Review – Albion – Lakesongs Of Elbid

Albion is an archaic name for Great Britain used by classical scholars to refer to this cold and wet island. Some 2000 years later in 2019, four young whippersnappers dug up the ancient term to use as the name for their new band. At the foundation of this project would be the preservation and exposure of traditional folk music, but presented through the modern medium of metal and rock.

Two years after forming in 2019, Albion’s last extended release was 2021’s highly thematic and equally folk-inspired metal offering ‘Pryderi’, a continuous 25 minute 4-track EP that brought new fans from the folk metal subgenre and beyond tothe band, with all begging the question of when there would be a full length album.

Well, that day is now here, ‘Lakesongs Of Elbid’ was released on 27th January and features four singles previously released along with eight other unreleased tracks comprising a 70 minute exploration of traditional folk melody and instrumentation married with orchestral metal.

Albion were formed by current Jethro Tull guitarist Joe Parrish-James (vocals, guitar, flute, mandolin, programming) along with Jack Clark (backing vocals, guitar), Peter Szypulski (bass), and Mikey Ciancio (drums). ‘Lakesongs Of Elbid’ also sees Ollie Medlow provide additional drums and Miguel Vargas adds additional flute.

I was introduced to the band by Dutch music journalist, promoter and good friend of mine, Arne van Os van den Abeelen and then Joe reached out and the rest, as they say, is history…

I don’t think the phrase Folk Metal does this music any favours at all, there is so much more going on here and all of it is utterly addictive. Yes, there’s folk and there’s metal but there are so many other influences thrown into the melting pot too and it produces a sound that is pretty unique and very, very enjoyable to listen to. The flute, guitar and Joe’s day job could have you thinking ‘Tull’ at every juncture but it is merely an influence among many. I hear bit of Clannad (Robin, The Hooded Man anyone?), the thunderous guitars are almost Metallica-heavy at times and there is a definite progressive touch hidden in the depths. All these influences contribute to a very satisfying whole and a sound that very quickly becomes one you will associate with Albion.

The Lake Isle Of Innisfree does lull you into a false sense of security on the folk front with it’s acoustic guitar and Celtic leaning vocals but then the very catchy and edgy riff of the Arthurian Overture instrumental adds in classic 70’s hard rock and metal (think Magnum with their sword and sorcery album covers and songs), it is proud pomp and circumstance with flute (I did say Tull were one of the influences after all!) and the granite feeling drums just add to the majesty. Joe’s earnest vocals, delicate flute and an acoustic guitar open Pagan Spirit, one of my favourite tracks on the album, but it isn’t long before a crushing riff enters the fray and we are off on a energetic, fantastical romp with a definite medieval feel to the music. I’m a huge fantasy novel fan and I just feel this track could be a superb soundtrack to a sword and sorcery, dungeons and dragons movie. The Dream of Rhonabwy has an urgent, upbeat and almost funky feel to it with the fantastic guitar and drums adding to the elegant flute and Joe’s earnest vocal, I must also point out the dynamic bass playing of Peter Szypulski that drives everything on brilliantly and Miguel Vargas who adds some superb flute, aiding and abetting Joe. This is music you could hear playing as people are dancing to celebrate a pagan festival and it puts a huge grin on my face.

Llyn Cwm Llwch calms things down with its calm, wistful tone, it’s time is brief but it makes its presence known as it shimmers away delightfully. Okay, I’ll give you Finding Avalon as Folk Metal, but it’s Folk metal turned up to 11 with the hell for leather feel, compelling riff and symphonic metal keys. A potent, driving yarn of glories of the past and a song that is totally addictive with its hooks and riff that gets under your skin. Medieval folk is represented by the charming wonder of the flute driven instrumental Canens (Maya), a captivating musical representation of a dance around the maypole. Sit back and just enjoy the next track, Albion’s folk rock take on the popular sea shanty Barrett’s Privateers by the late, great Canadian singer Stan Rogers, featuring superb backing vocals from Rhiannon Parrish-James. Powerful riffs and statuesque drums drive this engaging track along and, in my opinion, all sea shantys should be done like this!

Black Lake (Llyn Y Fan Fach) opens with a more subdued, thoughtful and melancholy tone with Joe’s hushed vocal and the subtle acoustic guitar before erupting into something more emotive and stirring as the heavy riff and potent drums chime in. This clever piece of music then ebbs and flows between the hushed and the strident and Joe delivers a great solo, another fine song from these talented musicians. Llyn Y Fan Fawr is another impressive instrumental that flows stylishly with an influential guitar and glorious flute at the heart and soul of the track as its soars and descends with grace and power. Silvaplana Rock is another one of my favourites, opening with an almost harpsichord vibe before one of the most catchy riffs you’ve ever heard fires up, add in the ever impressive drums and bass and we are off on a flyer! More of an 80’s rock/metal track with some folk influences, it drives along at a hectic pace but never loses control, another fine piece in a musical jigsaw that is both influential and impressive. The last track is the gorgeous acoustic piece, Camlann, a wistful, nostalgic feeling song. Joe’s pensive vocal adds to the contemplative, forlorn feel of the flute and the somber tone is only enhanced by the delicate, gossamer edge to the acoustic guitar. A beautiful, if sad feeling piece of music that brings things to a distinguished close.

With ‘Lakesongs Of Elbid’, Albion have created an immersive, almost hypnotic collection of songs that is like listening to the stories of old, sung by travelling bards as they travelled the lands. Allow yourself to be drawn into its embrace and you will enjoy seventy minutes of wonder and music that will not only take your breath away but your heart and mind too…

Released 27th January, 2024.

Order from bandcamp here:

Lakesongs of Elbid | Albion (