‘Flowers will grow from our bodies, will blossom in the memories of dreams once dreamt.’ —‘Without this Flesh’
Various studies have shown that there is some kind of connection to or similarity between your average metalhead and lovers of so-called classical music. Both groups of listeners seem—at least according to Adrian North at the University of Edinburgh—to be very sensitive and tender. Therefore, it seems only natural that a lot of metal bands also experiment with elements and passages of classical music or try to incorporate classic instruments like the violin into their art. In the case of Canadian duo the Visit, the situation is somehow different, but the implications remain the same.
The Visit was founded by well-known Canadian cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and vocalist Heather Sita Black. According to their own description, the Visit want to combine ‘the structures and instrumentation of classical chamber music with the intricacy of Middle Eastern and Persian music and the emotional and rhythmic weight of metal’. Now, what sounds complicated and perhaps even a bit overly intellectual is actually quite plausible and touching. Weinroth-Browne, who is a professionally trained and educated cellist and an extremely talented musician, creates melancholic, bleak, and ethereal melodies with his instrument. Black, for her part, alternates between very forceful, strong vocals and epic, even sacral singing (listen to the last minutes of ‘Into Light’ for an amazingly clear example). It is interesting to note here that while Weinroth-Browne is a professional musician, Black is more of a self-taught musician and has never formally studied music. Even though it is often difficult for layman’s ears to distinguish between a self-taught singer and a vocal professional, it is an imperative part of the charm of the Visit’s music that Black has a very intuitive approach to her vocals.
One should be careful not to assume that because the band composes their music around Weinroth-Browne’s cello compositions that they only create slow and calm songs. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact. When listening to ‘Cast off the Veil’, for example, one can hear what kind of power and drive a cello can bring to life; the song could even be described as aggressive and impulsive. Here, one can clearly hear that Weinroth-Browne has had more than a passing interest in metal music through his lifetime. After all, he played cello on Woods of Ypres‘ Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light, and he is a member of the progressive death metal band Cholera, which released an album called Prophecies of Annihilation in the year 2011. It is, therefore, no wonder that various reviews of Through Darkness into Light mention that the Visit work without any kind of metal or rock ’n’ roll instruments but still manage to create a metal atmosphere. No doubt, the mixture of bleak and calm moments with harsh, rapid, and angry passages will be to the liking of each and every metalhead reading this.
Additionally, fans of folk music will also recognise the cellist from his appearances on works of Musk Ox. Although the influence of this kind of music is not that noticeable on Through Darkness into Light, there are some similarities present. There is, for example, the mystical opening of ‘Without this Flesh’, which enchants the listener’s heart with smooth cello sounds and very quiet vocals, seeming to transport one from the material to the metaphysical.
Even though the Visit very rarely write about such topics openly, one can find them in the nuances of their lyrics. The line ‘find our way through this darkness / find our way home’ can, of course, be interpreted in various fashions, but the whole concept of leaving the darkness behind and transcending into the light seems to have a Neoplatonic basis. It is the journey of the human soul to tear the shackles of its material human body and return to its spiritual home (called ‘The One’ in Neoplatonic philosophy) from which it emanated. Additionally, the focus on love in the lyrics can without doubt be interpreted as the love between two human beings, but it can also be placed into a mystical context in which the so-called ‘lovers’ yearn to be united again with the ‘beloved’ (the original spiritual home).
Without going into too much into detail, it is sufficient to say that there is a great deal of spiritual or esoteric atmosphere present in the music of the Visit. It is to the strength of Black and Weinroth-Browne that they can create an extremely dense atmosphere with just one instrument and challenging vocals. Through Darkness into Light is not music that is meant to be listened to casually; the music constrains the listener, demanding focus.
Weinroth-Browne is, therefore, not only an excellent cellist, but also an impressive atmospheric songwriter. His songs affect the listener, never bore, and have more than one surprise lurking. The only danger of the Visit’s music is that it cannot be understood by thinking in terms of genres and categories. It is music for individuals and, therefore, it exists for those who take the time to actually listen to (read: hear) something new and surprising. Through Darkness into Light is simply stunning!
01) Without this Flesh
03) Cast off the Veil
04) Through Darkness
05) Into Light