Just over three years ago we were introduced to terror incarnate, psychopath Psychoberrie. Locked away in the asylum of Ward XVI, her story and madness was revealed within acclaimed their debut album The Art Of Manipulation. Now the British band have returned with its successor to deeper delve into the psyche and journey of an innocent child who would eventually embrace insanity; it is the exploration of her Metamorphosis and Ward XVI unveiling the growing majesty of their darkly fertile imagination.
Metamorphosis has all the traits and off kilter dramatics which made its predecessor one compelling and thickly enjoyable encounter but the Manchester band has evolved their temptations to whole new heights as equally their songwriting, imagination and craft has blossomed yet again. The release offers eleven tracks which thrill and disturb, each shaped with cinematic intimation yet every slice of its protagonist’s story is a moment of hungry rock ‘n’ roll whether a heart wrenching ballad or blood lust strewn echo of the serial killer’s personal history. At times the album is the darkest trespass of her and our thoughts, in other moments it unleashes sheer contagiousness as the band’s warped circus hued sounds revolve around the senses and from start to finish vocalist/lyricist Psychoberrie, guitarist Doctor von Stottenstein and bassist Wolfy Huntsman have cast one sublimely enthralling adventure into darkness.
Lining up once more with producer Mark Winterburn and with drummer John Badger (ex-Impavidus) accompanying their creative journey, the band take us back to Whittingham Asylum and within its cold walls begin the album’s revelation with Retrogression and the taking of Psychoberrie back to her beginnings. The taped recording is chilling and absorbing, the band as skilled at crafting the tale behind the killer as the sounds which embrace it as soon confirmed once more by The Cradle Song. The innocence soaked melody of nursery keys are soon joined by wanting baby cries which soon subside as mother soothes the longing. Circus chimes subsequently rise to entice and entertain, infesting ears and bodies which are soon inescapably swinging. Psychoberrie’s tones only escalate the captivation, bringing the shadows that lurk to a more apparent view as reflection soars from her lips.
Mister Babadook follows a child’s prayer wrapped in the beauty and grace of keys which continue to caress the voice and emotion of Psychoberrie as she emerges, demons in the shadows courting her increasingly revealed fears and tempestuousness. Simultaneously the guitar of von Stottenstein weaves and casts its own dark inventive theatre, the bass of Huntsman intrepid and imposing alongside as the song flourishes in the band’s classic and melodic rock instincts.
The outstanding Daisy Chains follows with its flirtatious swing immediately under the skin. Psychoberrie colours the carnival-esque stroll with further insight into the growing child and the world of liquor addiction her mother brought with sudden violence to her. It is a skilled union of smiling heart cheering sounds and the corruption of a mother’s love, Ward XVI conjurors of pure captivation in sound and word.
Broken Toys similarly marries light and dark, the aftermath of that life changing moment seeing the seeds of instability starting to blossom with toys and imagination feeling that evolution in the darkest ways. Taking joint favourite track honours with the keys of Martin Crawley a glorious temptation with just a touch of Dave Greenfield to their flourishes, the song erupts into a heady slab of rock ‘n’ roll, the tempestuousness in the heart of the child erupting in rousing sound.
Across the viscous darkness of Imago further self-reflection and anger is shared, its muscular riffs and rhythmic predation imposing and breath threatening as the band draw an array of diverse flavours into the fiery turmoil which consumes girl and ears alike. The moment the change is complete it is followed by the melancholy lit balladry of A Goodnight Shot, the breakout of a deranged mind and all the horror and nightmare it brings. Quite simply it is pure seduction and sheer terror rolled into one irresistible moment.
The fascination and enthralment never relents across Metamorphosis, the exotic mystique of Burn The Witch bearing the mesmerism and spellbinding beauty found by Psychoberrie in the act of taking life. Around the singer’s vocals, the band casts a rapture of sound, one which sparks its own melodic fire of intensity and pyre of temptation.
Catch Me If You Can is another track which especially had us drooling, the song a ravenous and agitated charge through ears, mania soaking its every move even in subsequent twists into less intrusive strolls. The skill and devious enterprise of the band is especially highlighted in its twisted dance, everything about the track a snare for imagination and greedy attention.
The closing pair of The Verdict and Shadows brings the album and the chapter of victim to become violator to a gripping close. The first sees Psychoberrie, after the revelation of her passage to where she is confined, given a confirmed glimpse of daylight though whether the world will rue the day time and subsequent releases will reveal. Its successor does give clues and intimation within its magnetic walk through the darkness of her mind into the listener’s imagination. It is a glorious finale which ignited thick anticipation and intrigue for the next chapter in the story and sealed a passion for Metamorphosis.
Ward XVI has unveiled themselves as one delicious incitement and masterfully creative band. Metamorphosis commands such statement with its enslavement of ears and imagination; quite simply it is one of the year’s musts!
Metamorphosis is out now; available @ https://wardxvi.bandcamp.com/album/metamorphosis
Pete RingMaster 06/10/2020