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Afforested - Wolf's Heads And Woodlanders CD (album) cover

WOLF'S HEADS AND WOODLANDERS

Afforested

 

Prog Folk

3.49 | 8 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A wonderful introduction

Afforested are a recent addition to the site and the duo features the talents of brothers Alex and Jonathan Betts of Kent, UK. Like many of us, they are inspired by the medieval woodlands of our imaginations, great stories of the inhabitants, and mugs of ale served up on oak tables at the inn in the nearest village off the wood. Where shady characters shoot accusing glares at outsiders who pop in to take off the chill. And fittingly the musical inspirations consist of Tull and Gryphon but also extend to things like Focus, PFM, and Camel. Their 5-song EP entitled "Wolf's Heads and Woodlanders" is available as a free download on their website, you can link directly from their artist page here at ProgArchives.

With the influences they mention you might expect the sound to be trapped in the 1970s but there is a conscious effort to mix modern sensibilities to the songs, first via the sound and playing style of the keyboards but also in the economy of the tracks. There are no 20 minute meanderings here, all of the tracks are pretty brief in length and move quite briskly from one idea the next. The brothers play all instruments and sing themselves, the keyboards are joined by a wide variety of acoustic instruments, flute, and percussion. The tracks will typically feature an uptempo pace with strummed acoustic or mandolin verses frisky keyboard play, often whimsical in nature. The other lead is really the flute which is all over this album and it is heavenly. Melodies are bright (mostly) and very easy to enjoy with a traditional vibe, Celtic sounding sometimes, just plain woodsy, catchy....but always friendly....this is not Comus' forest. The drumming is competent but a bit tight for my taste. The bass guitar is an important component which serves to provide some needed backbone in a few places, it's tight and played more as a lead than just as backing low-end anchor. Vocals are very minimal, this is actually almost exclusively instrumental stuff. Yet the music does a fantastic job of telling the stories without singing. The music itself is narration to songs with such intriguing titles as "Escaping King William" and "The Hollow Yew." I love music that can speak without words! My one criticism is that with just the two men and with the economical style, the sound does lack a certain punch, it does feel a bit conservative. Perhaps this is fine with them and I'll admit many will enjoy the EP as it exists. However were I advising them on their full length follow-up, I would suggest adding some additional performers, and perhaps trying to open things up a little bit more, especially given the extra time they will have in longer form. A few years back there was a great album from a band called Midlake titled "The Trials of Van Occupanther." I mention that title often because they take a "woodland folk" sound that is delicate at times but also capable of some punch with mellow psych guitar and convincing harmonies. Off topic perhaps, but I'm only saying I think there is some great potential here given a few more tricks from the saddle bag. Aside from that caveat there is no shortage of interesting transitions, convincing progressive folk ideas, and love for the material.

This is a wonderful EP that I encourage any and all music fans to check out. I thank the guys for making it available to anyone and I wish them success with their full length album which is in the works. Recommended! 7/10

Finnforest | 3/5 |

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