Having spent the guts of year slogging their way around the Irish club scene (on both sides of the border), as any self-respecting young band should do, Belfast four piece Bäkken’s reputation for good, solid live shows and their typical Norn Iron work ethic has meant that expectations typically have been high in this part of the world as to what their debut studio effort would bring to the table.
By and large, those expectations have been met, and in places exceeded, although the opposite is also the case. For example, things don’t get off to a great start with the intro to the epic opener, ‘Darkest Day’, is overlong: it’s the sort of intro that works brilliantly live, allowing the band to take to the stage against a backdrop of blaring air raid warnings and amidst swirling smoke, but it’s a bit needless in the recorded context. Nevertheless, when the song finally kicks in, it’s a solid piece of classic metal, driven along by a pounding riff from the twin guitar attack of Mark-Anthony McGinnis and Simon Pickett and underpinned to good effect by the extremely competent, if somewhat workmanlike, bass and drum work of Brian O’Kane and Niall McGrotty respectively. Pickett’s bassy, gruff vocals add a distinctive feel to the material, especially on the likes of ‘Mystic Mogul’ and ‘Sasquatch’, which hint at the band being capable of so much more.
Having said that, the band aren’t afraid to experiment a little: the aforesaid ‘Sasquatch’ is a credible mid-pacer, with even some folky references thrown into the middle section, and the attempts at an epic choral backing are commendable, while ‘Back To The Future’, ‘Get Back To Your Feet’ and ‘Fortress Of Evil’ all show some real promise, in both their songwriting and delivery, with the latter two tracks especially showing off some pretty nifty work from the two guitarists – although a little more attention in the production department could have brought out the underlying viciousness of the songs (and especially the doomy Sabbath feel of ‘Fortress…’) to better effect.
In fact, the production is the main problem, as it’s staid and unimaginative: this could be down to the budgetary restrictions of a young band recording their first album, and especially one from Northern Ireland recording in England. Having said that, it doesn’t detract from the performances, which are all extremely competent, with some really good moments, and the songs (and especially ‘Darkest Day’, ‘Back To The Future’ and the very impressive ‘Get Back To Your Feet’), which are a fine introduction to this promising young band…[6/10]
1. Darkest Day
2. Mystic Mogul
3. The Cursed
5. Back To The Future
6. Get Back To Your Feet
7. Fortress Of Evil
8. Voyage of Aodh
‘Death Of A Hero’ will be self-released on September 10th and will be available via
You can download the current single, ‘Mystic Mogul’, from http://bakken1.bandcamp.com/track/mystic-mogul
Bakken play the Stendhal Festival in Limavady on August 17th/18th (www.stendhalfestival.com) and then open for Hell, Elm Street, Twisted Wrath and Rabid Bitch Of The North at Dublin’s Button Factory on Saturday August 25th (http://www.facebook.com/events/261815023927602/).