|image source: mookychick|
While I had ordered a physical copy of the CD, a digital download was provided by The Asylum Emporium so I could immediately enjoy the goods... or so I thought. Well, the download was only partially successful. I could play all of the songs on my computer, but only a handful on songs on my MP3 player- making my MP3 player an official piece of unreliable junk. So I waited for the physical copy to arrive before making an assessment. It arrived very quickly- a little over one week after purchase.
The CD case itself is very beautiful in its artwork both inside and out- its dull tones mixed with the pink vibrancy of EA's hair is stunning to behold. I wasn't so pleased that the case itself was cardboard, but many artists seem to be doing that these days and at this point can just be shrugged off.
The music, however, is a different story entirely. In many ways EA's strange Victorianindustrial genre has been utterly tossed out the window with this album- songs such as "What Will I Remember?" and "Goodnight Sweet Ladies" are delicate, slower pieces, the types of songs that EA's Opheliac lacked. In many ways this is not an industrial album. The best description is the one that I have seen from EA's own marketing- it is pretty much a musical soundtrack to her semi-autobiographical story The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls. Many of the songs are crafted to reflect scenes from the book, such as "I Don't Understand" and "The Key." Others give exaggerated descriptions of the world of the Asylum that were not as spelled out in the book, such as the showtune "Girls! Girls! Girls!"- also a scene from the book, but in the POV of the Asylum staff and the extremes of public opinion regarding females and madness.
FLAG does, however, pay homage to the industrial roots that many listeners fell in love with in Opheliac with the title track, "Time for Tea," "Take the Pill," "We Want Them Young," and "If I Burn." But the true craftsmanship is in the composition skills that EA, as a classically trained artist, shows in her understanding of tempo, meter, and key changes in songs such as "Take the Pill," "Girls! Girls! Girls!" and "If I Burn."
The crowning piece of this album, however, is "Goodnight, Sweet Ladies." The harmony Emilie Autumn has crafted with the multiple recordings of herself using different ranges of singing voice in a round-like harmony. I get chills listening to it nearly every time- the minimal instrumental accompaniment, along with the haunting vocal harmonies, is heavenly and yet sobering, especially with the artfully added excerpts of lines from her Opheliac songs "The Art of Suicide" and "4 O'Clock."
Despite its inspiration from The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, Emilie Autumn does end the album on a much happier note. While the former ended in despair and insanity, there is a glimmer of hope for the Asylum inmates in "One Foot In Front of the Other."
Personally, I had a hard time adjusting to the different musical style, while having a slight music geek love affair with her composition skills in many of the songs. I had rarely liked any of Emilie Autumn's songs on first hearing them, eventually loving them after many listens. While I am not fond of several of the tracks on the FLAG album ("What Will I Remember" and "Scavenger," for example) I do love several of them already- "If I Burn" and "Goodnight Sweet Ladies," among the ones I had heard and loved previously- "Fight Like a Girl," "Time for Tea," and "Take the Pill." The songs I do not like as much have more to do with them not being as creative as many of the other tracks in both musical composition and lyrical construction.
If you are a fan of Emilie Autumn's showmanship and subject matter, I strongly recommend giving this album a try. It is very different from Opheliac, but not in all bad ways. I am confident that most Plague Rats will eagerly devour its musical message, despite the less industrial feel of the album overall. But if you want a happy, cheery album or don't like musicals, then I suggest you pass this album up. It won't be your style at all.