Luke Tromiczak – All instruments
John Becker – Violin
Erik Wivinus – Backing Vocals
Michael Moynihan – Bodhrán
Matthew Knoedelseder – Accordion
Angela Mckjunkin – Cello
Erik Proft – Percussion
Derrick Hans – Drums
1.) Resurrection Charm
2.) Stone Wrote in Stone
3.) Dusk Century
4.) This Hate in Me Will Pass
5.) By What Road?
7.) The Wanderer’s Road
8.) Love and Ashes
9.) Until the Dawn
Folk music, including neofolk, is not a genre of music I’m overly familiar with. I’ve heard bits and pieces here and there, listened to some rock and metal bands that bring the folk music influences of their homelands into their music, but straight-up folk is a new one. So, it’s with a mixture of curious interest and trepidation that I receive Blood and Sun’s new album, Love & Ashes, for review.
Trying out something new and expanding one’s musical horizons is always rewarding, but it also limits available frames of reference. Maybe a particular style just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe what sounds especially good or bad to my ears is really just standard for the genre. All I can do is approach this in as straightforward a manner as possible, while making it clear to readers that if you are big aficionados of this style, you may have a wildly different take on it to me.
For anyone more familiar with up-beat, bouncy styles of folk music, be prepared here for something much more sombre. The tone of Love & Ashes is consistently morose and often relaxing. Rather than a wild party or an epic battle, this album feels like the soundtrack of a contemplative aftermath of something more powerful, a time to sit, reflect, wind down. “By What Road?” is a perfect example, with the violin, acoustic guitar and steady, melancholy vocals letting the listen drift along as it through a snowy woodland, musing on past decisions. A lot of the album moves in much the same pattern.
A few tracks do provide something a little different, while still sticking to the album’s overall tone. “Madrone” has a somewhat faster beat behind it, and with the layered vocals it captures a feel more like a tavern song among friends. Still not a raucous drinking song or the like, but something that conjures images of warm fires and good company more than cold isolation and regret. “Stone Wrote in Stone” also immediately declares itself something hardier and more aggressive than the rest of the album. The ever-present cello in the background lends it a darker vibe, something more ominous, and this time the more vibrant percussion sounds like it’s rousing up towards something violent. The lyrics about sharpening knives, repeated over and over, only add to the feeling of a war chant.
These tracks stand out from the rest, but aside from those the album as a whole feels a bit too repetitive. The music certainly isn’t bad, and Luke Tromiczak’s vocals are always a treat, a deep, vibrant baritone that reminds of Johnny Cash’s darker, folkier moments. But a few too many songs here sound too similar, like you’re hearing a slightly different version of the same song. Again, big fans of the neofolk genre might find a bit more to offer here. For me, Love & Ashes is still a worthwhile endeavour with some good offerings, but needs to trim down the repetition or add some more variety to make the most of the talent available.