Born as the brainchild of Skyclad vocalist and songwriter Kevin Ridley, Theigns & Thralls debuts April 8th, 2022 via Rockshot Records. The band is an eclectic blend of Celtic speed-punk, folk metal, and classic rock influences. The lyrical content on the album shows a strong appreciation and dedication to history, literature, and overall humanism touching on stories of the past, and indulging in aspirations for the future.
Originally intended to be an ‘occasional band’ to perform songs from Ridley’s back catalogue of songs from Skyclad and his own solo project while working around touring plans, the 2020 pandemic shifted those intentions. Hunkered in lockdown, the project became a collaborative recording project building on a few different ideas. From a small gathering of musician friends being called to add the additions of violins or whistles, to friends of friends being contacted and joining in, the project grew to feature more than 20 musicians from bands like Korpiklanni, Ensiferum, Waylander, Celtibeerian, Metal De Facto, and many more. Solo artists came on who contributed everything from drums, bass guitar, violin, and whistles, to bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, and vocals.
The introduction, or rather, “procession”, sees traditional bagpipes lead the way for a blend of guitars and styles follow, as if to provide but a taste of what our Theigns and Thralls offer before us.
What follows is the title track, “Theigns and Thralls” that jumps in with full Folk-metal energy and tone. It’s quick, and poppy in its vibe that carries a light but almost rock-like melody as it plays on to keep energy steady and provide us with a mix of vocal and instrumental showcasing. From guitar solos in rapid highs to lingering pipes, and even a bass hit, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into on this short but expansive track.
“Drinking” was revealed with a fun, accompanying music video on February 23rd over on YouTube. It features a mix of musicians showcasing their talents on this track, once more offering up the unique blend of instruments and vocals that make this album fun, and easy to fall in love with. We see the blend of flutes and violins mix with the thunder of guitars and drums to be energized by vocals from more than 10 musicians that make this one of the most fun songs on the album. The video is one to watch for the fun nods to each musician and their skill as well as the fun they have playing this song. This track feels like a Bard beginning his musical venture, and with both a Theigns and Thralls version on the album, it’s one you can relive again and again.
The fourth track “Strive”, starts low, foreboding but, driven by Celtic rock and folk with its vocal core. Metal elements come through on distorted guitars while the folk tale presses forward to “strive but do no harm”. It’s a head-bobbing track with a delectable selection of instrumental features that adds twists and turns to a mellow but, admirable track.
“Lord of the Hills” begins on divine acoustics that immediately catch your attention; “here I sit alone at the edge of the world” starts a vocal cavalcade of beautiful emotional depth that’s skillfully unleashed. It’s gentle, campy, and naturally fit for a fireside sing-along that keeps its folk influence running strong.
A drum-battering parade enters on “Life Will Out” that is joined by bagpipes that prepare you for some unseen war. The mix of vocals are amplified by heavy metal on this track that features dragging bass and thick guitar riffs that chug along with rhythmic pleasure. It’s an easy head-banger that gives the fans the metal taste they’ve been waiting for with perfection.
“The Highway Man” is catchy, holding Celtic storytelling and folk at its heart while producing an infectious metal melody that’s impossible to resist. At just over 6 minutes in length, this story is filled with vocal and musical adventure; from jaw-dropping solos to firelight storytelling, it’s a track that lingers as “the highway man comes riding”.
Moving on, “Today We Get to Play” features whistles and flutes wrapped in a barrage of drums that picks up a fun pace with guitars, hurdy-gurdy, and full metal joining in soon after. It’s got all the elements of a Celtic song, like the Dropkick Murphys sort of sound but, with more folk and less punching.
“Queen of the Moors” takes a rock-like melody to its heart, blending folk and Celtic into its musical expression but, keeping the heavy riffs in the foreground of this tale. There’s a wildly deep guitar solo on this track, followed by elegant violins that fall into a seamless blend of instrumentals that adds finesse.
Overall, this album is filled with a mix of metal and classic elements and influences that makes it unique and fun in its entirety. An easy album to pick up for a night out in the woods, or a long road trip that needs a touch of folk to the typical guitars and drums.
Favourite Tracks: Drinking, Strive, Lord of the Hills, The Highway Man.
Pre-order Theigns & Thralls here!