Tony Wakeford

Sol Invictus 1990-1994 Best of Collection – Bootleg playlist

Sol Invictus is an English neofolk group, fronted by Tony Wakeford. As they have released a huge amount of quality albums since their formation in 1987, I decided to compile a bootleg best of collection as a Spotify playlist. Soon however, I realized that it would have to include about a quintillion tracks. A natural way to tackle this turned out to be dividing the collection into 4 parts by the release years. As always I wanted to make the collection like a “real” album entity.

The first of the four, 1990-1994 includes a few of my favourite releases: Trees In Winter (1990), King & Queen (1992) and Death of the West (1994). Almost every other full-length and live album between these years is also included!

A sharp-eyed lad may notice the absence of Lex Talionis (1993). That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, actually the opposite. I struggled hard in adding 3-4 tracks of industrial neofolk noise into an acoustic guitar driven collection and decided to make the more experimental Sol Invictus tracks into a separate collection. Also the lo-fi Against the Modern World (1988) will suffer the same fate! Nevertheless, I decided to include Angels Fall from Black Europe (1994) live album to make a cameo appearance.

Musings on some tracks

The starting track, The Man Next Door is Very Strange is my favourite rendition of Trees in Winter’s Sawney Bean. Many consider it a classic Sol Invictus song and I like to think this 1991 Killing Tide version is more definitive than 1990 Trees in Winter version. I do prefer the title Sawney Bean though. The track is chilling and has an extremely chilling backstory too: “Alexander “Sawney” Bean was said to be the head of a 48-member clan in Scotland anywhere between the 13th and 16th centuries, reportedly executed for the mass murder and cannibalisation of over 1,000 people.” There are old folk versions of this track but I cannot say whether the composition or lyrics have been influenced by any of them.

Talking about folk ballads the 6th track Sheath and Knife is one the Child ballads (folk songs collected by Francis Child during the second half of 19th century). A lot of musicians have made new renditions of these ballads, many extremely dark in nature. Sheath and Knife portrays a particularly tragic and a bit violent love story. And the ending… Sheesh.

Quite a few Sol Invictus listeners that found the band in 2000s came through the metal band Agalloch. They released a cover of Kneel to the Cross in their EP Of Stone, Wind, and Pillor (2001). This lead me to the unpolished version on Kneel to the Cross on Lex Talionis (1993) which I could not fathom at all. However I also found Death of the West (1994). It hit the mark almost instantly and is featured as the 9th track in this collection.

Tracklist

The Watching Moon sketch by Tor Lundvall (https://tonywakeford.wordpress.com)

1. The Man Next Door is Very Strange (The Killing Tide, 1991)
2. The Watching Moon (King & Queen, 1992) – one of the many occurences of nihilist pitch-black humouristic lyrics. Just some lovely piano-dibbling on the composition too!
3. Death of the West (Death of the West, 1994)
4. Media (Trees in Winter, 1990) – probably the most loved Sol Invictus track, straight to the point, melancholic and melodic.
5. Sheath and Knife (Death of the West, 1994)
6. Angels Fall (Black Europe, live, 1994; originally Against The Modern World, 1988)
7. Like a Sword (Let Us Prey, live, 1992; originally The Killing Tide, 1991)
8. Amongst the Ruins (Death of the West, 1994)
9. Kneel to the Cross (Death of the West, 1994)
10. The Return (King & Queen 1992)
11. Tears and Rain (King & Queen, 1992) – Seek out Tor Lundvall’s cover; it’s even more chilling.
12. English Murder (Trees in Winter, 1990)
13. Sun and Moon (King & Queen, 1992) – bonus track

 

The next collection will cover the years 1995-2000, it will be linked here when it’s ready!

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Owls – The Night Stays

mi0003157707Owls’ 2011 album, The Night Stays starts with a bang. The first two tracks Hide and Seek and The Night Stays unite bass-rich downtempo with intense atmosphere and acoustic guitar & keys lusciously but most of the rest album easily sinks into just rather pleasing somber soundwave. If the Night Stays seems redundant or hard to grasp after the surprise of such captivating dark beats wears out, you need to give it some time.

It took about a year’s pause for the album to grow from tasty bits to a rather fantastic entity. Yet it is undeniable that the tastiest bits are served in the start. Title track’s luscious distortion and bright xylophone, bass backdrop and gloomy yet blackly humorous Tony Wakeford lyrics explore such depths of brain activity you’d be surprised.

Tony Wakeford’s vocals which always divide opinions fit the pace so well you come to hope Sol Invictus had more electronics. The lyrics are strangely more exposed than in Sol Invictus and as strong as one can expect from a Wakeford record. Occasional very neofolkish guitarwork commemorates the dark toned compositions. I have been told the genres in question can be classified as trip hop or downtempo.

Owls is indeed not just Tony Wakeford, but a threesome, the electronicswork of Eraldo Bernocchi and Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari cannot be underestimated. Both also have a gazillion other projects including Somma, Obake, O.R.k (Pat Mastelotto :O). and collaborations for example with Mick Harris (of Napalm Death), Ephel Duath and Eivind Aarset (a man with another gazillion projects).

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Owls live @ Wave-Gotik-Treffen, Leipzig, 2011.

Perhaps the reason for the slow reception of The Night Stays is the difficult track order. It kicks right in but it takes until the 8th track We Took This Land to find a really tight footing again. A fragile guitar driven track that portrays great nihilistic lyrics about American oppression and breaks loose to a distorted and powerful chorus:
o, we took this land with bribes and murder,
and we will keep it too
don’t pretend to be so shocked,
it’s what the right (or white?) men do [i may have misheard some of this part]

In the middle part perhaps the brightest glimmer is the the glorious end to the repetitive Come Back, even though I have no idea what they are singing about. Strange Kind of Beauty is as titled, a touching slow burner which creates magical twinkling atmosphere in minimalistic ambientish/neofolkish background.

With Tony Wakeford’s solo album Not All Of Me Will Die, The Night Stays fits to A-category only shallowly under the best bits of Sol Invictus.

8½/10