I first came across this rather interesting and somewhat unusual sounding band very recently when they supported the Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate chaps at their album launch for the splendid ‘Light Of Ancient Mistakes’ in that there London, my first time in “The Smoke” for several years, well March 2021 to be precise. I had not heard anything by The Wood Demons anywhere and, despite seeing their name in various gig promotions, I knew nothing about them,
Well, I saw and enjoyed their brief set, several songs from which appear on this great album. These includ the album’s title track Angels Of Peckham Rye, Arithmomania and All Heaven’s Breaking Loose, to name just three, although they might have also played The Odd Particle, come to think of it.
Their sound is rather different, mixing in styles of progressive rock, psychedelia, folk and even ambient and classical touches. Their line up consists of Rick Startin (keys, guitar, vocals), John Silver (bass), Simon Carbery (lead vocals, guitar), Ed Kontargyris (drums) and they also have a secret weapon in the lush and enticing violin of Naomi Belshaw. The album is a very satisfying listen but, for me, it’s the elegant violin parts that add the icing to a very tasty cake. In places I was reminded of Caravan as Simon Carbery has a similar vocal style to Pye Hastings and several of the tracks are in a ‘Caravan’ type sound.
Opener Arithmomania certainly made my ears prick up with stylish arpeggio guitar and clever juxtaposition of lyrics and how we can count numbers to show the scope of the world and help us define it but also not just reducing it to a series of measurements. This song reveals a sense of wonder in our world and will hook you in as it is a terrific opening track and one that shows what The Wood Demons are all about. It distils their craft into one decent length track that is blessed with that sublime violin. I’m waxing lyrically as this track has rapidly become one of the best things I’ve heard in ages, believe me when I say that, in a year full of exciting and often excellent music, this one stands out and confirms just how good a track this really is, utterly compelling. The Odd Particle is a busy instrumental that allows John Silver’s classy bass to lead us on a merry saunter whilst Naomi struts her stuff with superb pizzicato playing and plucking and Simon lays down some great guitar tones. It’s a shorter piece, very atmospheric and almost cinematic wide-screen in sound and has the whole band blending together in a glorious melding to create a really worthy piece of music.
This is in turn followed by the equally as memorable Big Game Fishing, which is simply a gorgeous song with a gentle but very sweet acoustic guitar part and earnest yet warm vocals. This is very folk like and almost like a sea shanty in parts although when the mellotron kicks in with its lush sound, you can tell this is actually a rather more intricate track. There are great harmonies in this song too and some great understated and dexterous bass playing on offer from John. Of course Naomi’s lovely violin swoops and soars throughout making it all very splendid indeed. Starstruck is a very fine song too and one that works well, it’s harder sounding with the guitars very much to the fore here, they have a real crunch and bite to them. This song is chock full of chunky, chugging riffs and excellent dynamics and it also has a somewhat discordant guitar break, which works especially well with the sax of Michael Wilkins to make a really great sounding track. This is in part powered by more fine bass work before the song enters a more gentle section with keyboard effects and chiming guitar arpeggios and fingerpicking. It’s all very pastoral and in complete contrast to how the track began, unsurprisingly the momentum gathers pace again and the whole band sound urgent as they return to the harder sound once again. This is very impressive and dynamic and a fabulous track ends on sustained guitar riffs.
Angels Of Peckham Rye is inspired by the story of poet William Blake who, aged 8, saw visions of angels in an oak tree in Peckham Rye. Blake also wrote the classic Jerusalem, as made famous by Emerson, Lake and Palmer on their ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ album and also Tyger Tyger Burning Bright, which was covered by Tangerine Dream for their ‘Tyger’ album in the 1980’s. This track is really rather good too, mixing eastern sounding violin lines into the overall sound to create some epic sounds and a riff not dissimilar to Rainbow’s Gates Of Babylon. It is all very impressive sounding and yet another excellent track. This leads into the album’s final track, All Heaven’s Breaking Loose, which is hinged on busy bass and guitar riffs, above all of which there is a soaring violin. This song is actually very energetic and there is a lot going on, with everyone seemingly doing their own thing but, somehow, it all seems to work and the track impresses greatly. There’s an excellent guitar solo from Simon, whose playing here is very effective and eloquently delivered and it ends the song, and indeed the album, in style.
At the live gig, the band also showcased a couple of new tracks that will, hopefully, appear on their next album but, for now, this will do very nicely. ‘Angels Of Peckham Rye’ is truly a splendid, interesting and engaging listen and one that you will want to return to frequently, I know I will. I do recommend this band and album to you, it’s worth it to hear that great violin!
Released 4th December, 2020.
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