English speakers today are most likely to encounter widdershins as a synonym of counterclockwise. But in earliest known uses, found in texts from the early 1500s, widdershins was used more broadly in the sense of “in the wrong way or opposite direction.” To say that one’s hair “stood widdershins” was, in essence, to say that one was having a bad hair day. By the mid-1500s, English speakers had adopted widdershins to specifically describe movement opposite to the apparent clockwise direction (as seen from the northern hemisphere) of the sun traveling across the sky, which, at the time, could be considered evil or unlucky. The word originates from the Old High German widar, meaning “back” or “against,” and sinnen, meaning “to travel.”
So that’s covered the origin of the album’s title but how does it relate to this, Gandalf’s Fist’s eighth full length release, their first new album of original material since the 5-Disc-Epic ‘Clockwork Saga’?
“Originally formed in 2005 by Multi-Instrumentalist Dean Marsh and lyricist Luke Severn, the band are now hitting their creative peak in their current 6-piece incarnation. Gandalf’s Fist draw on their mutual love for the ‘Golden Era’ of Progressive Rock, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and even Renaissance Folk to create unique concept albums, with their latest, ‘Widdershins’, offering up 8 individual songs exploring the nature of superstition.
Superstition and the human experience have gone hand-in-hand for thousands of years. In this respect, ‘Widdershins‘ is not just an album of the times, but an album of all times. In this digital age with, literally millions of voices whispering from our devices, what we hold to be true, and how the truths of others shape our daily lives could not be more salient. This theme of the album is bolstered by some of Gandalf’s Fist’s own truths: Some of the greatest riffs they’ve ever recorded, rollicking folk sections, soaring orchestral passages and the longest song they’ve ever written.”
So, there you have it, from the band’s own press release, a new album that has certainly whetted my appetite…
I’ve been a long time fan of Gandalf’s Fist, their unique brand of ‘Medieval Space-Rock’ just seemed to resonate with me and I still think ‘Clockwork Saga’ is one of the most ambitious, overblown and bloody brilliant ideas that any band have ever come up with. There’s a huge boat load of drama, spectacle and theatre in their music and ‘Widdershins’ is no exception. Keri Farish’s amazing vocals could grace the stage of any musical theatre and give real passion and emotion to every note and Dean Marsh’s thunderous riffing gives a monumental feel to the music. To my ears. on this album, Ben Bell and his stellar keyboard skills really come to the fore and add another layer of class and sophistication to band’s intense and vibrant music. Intricate melodies are woven into immense, epoch spanning, sagas and the Fist really know how to deliver a powerful refrain and when subtlety is the better option.
This is a well crafted collection of songs and, while there are no duff tracks, there are some real highlights too. Title track Widdershins is the first of two epic tracks and is a cleverly woven musical story that ebbs and flows delightfully from the elegant piano led opening to the vibrant close, there’s even a hint of a Bond theme in there (about two and half minutes in it goes all Live And Let Die, honest!). Dreamcatcher is all dramatic and sombre to start with before opening into a wonderful symphonic metal yarn and Wisp is an utterly compelling, rollicking, piece of folk that will have you jigging the night away.
Man of Signs is an enigmatic song from incredibly gifted and creative musicians. Subdued and mysterious at first, the vocals have an almost wistful and ethereal note to them, like a will-o’-the-wisp dancing on your synapses. The magic continues as a dancing acoustic guitar heralds some fantastic interplay between Dean’s guitar and Ben’s brilliant, ever-so-70’s, keyboards. Holding everything together, as he does on the rest of the album, is drummer extraordinaire Stefan Hepe, a rather excellent piece of music. Gandalf’s Fist may just have reached their musical zenith with the brilliant Cave, a proper epic of a track coming in at just under twenty minutes and one that fascinates with its scintillating musical narrative. Keri’s striking vocal performance is just the start as the thunderous riffs, dynamic drums and coruscating keyboards stride across the landscape in a dominant fashion. This a potent nod to the ‘Golden Era’ of progressive rock with complex time signatures and elaborate instrumental sections and it’s just scintillating. Pompous and overblown maybe but that’s what the best progressive rock was always about and the Fist do it with plenty of style and not a little aplomb!
The ‘Clockwork Saga’ will always be seen as a monumental piece of work but, as a stand-alone release, ‘Widdershins’ sees Gandalf’s Fist at their absolute vibrant and dynamic best, every musician giving 100% and, while I’ve always been a fan of this very distinctive band, this new release sees them hitting an entirely new level.
Released 21st November , 2022.
Order direct from the band here: