I’m sure the temptation to really labour the point musically was very strong, but what we get is a cleverly presented series of short, snappy tracks with a strong command of atmosphere
Another LP dealing with witch trials, what’s got into these trendy young bucks nowadays? Are they feeling the psychic pull of their Jacobean forefathers? Or is it all the mode now? I’m sure Robert Lindsay or Matthew Hopkins would be happy for me to say God only knows… This time the subject’s not Lancs,or Essex, but the East Lothian trials of 1590, which if memory serves me correct were a pet case for James VI / I; but my questionable recall of Scotch history is not the subject of this review.
As with anything to do with witches, we listeners should expect, (and indeed we get, in tracks like Fortress or Vastations, or the somnolent instrumental Black Forest), brooding music: heavy on moods, and rich with dark hints and unholy suggestions. There’s also the common desire to connect with Dame Nature somehow - a feel of the outdoors is de rigeur for this sort of thing and it’s no surprise that some of the LP was recorded in “subject –relevant” locations as well as en plein air. Luckily the atmospherics or moods don’t intrude too much on the songs and this is a record that towers above the band’s debut LP, Happy As a Windless Flag, which was a bit hesitant at times.
Whether the concentration on a single subject sharpened minds and working practices is hard to say on listening in, but you suspect it. Tracks like Firelight Acolyte, Sequestered and Backroads are razor sharp, able to juggle atmosphere and narrative pretty skilfully. Even better, things don’t take too long to pan out: I’m sure the temptation to really labour the point musically was very strong, but what we get is a cleverly presented series of short, snappy tracks with a strong command of atmosphere that could morph into an extremely attractive film score, if given half a chance. There are some great melodic passages too, such as the surprisingly upbeat coda at the end of Alone, or the determined and moody Apologia, or the confident and melodic vocals in The Possessed.
I think this is a pretty fine album, one that keeps giving over repeated listen, and easily the band’s best work to date.