Barrow Wake | Inkubus Sukkubus | Pagan Fire Muzick
Subtitled Tales of Witchcraft and Wonder, Volume 1, this is Inkubus Sukkubus’s 20th CD release and as rich and evocative a tapestry of storytelling as you could wish for.
The band – Candia McKormack on vocals/bodhran and Tony McKormack on guitars/programming – set out their stall early on The Enchanted Realm, a beautiful, eldritch piece of music that invokes the spirit of Dead Can Dance, as these things tend to do when they’re done as well as this, and ends with Candia repeating the words ‘Lost in the magic of The Enchanted Realm’ over and over like a mantra.
And that’s a fair description for much of this record. The material on Barrow Wake reflects the fascination that the Gloucestershire natives have for their local folklore, one whose songs tell tell tales of river goddesses, witch persecution and magical landscapes. The first three tracks almost encompass the lifespan of album in themselves: first establishing The Enchanted Realm, then populating it with the quietly disquieting rhythms of Woman to Hare, then bidding it farewell with the achingly haunting Lost to the Sea, all the time looping back into already now familiar musical motifs to tighten the sense of the otherworldly.
Almost, but not quite, because Barrow Wake likes to hide the odd trick up its sleeve and suddenly breaks into the gallop of more traditional Gothic rhythm for Lily Bolane, albeit one punctuated by an insistent, trance-like sitar. The Rape of Maude Bowen (from the album Wytches) and the closing track, The Campden Wonder, are similarly uptempo, the latter one pulling off the neat trick of uniting the more ethereal elements of the album with the more dynamic.
But it’s with the pastoral washes of sound and haunting folk ballads, all layers of artfully programmed strings and mournful tolling bells with just a hint of subdued menace bubbling below the surface, that Barrow Wake truly excels. Beautifully sung, beautifully arranged, it is a haunting hymn to the strange and the magic of the countryside that the band inhabits; a countryside that you can only hope will spawn a volume two before too long.
The sweet pulse upon the winter’s eve
From the nymphs in the wood, and the dryads in the trees
That will take you to rapture, bring you to your knees
Lift you spirit higher and soothe you till you bleed
Lost in the magic of the Enchanted Realm…
Barrow Wake is released on Monday 20 June. More details at www.inkubussukkubus.com