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Clive Nolan - Song Of The Wildlands

Clive Nolan
Song Of The Wildlands
by Tommy Mulhern at 24 May 2021, 5:38 AM

The closest I have ever gotten to this type of music is my liking for BAL SAGOTH on occasion and the incredible “Battle Metal" by TURISAS and even then there are only passing similarities. Whereas both the bands mentioned are definitely metal with keyboards, “Song of the Wildlands" is a keyboard driven record with the guitar and drums as an accompaniment. Armed with this flimsy little sword of knowledge, I kept to the back of the cavalry and crept forward.

Clive Nolan is a very well respected multi-instrumentalist from England, who is involved in quite a few projects (the prog rock bands PENDRAGON and ARENA being just two of them). A musical prodigy from an early age, he has created a breathtakingly vast portfolio of work, including rock operas, poetry and story collections and he’s even co created a theatre company. In my research I found out that he also wrote the lyrics for EDGE OF SANITY'S amazing album “Crimson ll", which was a pleasant surprise. So, no stranger to a big undertaking, Nolan decided to create an album based on the myth of Beowulf; an old English tale of a Norse warrior's quest to defeat the evil Grendel. But just to make this all a little more challenging, he choose to use four rock musicians, a narrator, four classically trained singers and a 200 person choir made up of people from all over the world. A mammoth task made even harder by a pandemic but he got there, as you get the feeling he always does.

The album itself consists of 15 tracks, all of which begin with the narrator telling a bit more of the story. This is then followed by a mixture of sounds, sometimes folky, sometimes symphonic, which is slightly beefed up with the electric guitars and drums. The vocals definitely lend more from opera or theatre than rock, and although the choir must have been a tall hurdle in itself, I thought they were just a sample until I found out otherwise. There are some lovely pieces of music scattered throughout, the end of “The Hag's Revenge" for one; but I thought it was all very similar otherwise.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that the work and talent that went into this recording is way more than I can ever acknowledge and I am not too proud to say that it may well have gone over my head. To me this album sits somewhere between an audible book, a vanity project and pure stage theatre, each of which I personally could only listen to once. And the fact that you have to go through the narration before getting to the music every time might become a little annoying, (hopefully there will be a special release in the future without it). “Song Of The Wildlands" is definitely a very commendable achievement, but at the expense of a good album to enjoy again and again.

Songwriting: 4
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 4
Production: 10

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The Story Begins
2. There’s A Threat
3. Crossing The Ocean
4. Beowulf's Promise
5. Grendel Attacks
6. Celebration
7. The Hag’s Revenge
8. Journey
9. Underwater Cavern
10. Rewards
11. Beowulf, The King
12. Dragon Fire
13. The Warrior Dies
14. Funeral Pyre
15. The Story Ends
Lineup:
Clive Nolan – Keyboards, Programming & Orchestration
Vicki Swan – Nyckelharpa
Mark Westwood – Electric Guitar
Still Andre Clason – Acoustic Guitar
Arnfinn Isaksen – Bass Guitar
Scott Higham – Drums
Geir Johansen – Extra Percussion
Birgette Nja – Lur
Morten Clason – Flute
Ross Andrews – Narrator
Ryan Morgan – Vocals (Beowulf)
Christina Booth – Vocals (Tyra)
Gemma Ashley – Vocals (Solveig)
Natalie Barnett – Vocals (Freja)
Ensemble Anonym – Plain hand
The “Wildlands Warriors Choir" - Choir
Record Label: Crime Records
     


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Edited 16 June 2021
 

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