Update: Following writing this review Johnny Hollow announced that A Collection of Creatures will be available on Bandcamp from January 21 (January 22 in Australia).
If you backed Johnny Hollow’s Indiegogo campaign for A Collection of Creatures, you have been enjoying the latest album from these talented Canadians for a few days now. If not, you’ll have to wait for the public release, which at the time of writing has yet to be set.
Before I heard A Collection of Creatures I thought I wanted it to follow the same vein as Dirty Hands. While, I didn’t mind their self-titled debut, I didn’t love it. Dirty Hands expanded on the ideas of the first, while introducing new elements to the band. What I neglected to realise was that if A Collection of Creatures simply followed the path of Dirty Hands, the album would just simply be more of the same.
Instead, Johnny Hollow combined what was good about their debut and Dirty Hands, while once again adding new elements to create an ambient, exciting and interesting third album.
A Collection of Creatures is all about creating atmosphere, and a sense of unease. The morose-filled “Pangea” opens the album, before violating you with the cello intrusion of “A Little Bit Closer.” The album follows this rhythm of peaceful, atmospheric interludes that lull you into a false sense of security, before intruding on your comfort zone. The mix of Vincent’s strong vocals, paired with Janine’s softer, almost sweet vocals, work together playing on the listener’s sense of unease.
Previously released tracks have been used on the record, but that doesn’t mean you are being cheated. The update given to “Devil’s Night” and “Prayer” allow them to fit better among the rest of the tracks, and “Sigea” is in fact “Aegis” backwards, get it? The war-cry, battle anthem vibe of the The Sisters of Mercy cover “Temple of Love” is easily an album highlight, and considering how daunting the band found the task of covering the song, Johnny Hollow should be proud.
An album that plays greatly on atmosphere, such as A Collection of Creatures does, needs to flow. There can’t be any stop and go moments, that break the trance the cello, electronics and keys has put the listener under. While all the tracks flow seamlessly into each other, they don’t fall into the ‘all sounding the same’ category. In fact more often than not, they each introduce something new. “I Am Stretched On Your Grave” is a haunting affair where Kitty’s cello plays the lead role, and Janine’s vocals take on almost Bjork sound, which lies in contrast to the playful “Bloodsuckers” that maintains a musical theatre vibe.
A Collection of Creatures is a great step forward for Johnny Hollow and a great start to 2014.