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Thursday 13 June 2024

Reviews: EIVØR, Birdstone, Poobah, Millennial Reign (Reviews By James Jackson, Paul Scoble, Rich Piva & Paul Hutchings)

EIVØR - Enn (Season Of Mist) [James Jackson]

The bio for Faroese singer/composer Eivor Palsdottir is impressive, her career spanning twenty years to date, her work featuring in Game Of Thrones, the BBC’s The Last Kingdom and gamers may recognise her work from God Of War and Metal Gear Survive.

Not knowing entirely what to expect from an album is a double edged sword, it’s either going to thrill you or fall flat on its face; offering little assistance, the genre listing for this on certain streaming services is alternative; a categorisation that I personally feel is so vague and misleading that it’s almost lazy to use.

The music, more like a movie score at times upon this latest release, is deeper than Alternative, its Folk, earthy and natural, ethereal and haunting; album opener Ein Klota is celestial, offering images of stars and galaxies beyond our perception - unsurprising then that the English translation is A Planet.

Hugsi Bert Um Teg (Still Just You) is a straight up dance floor anthem in the making, complete with Pop like hooks and beats, in contrast Purpurhjarta (Purple Heart) is quite sedate, built around a subtle melody, a tenderness to its tone and rhythm. Upp Ur Oskuni, the penultimate track on the album, opens with an almost black metal style vocal, whispered but frantic and coarse, the track driven, at times, by a very metal style guitar riff.

Such is the diversity upon the album and each track, there is a core element that can be found within the folk genre, primarily within a lot of the percussion and haunting vocal styles, but it’s also more than that, alternative is too mundane a title to be given to something as rich and emotive as Enn is. 10/10

Birdstone – The Great Anticipation (La Cage Records) [Paul Scoble]

French trio Birdstone have been making music since 2017. The band, made up of Basile Chevalier-Coudrain on vocals and guitar, Edwige Thirion on bass and Benjamin Rousseau on drums, have released two full length albums in the time they have been together; debut Seer was released in 2019, and second album Loss was released in 2022, making The Great Anticipation the bands third album. Birdstone's style is rooted in the blues, but the album also brings in other elements from rock, psychedelia and in a few places heavy metal.

The album is just over an hour (although it doesn’t feel that long, which is a good sign) long, and features five long songs, and two that are a little shorter. The album opens with the song Eyes On The Ceiling, a great melodic piece of  blues rock with a clean and slightly folky verse section and a heavier chorus built around a very distinctive riff. The vocals are very good and are full of character, and the last section of the song has a prog rock feel to it. Great start, next comes Instant Shutdown, which is up-tempo blues rock, again it’s based around a very good, very distinctive riff. The song moves between soft and minimal sections and heavy and driving rock at a fast walking pace that stomps along in purposeful way.

Alcyon is very fast driving psych rock with big vocals, lead and backing. In the second half the song has a soft, minimal and clean section which after adding some great backing vocals, builds back to the fast and dramatic psych rock. Next comes The Devil a mid-paced track with a bit of swing to it’s tempo, the song has a feel that reminds me of doom metal, in particular it reminds me a little of the band Goatsnake (Who describe themselves as doom blues, so the comparison isn’t that extreme). The song has a great chorus, with Finger Snaps, that stomps along in a very pleasing way.

Next comes the song Cinnamon Creek, a melancholy blues ballad that is soft and gentle. The song is lush, features several great guitar solos and some really good soft vocals. It feels like it is straight out of the Mississippi Delta, pure blues. After Cinnamon Creek comes the song Hotline, another song with a doomy blues feel. The song has a number of quiet sections that build back to the stomping blues rock. The song builds to a very aggressive and combative ending.

The Great Anticipation comes to an end with the song Méandres. Méandres is a big heavy piece of blues with a slow but very purposeful pacing, the song has several soft and quiet sections that feel introverted, before dropping back into the slow and heavy blues again. The song vacillates between the two feels for a while before the soft and quiet section takes the song and album to its end.

I have really enjoyed listening to The Great Anticipation. It is a very original and creative treatment of blues and blues rock. I loved how good the riffs are and as you might have noticed most of the material is very distinctive, apart for a few similarities with other bands this album feels unique, I’ve not heard much that sounds like this, and these days that is pretty rare. The songs are very well written with great performances, and huge amounts of melody, this is an album that you will hum to distraction. Superb piece of blues rock, highly recommended. 9/10

Poobah - Burning In The Rain: An Anthology (Ripple Music) [Rich Piva]

Poobah is a hard/classic/psych rock proto band out of Ohio that I would have never heard of if it was not for Ripple Music, of which their origin story pretty much starts with releasing an old Poobah reissue, but we are not here to hear that story (if you are interested, I will have Todd on the Rich and Turbo Heavy Half Hour, available where you get your podcasts…cheap plug). 

What we are here to discuss is the new Poobah release, Burning In The Rain: An Anthology, also fittingly released by Ripple Music, that is a career spanning best of all of the excellent heavy rock head mastermind Jim Gustafson brought to the world. The 17 tracks were picked by Gustafson himself from the 15 or so albums that the band has created since they formed in 1972, and still going strong today.

All 17 tracks on Burning In The Rain are excellent proto/psych rippers, lead by what is in my opinion their best track and one of the best proto songs ever, Mr. Destroyer, from the debut record, Let Me In, from way back in 1972. But this is a true anthology, as we get killer tracks from the band’s recent output, like I Want Peace, from 2012’s Peace Farmers which seamlessly flows into the killer track Thru These Eyes from 1976’s US Rock, that has a kind of Argent feel to it. 

The title track of the anthology is taken from their most recent album and sounds perfect next to the 70s classics, which says a lot about Mr. Gustafson’s song writing. Some of my other favourite tracks include My Name Is Mud, which I can so hear ZZ Top doing, Fear, and maybe my top track, Jump Through The Golden Ring. I wonder if Alice Cooper had the Let Me In record because there are some parallels musically there too.
Overall, you cannot go wrong with any of the 17 tracks Jim picked out for Burning In The Rain. Poobah is that rare band that you can’t tell the real difference between the quality of the work from multiple decades apart, where a song from 2020 fits perfectly sonically with a track from 1972 without losing any of the quality as well. If you don’t know Poobah, Ripple Music has given you zero excuse and a perfect starting point for your deep dive into the proto legend that is Jim Gustafson and Poobah. 9/10

Millennial Reign – World On Fire (Ulterium Records) [Paul Hutchings]

Their first full-length release since 2018’s The Great Divide, Arlington’s Millennial Reign’s latest album is a richly crafted collection of 12 songs that follow themes of Christianity, something which I’ll admit I didn’t clock straight away (but when you read the song titles in more detail doesn’t come as any surprise).

Regardless of the themes, the vocals of Tiffany Galchutt take centre stage throughout. Her range is impressive, her style and delivery powerful and strong and she links in with the rest of the band’s dynamic and fluid style. Galchutt has taken over from Travis Wills, who in turn had taken over from former vocalist James Guest. With Galchutt in place, it seems that the band, completed by new drummer Pedro Cortes alongside original member Dave Harvey and bassist Neil Bertrand, is in a place where forward movement can happen.

Whilst I’m not a fan of lyrical content of this type, you can at least appreciate the quality that this band possess. Millennial Reign’s style is upbeat, almost epic style power metal with some more traditional flashes included. It’s an album that benefits from a solid production and mix, allowing each instrument to work in tandem, nothing overpowering each other.

Unsurprisingly, despite my earlier ignorance, songs like Bring Me To LifeWe Follow On and Tongues Of Fire are all focused on praising the guy with the beard up there. All as relevant as songs about dragons and fables I suppose. Highlights include the Eastern flavours on Wandering with its sweeping symphonic synths adding great depth, and the orchestral flair that flows through Tongues On Fire. If you can get past the lyrical content, then Millennial Reign’s latest album is impressive on every level. 7/10

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