Sometimes, you listen to a band and imagine that one Tuesday, sitting at the kitchen table two retired parents watch their middle-aged child emerge from his basement bedroom, long hair flowing, leather jacket shining in the midday light, carrying his spiky guitar off to band practice and they just look at one another as if to say “Well, at least he’s found an outlet”…

This is not one of those times. This is one of those times when you just have to doff your hat to the full-on commitment of a folk-doom six-piece pouring three years into a concept double-album chronicling an intrigue centred on an early-1900s priest in Scotland, an album which opens (obviously) with solo bagpipes over the sound of ocean waves and immediately ramps up into the song ‘Awakening’ which showcases everything I hoped for.

Dun Ringill use discord, syncopation and odd time signatures here not to showcase their musical ability but to create an atmosphere, to support the narrative musically and to carefully fit every aspect of the album into its overarching concept.

I find it hilariously overblown at times but I’m simultaneously listening with a massive grin and rocking along unironically. The album is not bad in any respect but it’s either “incredibly overblown” or “completely balls-deep all-in” depending on where you stand. I am happy to enjoy it for being both.

I can’t share the mindset of someone who can take such an album fully seriously – but I think such a person would probably enjoy this just as much as I do, as the commitment to the premise runs all through the album. I feel like there’s a deliberate effort to structure the music around the setting too, with the music subtly and cleverly evoking Celtic themes using chromatic power chord sequences, sea-shanty-like progressions, making great use of violin and subtly utilising a hurdy gurdy, flute, bodhrán-like drum and, for the most part, blending it all perfectly. There’s a kind of late-era System of a Down flavour in places and some 90s Metallica in the simplicity of some of the chugging riffs.

If I were to try and pick holes, there are a few somewhat incongruous American-style face-melting guitar solos as Mike McReady dropped by the studio one morning. It’s unnecessary particularly considering how good the solo violin sounds in this context and given that there’s some really strong sections of more subtle lead guitar work elsewhere and a lot of the other instrumental sections work really well whereas the really big solos just don’t seem to contribute.

There’s also the issue of two vocalists – one classic gruff and gravelly, a la Max Cavalera or Cronos, the other much more of the Roger Waters school of prog vocals. I appreciate the variety and contrast but it’s clear that one vocalist nails it more than the other. Alone, the “clean” vocal struggles a little, and some of the sections, particularly the quiet sections on Parrish and Blood of the Lord feel simultaneously a bit weak yet overblown; however, as backing vocal it works really well and there’s some great fourths harmony on ‘Nathaniels Hymn’. I also like the choral sections on Blood of the Lord.

I must admit to not being someone who focuses on lyrics, particularly on early playthroughs, so I haven’t really picked up much of the narrative at the time of writing. The blurb for the album says “you will be left on a cliff edge waiting to find out what happens next” – at this point, I can barely figure out what’s being said right now but I am definitely looking forward to hearing the second instalment, released next year and to getting to know this album better in the meantime.

Dun Ringill:150-Where The Old Gods Play Act 1 – Out 4th August 2023 (The Sign Records)

Chris Oliver

I've been playing bass guitar and guitar for over half my life. I last played bass in in a band called Electromotive and as a singer-songwriter I have written songs about cheese and vajazzles (separate songs!). I started out listening to 60s, 70s and 80s rock as a kid and I was in to grunge and U.S. punk and ska in the 90s. Since then, I've broadened my tastes and I like the best of all styles of music, even country. I've been writing for Silent Radio since it started.