The album artwork for The Altar, BANKS' follow up to her 2014 debut Goddess, is something of a statement. A bold and striking image, it's a true embodiment of an artist coming out of their shell: stripped back, fresh-faced and raw.
From start to almost finish, BANKS exudes immense confidence – whilst Goddess was full of understated, whispery vocals, The Altar is valiantly passionate. Like the lyrical content, weak moments are few and far between. And with that in mind, it’s still as much of a safe next step as it can be without being stale or lacklustre. It’s a natural progression, a maturing.
Album opener, Gemini Feed, is a stern assertion. It comes as no surprise that SOHN is behind the production, given that the track begins in a similar fashion to his own Tremors, appearing on his debut of the same name. Soon, the pairing of BANKS and SOHN develops into a partnership paralleling that of AlunaGeorge, a compatible match whose styles align like no other. Whilst it’s clear that both artists are able to hold their own, it would be interesting to see a collaboration between them both as songwriters in the future.
Whilst not coming across as particularly religious, with song titles such as Judas and her album entitled The Altar, it’s hard to ignore the possible connotations that BANKS could be trying to invoke. An altar is a place both for marriage and where sacrifices are conducted. Thus, at first glance the title may refer to the way she has torn through those who have wronged her, and is now sacrificing them in retribution. But behind the fierce demeanour, there are indications peppered throughout which hint at a vulnerable side which is undoubtedly still there.
In regards to this, To the Hilt is a delight, nothing short of the absolute highlight. Everything that comes before builds up to this moment, only to then make you pause. The beautiful, minimalist production (courtesy, once again, of SOHN) is all that is needed, no overkill. The creeping, atmospheric synth line is haunting, a metaphor for that foreboding feeling.
To the Hilt wraps things up perfectly. It makes the entire album relatable, and reminds the world the depth BANKS is capable of reaching. Most importantly, it shows that she is still human - a brilliant one, at that.
Words: Connor Crabb