You would understandably mistaken, from all the album promo material floating around, that Huntress is a band that is comprised of one member. The irrefutably striking Jill Janus, vocalist and resident banshee for the band, has become so synonymous with Huntress’ image that it’s hard to work out if there are any other members of this autonomous female state. Of course, bands sell their debut albums based on this kind of imagery, but this sword is double edged; in fixing the spotlight on any aspect of a band will mean that it’ll continue to receive attention, even after the initial meat market is over.
In the case of Huntress, and Ms. Janus in particular, this seems unfair. Spell Eater, whilst being a solid album, is not outstanding. Not only does it not pull out the kind of venom and riveting evil that you want from this sort of record, but it also fails to showcase the amazing pipes that Janus undoubtedly has.
Instead, Spell Eater is riddled with episodic demonstrations of fiery musicianship and sinister vocals, but remains devoid of any scintillating songs. As opposed to this being a play filled with peaks and troughs, the album feels like a series of mediocre monologues, on which the vocals and the music play a part, but never actually get fully utilised. Janus suffers the most, as her coarse and devastating snarl fails to ignite on any song, which makes the album feel a little fleshless; when she does connect, as on the midway grind of ‘Eight of Swords’, it seems like there’s a supernova of potential waiting to explode out of the band, which sadly falls flat. As it stands, it all just feels a little distant and hollow.
The riffing on the album is notable, but feels a little more Broadway and a little less malevolent, although the record is indisputably heaped with guitar technicality; admittedly the guitars are sapped of any warming tones, but never resonate with the kind of darkness that you’d expect from a band with such maligned imagery. Couple the elaborate guitar work with the undoubtedly dark but flowery lyrical themes, and Spell Eater feels a little like a parody. This is an unjust result for a band that have an iceberg of potential here, but who seem to have fallen prey to an exasperatingly ravenous hype machine.