Review – Refestramus – Intour​í​st – by John Wenlock-Smith

I read about this album before I actually heard it and what I read certainly piqued my interest. The collection of bands I liked were name checked as either an influence on Refestramus’ sound or style so I knew I simply had to hear this album for myself. After a few false attempts, I managed to secure a download of the album from which I am able to write this review, so here we begin the journey into ‘Intour​í​st’.

The band Refestramus came about in May 2020 during covid lockdown sessions when main man and drummer Derek Ferguson assembled a group of like minded musicians to bring to life his ideas for a band. He found many of these through although he had also been in touch with local Chicago internet radio DJ Ian Beabout who introduced Derek to Colouratura bandmaster Derek Pavlic, vocalist Nathan James, saxophonist Mitch Lawrence and Wisconsin multi- instrumentalist Jerry King. They later added Dave Newhouse, who plays accordion, and who helped Derek guide the debut album to completion.

Now, with all that history out of the way, let’s talk about the band’s second full album ‘Intour​í​st’, which was released earlier this month through MRR (Melodic Revolution Records). The album begins with a very strong track, DMK, which definitely has strong hints of classic pomp rock bands like Starcastle, especially in the synth and bass departments. As such, this blistering opener really makes a great impression on you and, in addition, the guitars are very solid and precise. It’s a very busy track musically with a lot going on throughout. There’s a long lead up to the vocals and Craig Cairns has a good voice, it is a great song with a great chorus to it. Second track Asunci​ó​n relates to the fact that Refestramus are big in Paraguay apparently. Again, this song has a great chugging melody along and a fine viola part, which sounds really good. There’s another fine chorus and the vocals are clear and crisp, this track works very well indeed. The Devil Returns is a longer track that opens with a smoky Hammond organ and saxophone interjections. It all sounds highly impressive and strong with another long intro before the vocals kick in. This is another impressive song which shows the talents the band possess. A strong sax break adds mood to this track, sounding very Styx like in places, a good thing to these ears.

What comes next is the albums showcase and longest track, the three part Intour​í​st Suite, which is a little different and off kilter and has elegant string parts and an almost pizzicato guitar in the opening section overlaid with a viola melody. Part(a) is Nevalyashka which is a Russian toy doll that is weighted so that it doesn’t fall over, Part(b) is Agent M vs The Sex Lizard, which leads onto the very 80’s sounding Part(c), Zombie Love, with its fabulous back beat that really enforces the strength of this excellent track, even if its meaning is a little unclear. Mr Darwin is a comment on human survival and natural selection. This piece has a wild saxophone all over another very busy musical track. I really like it I think it is a great song, as are the vocals from NIDA. Side Hustle evokes Jethro Tull in its style and tone. It is a short but very strong track with Nathan James in fine voice. The Red Apple recalls the Maxim Gorky tale of a Russian Horse thief, it has a great vocal again from NIDA which is suitably ethnic sounding. Again, this is a fairly short but nonetheless strong track. This is followed by the excellent Smiling, which has a great melody and fine vocals from NIDA, who sings with great feeling and emotion making another really excellent track.

Next we have a trio of bonus tracks, the first being a cover of Spirit’s Mr Skin, which is apparently a favourite of Derek Ferguson. The song was written by Jay Ferguson in the early days of Spirit and made a big impression on Derek in his youth. This version gives guitarist Derek Pavlic room to shine as he plays over the ending of the track. An acoustic version of The Red Apple works very well, showing the song’s inner beauty and strength. It is a really excellent version with more than a hint of Russia and France in equal parts. The final track is a Spanish version of Asunci​ó​n which, while adding very little to the original, is most likely aimed at Paraguayan radio where it gets frequent plays.

So there you have ‘Intour​í​st‘, an album of many delights, great songs and excellent music. Refestramus have delivered an an album that is a pleasure to listen to and one I have no reservations in recommending!

Released May 3rd, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Intouríst | Refestramus (