure in listening to her, I almost don’t want her to grow up so her voice won’t mature into something else. Like “Ghost,” this pulled me in to multiple listens.
Because the album is so heavy, my attention began to sway by tenth track “Edge of the Moon.” Hunters recovers with its title track that sounds like a Disney princess track after all the happiness ever after is gone. She starts softly to build into swirling strings and pianos and layers of vocals bring a dark charm to the song.
“Carry” ends the CD fine. For a song cycle, I wasn’t as resolved with the album, but it fits in well with the album. Amos created an almost-masterpiece here in Hunters. She succeeds in bringing listeners in to her otherworldly journey, but if only she hadn’t made it such a long one.