Bonnie Prince Billy - I See A Darkness LP

(Palace Records/Domino, 1999)

“The first thing that hits you about I See A Darkness is the stately confidence that sweeps out of the speakers in comparison to earlier albums. From the rousing chorus of ‘A Minor Place’, straight into the Sympathy For The Devil-esque “whoo-whoos” and throttled guitar of ‘Nomadic Revery’, within its two opening tracks the album has already set out a clear statement of intent.

And then comes the title track. Creeping ominously into view like a glacier in a jet-black ocean, ‘I See A Darkness’ demands completely silent observation from the listener. It’s surely going to be a standard for aspiring songwriters for many years to come, such is the way it sounds so complete and fully formed, but never really reveals what lies at its heart. Is it a song about depression? Suicide? Or a hymn to fraternal love, to admitting frailty but recognizing the vital role a friend can play? “Do you know how much I love you? / Is the hope that somehow you, can save me from this darkness?” The whole song, and those lines in particular, can be read in many different ways and sung by many different voices.

There’s much more than just the 24-carat title track in I See A Darkness to suggest that it’s the essential release in this extensive discography though. ‘Death To Everyone’ combines a sleek, sensual atmosphere with an almost gleefully black humor, ‘Today I Was An Evil One’ captures the down-home spirit of The Band at their best, while ‘Madeleine-Mary’ tells a dark story that you know isn’t going to end well, but you can’t help listening in. It’s a record that feels crafted from start to finish to bring you into the world of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, a dark, scary, yet life-affirming place.” - Aaron Lavery for Drowned In Sound