Minnesotans Blood And Sun may or may not like the description (I have no idea, but some people can be touchy about it), but to me we are very, very firmly in neo-folk territory here. A bit of Weh, a dash of King Dude, a sidling up to a less kinetic Ancient VVisdom, maybe even some Nick Cave at his more acoustic bench and you get the drift: Strummed acoustic guitars, a variety of other strings such as violin here and there, excellent deep and gravelly singing in a sombre and serious tones. Heathen outlook, somehow edging towards the apocalyptic yet weaving a little melancholy rather than utter destruction.
As it is often seen as simple music but is, in fact, complex and delicate in construction this is difficult music to pull off.
Opening with ‘Hewn’, a short soundscape of hard work and honest sweat, ‘Merciless Master ‘ is ushered in on solid guitar and the weaving, swaying lines of the violin. It is immediately, effortlessly transportive. You are immediately in a complex world but guided by a collective who offer the impression of certainty in their views, a strident outlook but a plain spoken one. This marriage of the poetic simplicity to the deceptively complex musical arrangements is surely what this genre thrives on. Contrast and juxtaposition, the counterpoint of melodies carried by violin, guitar and voice; all swirled into the still underlying bleakness of the presentation. Listen to a song like the title track and you swiftly realise that not only are Blood And Sun accomplished and focused, but that from the lyrics you can make out without a sheet (again, there may be one in the CD, but not in the press pack, again) this is a harsh world. It is focussed, expressive music performed with skill and offered with devotion and conviction.
The potential problem here though is that save for the soundscape interludes, there is a strange feeling of a uniformity of sound. The vocal rhythm in honesty varies little throughout and the rhyme structure similarly at least gives the impression of a template. Yes when the more sparse and occasionally unsettled ‘Tides’ with its breaking waves on cymbals and rumbling sea on drums dive perfectly and beautifully comes after ‘Keen’ the difference is stark initially, but if your mind waivers as you immerse yourself you can easily lose your place and for a moment or three wonder quite where on the album you are.
However that aside, this is an album full of deft touches and confident in its ability to control without stifling atmosphere or emotion and with songs like the deeply affecting closing song ‘Slaughter The Instant’ this should be snapped up by any and all fans of dark heathen neo-folk, Ancient VVisdom fans in particular. Nor for those seeking instant gratification, but more for true seekers.