Wytch Hazel's Ultimate Medieval Playlist

Wytch Hazel
\"Gimme the lute!\" (Image credit: Ester Segarra)

Lancastrian medievalist hard rockers Wytch Hazel are about to unleash their coruscating timewarp of a debut long-player, Prelude, via Bad Omen Records. So we dispatched a horseman to parley awhile with singer/guitarist Colin Hendra, in search of the quartet’s favourite medieval songs - be they sacred Renaissance originals or rock classics with bags of Middle Ages atmos. Listen, learn, read on…

JETHRO TULL – Weathercock (Heavy Horses, 1978)
Colin Hendra: “I’ve never heard someone play the flute in a way that sounds so heavy rock! I love guitar solos - I love Michael Schenker in early UFO - but when Ian Anderson plays the flute, it’s just as good as a guitar! The whole vibe is very medieval-sounding, the rhythms, the choice of instruments, the songwriting - it’s got it all!”

TYLMAN SUSATO – La Morisque (Pleasures Of The Court: The Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow, 1971)
“This was the first properly-done Early Music thing I ever heard. The word I’d use is ‘majestic’. When I’m writing songs and I’m thinking ‘What would make this more grandiose?’, I want it to sound a bit like that. When it goes into the mid-section minor sounds, the hairs on your arms stand up!”

RAINBOW – Rainbow Eyes (Long Live Rock N’ Roll, 1977)
“That’s one of my favourite songs of all time. It has a sort of Baroque vibe to it, a little bit of Bach inspiration, but I do love a 70s ballad by a rock band! It’s such a beautiful song, so well put together. I love the flute and the string section, and it shows off incredibly what Ronnie James Dio could do with his voice. I prefer that to any of the heavier songs on that album.”

JOHN RUTTER – Personent Hodie (Will Todd: Christmas In Blue, 2013)
“You hear a lot of fantastic sacred vocal music at Christmas, and this is one of my favourites. Because the melody is so good on its own, there’s so much you can do with it, and I just fell in love with the Will Todd version, it’s incredible. It’s my type of jazz! Jazz is a great discipline, but you can play anything jazz, even a medieval Christmas song.”

WISHBONE ASH – Warrior (Argus, 1972)
“I’ve listened to Argus more than any other album, and I never, ever get bored of it, because I keep picking up new things every time. It’s not super-complex, I’m just into sounds and tones and timbre, and it has that magical vibe; slightly supernatural, ethereal maybe, with a bit of the majestic quality, so it’s a really strong influence on us.”

ANON – Miri It Is While Sumer Ilast (Ensemble Belladonna: Melodious Melancholye, 2008)
“It’s not easy to come up with something that you can sing one line cappella and it sounds fantastic. This is quite a famous one, it’s been covered by all sorts; because it’s such a good tune with a good melody, you can do anything with it. It’s just that mixture of melody, rhythm and words; it’s great on its own, but when you do something else with it, the options are endless.”

PAGAN ALTAR – The Crowman (Mythical And Magical, 2006)
“Listening to Pagan Altar we were like, ‘We should do something like this!’, so they were a big influence on us, and I love this track. The album contains material they wrote back in the late 70s/early 80s, which is a good era for influence, but it’s got a distinctly medieval vibe. I love the acoustic guitar, and the solo is fantastic, but because of the chords behind the solo, whatever you play is going to sound good!”

JOHN TAVENER – The Lamb (Tenebrae: Allegri Miserere, 2006)
“This is an interesting one because it’s in the vein of the Renaissance or Baroque era, but it’s twentieth century. It’s got some good atonal stuff, so the harmonies are sort of non-harmonies, and the nasty-sounding thing makes the nice-sounding thing sound even better. I’ve no idea how he’s done that!”

ASHBURY – The Warning (Endless Skies, 1983)
“I remember sending a midi file of our songs to one of my Swedish friends, he said ‘You sound like Ashbury’, and that was the first time I’d ever heard of Ashbury! We started getting likened to Ashbury quite a lot, so when I heard them I was like ‘Oh yeah, this band is great!’ They’ve made a comeback recently; they’re getting to the stage where they’re almost cool now!”

GREGORIO ALLEGRI – Miserere (The Tallis Scholars: Allegri Miserere, 1980)
“When it comes to sacred vocal music, that is my all-time favourite. But I don’t actually know a great deal about it, I’m not even actually too sure of the era! It’s quite a long one as well, I think it’s six minutes, or is it nine minutes… No, it’s 12 minutes! I had it on cassette, and I wore it out just listening to that track! It’s really beautiful, very melodic and some really heart-wrenching sounds.”

Wytch Hazel’s Prelude will be released on April 22 through Bad Omen. For more information, click here.

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.