Reviewed: May, 2022
Released: 2022, Rockshots Records
Reviewer: Simon Wiedemann
Theigns & Thralls are a folk rock band who released their self-titled debut album through Rockshots Records on April 8th, 2022. They are the brainchild of Skyclad vocalist and songwriter Kevin Ridley and are recommended for fans of Cruachan, Fiddlers Green, Flogging Molly, and Volbeat. Ridley comments “I think that because a lot of the album was written and recorded in a fairly short space of time, there is a certain feel and continuity to it. There is a blend of Celtic Speed-Punk, Folk-Metal and Classic Rock influences. Added to that, in terms of lyrical content, there is a strong appreciation of history, literature and humanism that comes together.” The name ‘Theigns & Thralls’ means masters and servants and it’s one to look out for, as the next phase of the band is to put together a touring band, possibly with some guest appearances.
I have to say, the vocal melodies in the start of the album are excellent. They have plenty of mystical Celtic influences, and the instrumental themes are just as good (even if they sometimes simply mimic the singer. I guess if an idea works, right?) The harmonies compliment such themes perfectly, and the instrumental breaks are tasteful, yet not over the top. The electric guitarist has a very cool classic rock soloing style, but it would be nice if he soloed more often. ‘Lord of the Hills’ sound like an ancient Scotland inspired version of The Beatles and it sounds absolutely natural. However, track 6 ‘Life Will Out’ has a massive change in tone and really does bring to mind stoner band Monster Magnet and their song ‘Dinosaur Vacuum’, Theigns just don’t have the elongated instrumental sections. That’s… odd. I’m assuming T&T were trying to add variety to their album, but that may be too much for some. At least the bagpipes create at least some consistency, but LWO isn’t quite as strong in terms of melody and harmony, only making the track more ill-fitting. Sadly the quality of melody declines from this point onwards.
Thankfully following track ‘The Highwayman’ is back in business with a more upbeat, folk rock feel. The vocal melodies repeat the same notes a little too much, making it one of the weaker tunes in the album, but it’s still catchy and more importantly, it really can boost your mood. Its classic rock solo brings to mind Gary Moore when he’s shredding and leaves the listener wanting more. Following track ‘Today We Get to Play’ is a perfectly fitting song title. Let’s just some it up with one word ‘Happy’. If that’s not enough, it’s also slightly annoying. ‘The New Folk Devils’ is a perfectly reasonable track, but again, the vocal melodies just don’t have the same effect as the earlier ones. Taking things to the extreme, ‘Flora Robb’ is the kind of instrumental folk piece toddlers could bop along to. So be warned if you don’t like cheerful music very much. ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ has a Steeleye Span feel which I’m sure will delight many folk fans, but again, the melodies don’t have the mystical feel heard before. Instead, they are sugary and bring to mind Hobbits a little too much. Thankfully following track ‘Queen of the Moors’ rocks things up with distorted guitars and heavy drum beats, and the more serious vocal style is back. The singer has some nice note choices, too. Not amazing, but fairly decent.
In conclusion, I had great expectations when listening to the first part of the album, but the quality soon declined for me, at least. Not MASSIVELY, but enough to disappoint. Sadly the great songwriting never really came back. Much of the album could be perceived as annoying, but if you’re a fan of traditional Celtic music, you will likely enjoy the sweeter moments. I’m not sure how much the listener will get from hearing the album’s three remixes of earlier songs, but I guess it will satisfy his curiosity for about 10 minutes if he’s a more hardcore fan. Despite all the negative stuff I’ve said, on the whole, the album is actually very good. The music is consistently performed expertly, the production is perfectly reasonable, and there is tons of variety, for better or for worse. Certainly give it a try if you’re a folk rock fan, but you may feel let down if your tastes are a little darker. Thin Lizzy fans may enjoy much of it, but other times they may laugh just a little. If such a fan makes it to the final techno remix, a lot of head scratching may follow!