You have to give Bambi Lee Savage one thing: She knows how to create an aptly-titled album. Darkness Overshadowed, her first since 2009, seems to take its influences equally from Sonic Youth and Tim Burton. It’s a mid-‘90s slow-burning guitar grunge that often misses the mark, full of songs that shoot for dark and haunting but often land on listless. “Nearly Gone”, for instance, is a mock-haunted house ride with aggressively generic lyrics: “Hello, dark and lonely night / Driving down the highway of my broken dreams / No sunrise in sight / It’s quite as bad as it seems.” Meanwhile, Savage’s vocal delivery falls somewhere between PJ Harvey’s lower register and Amanda Palmer’s whisper-singing, and many tracks just sound hushed, like Savage is singing two octaves too low and struggling to find the melody. Savage has a great voice when she’s singing within her range, especially on “Waiting”, the album’s solid closer, where clear and moving vocals with the addition of a ghostly piano plunk, give a fulfilling counterpoint to the doom and gloom of the rest of the album.
Savage gets mentions for her former work as a studio engineer, most notably on mU2’s Achtung Baby, but her early days playing in punk bands in Denver and the UK really inform the grittiness of Darkness Overshadowed. Themes of loneliness and despair are draped over every surface without resolution, the kind of nihilism that makes her singing in German on “Nicht Mehr” seem perfectly reasonable. But it’s odd that, for someone who knows her way around a studio, the overall impression of Darkness Overshadowed is that of an album unrealized, a set of dark demos to which no amount of occasional guitar crunch can give a pulse.