DRUIDS AND BARDS
From the clamorous, sing-along, rabble-rousing Away We Go, right through to the acoustic-guitar-based, emotive anthem Taste The Wine, Druids And Bards provides a lesson in how to do albums properly.
Your teachers for this lesson are Welsh alt-rockers, Holy Coves. With this band, there are echoes of the best of Manchester rock at times, but here it’s translated to a more mature, layered sound. There are also liberal influences from other Welsh alternative rock bands; and at other points you’ll hear echoes of 70s psychedelia. These elements combine to produce an immensely rich and unique sound.
Here Holy Coves have produced a solid, relatable record: at times fuzzy, meaty and gruff; at others tender, reflective and resonant. The record feels live and alive. It’s jam packed with energy and attitude.
Title track The Hurt Within is true to the band’s psych-rock sensibilities, taking you swirling through the void, rich and heavy on the tom toms and layered guitars. You can smell the North Welsh wind in this track, and sense the ancient history (also reflected in the name of the album). It’s a rich exploration and exposition of pain and longing; the other side of love. “I thought I’d healed my skin – Her love is cruel, it hurts within”.
From there, the record takes you deeper in. Greyhas melancholic overtones, but hopeful undertones, performed with full passion. Listen for the slight crack in Scott Marsden voice as he sings “Only she can pull me through, she soothes everything around me. Let go and feel again, cos everything is hopeless when you’re grey.” Also enjoy the brilliant use of chord progressions to lift the spirits – this song is a genuine masterpiece.
Every track on this album is strong, and the whole assembly is very well put together. The record has a definite “feel” to it – an absolutely convincing atmosphere. It’s one of dark, bracing beauty.
As you get further into Druids and Bards, there are some real gems to be uncovered. Another firm favourite of mine is Desert Storm, a song built around an infectious, constantly marching guitar riff. You can imagine how well this one would work in a packed live venue – it’s one that stirs the soul and inspires feels of invincibility – that’s the power of well-written music performed with belief.
This track leads into Welcome to the Real World, which is an evocative number built on a foundation of indie acoustic guitar laid over howling, effect swathed electric sounds. Here, Scott uses his gravelly vocals to excellent effect.
Recorded on Holy Island, North Wales, the record was released on 14th October on Yr Wyddfa Records. The whole album has an expansive, broad, big-sky feel, which is quite haunting in place. I’m sure that some of this comes from the fact that Texan producer Erik Wofford was called on to carry out mixing and mastering duties over the pond in Austin. It’s strange how elements of geography can influence the sound of a record like this; the way something of the essence of the place seeps into the recording. Here, the transatlantic partnership has paid dividends and lifted the North Welsh-born music of Holy Coves an added spark.
Step out and explore this world – you’ll be entranced by what you uncover.
FULL TRACK LISTING
1. Away We Go
2. The Hurt Within
4. Small and Nothing
5. Another Day
6. Desert Storm
7. Welcome to the Real World
8. Until I Fall
9. Taste The Wine
HOLY COVES ARE:
Scott Marsden – Vocals and guitar
John Lawrence – Guitar
Owain Ginsberg – Guitar and synths
Jason Hughes – Bass
Spike T Smith – Drums
FOLLOW HOLY COVES
Words by Phil Taylor