Theigns and Thralls is, like many other bands, a child of the Covid19 pandemic. Founded by Kevin Ridley (Skyclad), the band was supposed to be an occasional band, but soon turned out into something more than that, since Ridley wasn’t able to tour and could fully focus on this project. Along the way, Ridley gathered more and more musicians around him and the first studio album became a fact. With himself on vocals, guitars and mandola, John Ryan (ex-Cruachan) on violin, cello and backing vocals, Dave Briggs (Waylander) on guitar, whistles and backing vocals, Arjon Valk on bass and backing vocals and Mike Verhof on drums, Theigns and Thralls has a steady base, but the album is filled with guest appearances from colleague folk rock/metal musicians, on violin, pipes, mandoline and many more instruments you’ll expect on a folk album.
The album consists of eleven folk rock songs, five bonus tracks and has an interesting thematic composition. For a start, just listening to it, the album is obviously inspired by Celtic folk and English history, but it goes further than just that. The political criticism that sometimes shines through in Skyclad songs can be found on Theigns and Thralls as well. Historical themes and old texts are set in a modern day perspective. A good example is the up tempo title song, where we can hear Ridley sing “It’s still theigns and thralls, With the top ten percent still holding all the cards. The rich man still lives in his country estate.” Another good example is “The New Folk Devils”, that has its inspiration in two different books that explain how, for example, modern Muslim boys are made in the current day “Folk Devils”: “So, you take another culture, boil it down to black and white. Everything made simple, for the vicious and the right”.
I must say that it’s quite remarkable how such heavy loaded topics can be turned into up tempo jolly Folk songs, and that it wasn’t until I paid more attention to the lyrics that I noticed the seriousness of some of the songs
Fortunately, not all the songs on the album are this heavy and there are a few good easy-going songs that you’ll expect on a Folk album. For instance “The Highwayman”, inspired by a poem (by Alfred Noyes), “Today We Get To Play” and “Not Thru The Woods Yet”; but the best example of the more easy going songs on the album is “Drinking.”This song immediately reminds you of about every Folk Metal band there is, but the first names that came to my mind were Alestorm (not really a folk metal band though) and Korpiklaani. The latter is not really that much of a surprise, since their singer Jonne, among many other guest musicians, is doing guest vocals on this song. There are two versions of this song on the album; the original ‘Thralls mix’ and a shortened version made for the video, the ‘Theigns mix’. Could be my promo version but I can’t find much difference between the songs, and they’re both the same length… Even though this is an easy going sing-along song, it has its origins in a 17th century poem by Abraham Cowley.
Another song I have to mention is “Life Will Out”. Music wise it is a bit of an oddball on this album for its sound is very Industrial thanks to the riffing in the song and the voice transformer. Especially the KärtsyMegatommy mix with electronics in it, isn’t a song you would expect. The female voice lines and pipes (performed by guest appearances from Celtibeerian members) give it a nice folky touch though.
I need to make a shout out to one of the bonus tracks on the album: the “Over The Hills And Far Away” cover, for I love this song a lot. It’s not the song most might know from Nightwish, but the one you might know from the television series Sharpe. Ridley gave his own touch to the song, and it will for sure get stuck in your head.
All in all, for a debut album Theigns and Thralls have delivered quite a brilliant album, but I wouldn’t have expected anything less from such experienced musicians and the ton load of guest musicians, that are too many to mention. As said before it is remarkable how they managed to make some very serious political subjects jolly to listen to, but still sending a message.
Record label: ROCKSHOTS Records
Release date: 8 April 2022
Review by: Ingrid
01 Procession – (instrumental)
02 Theigns & Thralls
03 Drinking (Thralls mix)
05 The Lords Of The Hills
06 Life Will Out
07 The Highwayman
08 Today We Get To Play
09 The New Folk Devils
10 Flora Robb (instrumental)
11 Not Thru The Woods Yet
12 Over The Hills And Far Away – traditional
13 The Queen Of The Moors
14 Drinking (Theigns mix)
15 Strive acoustic version
16 Life Will Out (KärtsyMegatommy mix)