Everywhere you like these days, there seems to be some new folk metal band emerging from whatever corner of the planet we call mosh you care to name, be it from the shadow of the northern lights to the wildest of the Asian steppes, blending their own particular brand of traditional music with the heaviest riffs they can possibly produce… all to varying degrees of effect, of course. The two forms of music have often found common ground, especially in their lyrical themes: stories of the struggle of the suppressed against their superior foes being among their most common subjects.
However, where most 21st Century bands operating in this mien have succeeded is in their spirit of not only amalgamation but also progression, using one to feed off the other to push both forms of music to their next level. But, as in every artform, as in every aspect of life, there are anomolies which disprove the norm – and, unfortunately, Wytch Hazel – a trio from the historic city of Lancaster – are just that! And what is particularly sad about this, their debut album, is their lamentably contemptible attempt to disguise their overtly Christian message in what is essentially a form of music which is positively celebratory of its pagan origins.
The band’s sound is very much rooted in that of the likes of Fairport Convention, Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull – the latter best evoked in Colin Hendra’s unconvincing phraseology – and firmly stay there for more or less the entire duration of this debut offering. Yes, the performances are solid and convincing, and there are some nice touches – such as the main riff of opener ‘Freedom Battle’, the rousing bass work on ‘Fight’ and the generally uplifting feel of the eponymous ‘Wytch Hazel’ – but there is too much saccharin and preachifying to warrant much exploration of the potential of the underlying themes… especially when the likes of ‘Mighty King’ rams its message so far down your thorat the gag reflex is more than automatic.
Freedom Battle / Fight / Mighty King / More Than Conquerors / Psalm / Prelude / He Shall Reign / Dark Ages / Wytch Hazel / We Will Be Strong
‘Prelude’ is released on Bad Omen Records on Friday 22 April.