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A.A. Williams’ Forever Blue: bleakness and beauty in one stunning debut album

Death gospel visionary A.A. Williams shows metal bands don’t have the monopoly on misery with debut album Forever Blue

(Image: © Bella Union)

In the past 15 months, A.A. Williams has secured support slots with an enviable legion of some of the heaviest, darkest and most exploratory musicians you’ll read about in the pages of this magazine, including Amenra, Cult Of Luna and Russian Circles, as well as goth veterans The Sisters Of Mercy. Her debut live performance took place at the prestigious Roadburn Festival, perhaps the world’s ultimate celebration of heavy and open-ended music.

Whilst the sonics couldn’t be described as ‘heavy’ per se, there’s plenty of weight to Forever Blue, whether in the soaring strings, mournful piano or the forlorn lyrical content. Williams is a multi-talented musician, playing cello, piano and guitar, but it’s her voice that impresses the most, her angelic lilts masking the moribund sentiments brought forth from her psyche. You think Paradise Lost are misery merchants? You ain’t heard nothing yet.

And yet, there’s a stirring, evocative lilt to the music on Forever Blue that is elegantly elating. Us metalheads understand better than most that just because a musician’s art is miserable, it doesn’t mean that it will make you feel miserable. Paradoxically, Forever Blue might be the saddest and most uplifting album you hear all year.

The deep baritone croon of ex-Wild Beasts bassist Tom Fleming on Dirt makes for a beautifully resonant duet that will pour light into the deepest, darkest recesses of your soul. Similarly, Cult Of Luna’s Johannes Persson lends his considerable bowel-quaking larynx to the final strains of Fearless, on perhaps the most ‘traditionally’ heavy moment of the record.

The dynamics on display here are what give the heavy moments on this debut full-length their weight, a lesson that many metal acts could learn a thing or two from. We’re only halfway through 2020 but the chances of a more heart-rending and fully formed debut emerging this year are practically zero.

Pre-order Forever Blue on Amazon