Living in the Forest of Dean has definitely helped me have a greater appreciation of, and feel closer to, nature. In such a seemingly hectic, disposable, instant gratification world, and with organised religion continuing to cause great suffering to many – whatever religion may be the cause, I find myself increasingly drawn to ancient and pre-Christian ideas.
One way in which this manifests itself, I suppose, would be in terms of some of the art that I now enjoy. I thoroughly enjoy the lyrical, visual and sonic experience of anti-Christian black metal acts such as Behemoth, and on some level I can identify with satanism, particularly after reading Gavin Baddeley‘s excellent “Lucifer Rising” book. However, there is also a part of me that loves folk music with it’s tales of times past and feels strongly drawn to paganism.
It is this that brings me to the new album release, “Sabbat”, from Damh The Bard, a leading light in the Order Of Bards, Ovates & Driuds. Damh’s seventh album, and about eighteen months in the making, this follows the very good “Antlered Crown & Standing Stone” from 2012.
The record starts with the up-tempo title track, “Sabbat”. Although the title conjures up images of witches dancing in praise of Satan, this actually refers to the eight festivals that make up the Wheel Of The Year, which include Beltane and Samhain.
The gentler “The Wicker Man” follows. This is a more trance-like track addressing the practice of burning wicker men at modern pagan gatherings.
A wonderful version of “Scarborough Faire” follows, and is far more affecting than versions such as Simon & Garfunkel’s. Damh covers Uriah Heep’s “Lady In Black” which gives the song a nice rustic flavour without losing any of it’s majesty.
“Forgotten, Never Be” is a celebration of various living traditions, such as the Green Man and Morris dancing.
Whilst much of Damh’s music celebrates the history of England, the final song here, “Thundersbarrow Hill” is a song about his Viking ancestry and was inspired by a trip to Thundersbarrow on the South Downs. Loved the thunder storm at the end too!
Lyrically I really enjoyed this album, and I have to mention the humour involved in retelling a dream in “Time Machine” with the lines “I saw Stonehenge and what it’s for, but I don’t think I should say much more”! There is a link on Damh’s website with track by track lyrics and “making of” video clips that is well worth a look, as well.
The instrumentation throughout is simple, based around acoustic guitar and percussion. Whilst Damh’s voice may not be the strongest, when put together with the music and his lyrics the end result really is quite special. Recommended listening.
1. Sabbat / 2. The Wicker Man / 3. Scarborough Faire / 4. On The Shoulders Of Giants / 5. Iron From Stone / 6. Lady In Black / 7. When You Were Born / 8. Forgotten, Never Be / 9. Time Machine / 10. Thundersbarrow Hill