Review: English Heretic - Wyrd Tales (2006)


artist: Eng­lish Heretic
release: Wyrd Tales
format: CD + Book
year of release: 2006
label: Self-released
dur­a­tion: 70:28

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Wyrd Tales is the biggest release of the Eng­lish Heretic col­lect­ive thus far, con­tain­ing not only a full CD, but also a 90-page book with char­ac­ter­istic occult stor­ies and back­ground. As usual, the col­lect­ive is inspired by the ‘occult land­scape’ of England, and they ven­ture out to loc­a­tions that play an import­ant role in occult his­tory or ima­gin­at­ive fic­tion, and con­duct their own musical and spir­itual rituals there. And again, this has res­ul­ted in a quirky release that is inter­est­ing both music­ally and con­cep­tu­ally.

First, the musical part. “Sea­son of the Witches’ Glove” is an example of what hap­pens when the band dives into folk ter­rit­ory. A relax­ing track with bright acous­tic gui­tar chords and synths, as well as the über-English strange vocals. “Pan Satyros” is more in the exper­i­mental corner, util­ising piano loops, pro­grammed per­cus­sion, and the spooky story sample also util­ised in “Rime of the Ancient Lamia” from the 2006 Annual (“we listened side ways up - by the star dogged moon…”). “The Digit­alis Exper­i­ence (Side 1)” is one half of an (ima­gin­ary?) LP, full of delight­fully freaky stuff. It starts of with faint voices, samples and effects, but nearly halfway, it launches into a cool disco-ish beat with vocals, again remind­ing me of some earlier Death in June mater­ial, Nada-era. The final minutes of the track are dif­fer­ent again, intro­du­cing a banjo melody with spoken word, synth, and effects. All in all quite bril­liant. “Theme from the Abraxas Inher­it­ance” returns to the theme of alec­tro­mancy, also used in the 2006 Annual. That might be one of the musical weak spots of the album: there is some over­lap in mater­ial (espe­cially used samples) between these tracks and those on the pre­vi­ous album. You real­ise that all the more on the final track, which again uses the sample from track two and 2006 Annual. Luck­ily, there are two excel­lent tracks in between. “The Men­a­billy Path­work­ing” util­ises samples from Elgar’s “Cello Con­certo (op. 85)” and Vera Lynn, and cre­ates a haunt­ing mel­an­cholic atmo­sphere. “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You”, based on the story by M.R. James, is one of the more ritual tracks of the band, fea­tur­ing many con­tri­bu­tions by Xenis Emputae Trav­el­ling Band’s Phil Leg­ard. Some spoken word, shingle run­ning samples, flutes: a great track with a mys­tic atmo­sphere, and an excel­lent inter­pret­a­tion of the story.

The lit­er­ary part of the release is at least as inter­est­ing as the musical part, and the book con­tains one story (in vari­ous forms) for each track on the album. This ranges from a travelogue with ghost story tinges for the first track, to fic­tional cor­oner reports and movie scripts. I’m not going to spoil the joy of read­ing it all by list­ing everything. Let me just say that the selec­tion of themes and form is var­ied, and con­tains many fla­vours and moods. The bot­tom line, though, is that it is all occult, mys­ter­i­ous, hor­rid… - you get the idea.

It’s safe to say that this is a very enjoy­able release, and the best thing by the col­lect­ive yet. If you enjoy a syn­thesis of exper­i­mental music and occult lit­er­at­ure, you can not let this one slip! It’s avail­able for a very reas­on­able price from both Eng­lish Heretic them­selves (see link above) and Lark­fall Pro­duc­tions.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Sea­son of the Witches’ Glove (6:03)
2. Pan Satyros (6:32)
3. The Digit­alis Exper­i­ence (Side 1) (17:08)
4. Theme From The Abraxas Inher­it­ance (6:33)
5. The Men­a­billy Path­work­ing (13:06)
6. Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You (18:00)
7. The Vam­pires Are Com­ing / Min­ion of the Outer Ones (3:06)