Following Fucked Up’s 2011 revival of the rock opera is Tori Amos, only minus the rock. Forgoing all amplified instrumentation and percussion, Night of Hunters features Amos on every track with guest appearances by her daughter, Natashya Hawley, who bares a striking vocal resemblance to Adele, and niece Kelsey Dobyns. Calling it “a 21st-century song cycle inspired by classical music themes spanning over 400 years,” Amos manages allusions to Bach, Chopin, Debussy and other superstar composers on her debut for top classical label Deutsche Grammophon. The result isn’t as musically daunting as all that suggests: Amos has often strayed from verse-chorus-verse structure, and although she may be joined by woodwinds and a string quartet, anything bearing her signature vocal and piano styles is going to sound like a Tori Amos album — and there’s heaps of both here.
Like many of her other outings, Hunters centers around a woman with serious relationship issues. Here, the protagonist is joined by a shapeshifting creature who takes her back 3,000 years, gets her stoned on magic cactus juice, and hooks her up with the Fire Muse so that the heroine can get her groove back, deal with her man as an equal, and save the world from dark forces. And that’s just skimming the surface of Night‘s byzantine plot.
As usual, Amos throws out a few zingers (“Every couple has their version of what they call the truth,” in “Cactus Practice.”). Newbies will otherwise need to dig deep to unlock what, exactly, she’s going on about for 72 minutes, but if you’ve read this far, you’re probably up for the challenge. The payoff is that, unencumbered by guitars and drums, Amos’s vocal and keyboard melodies move freely and with striking dexterity; nothing’s competing with her or tying her to a metronomic pulse. Like Night‘s nameless central character that bares a distinct psychological resemblance to her creator, Amos ultimately finds her freedom — even if she has to party down with the sprits of long-dead longhairs to do it.