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Galley Beggar - Heathen Hymns album review

Minstrels in the galley-ry

Galley Beggar - Heathen Hymns album artwork

Kent psychedelic folk sextet Galley Beggar have progressed by leaps and bounds since signing to Rise Above and absorbing a soupçon of the label’s doom metal vibe.

This, their fourth album, could be described as a pent-up Pentangle, an arcane aura of Led Zeppelin III prevailing on many tracks. Yes indeed, there be mayhem around the maypole – especially when the electric guitar cuts in and a massive freakout solo erupts, much to the alarm of straw-munching purists no doubt. GB’s music has its roots in dark, mysterious woods and bleak, windswept moors. Maria O’Donnell leads the way with her bewitching singing: a sweet but deadly approach that reels you in like a mythical Siren. While the band’s original songs are no slouches, it’s the two trad standards – The Girl I Left Behind Me and Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – that shine. The former captivates with a refrain to rival Zep’s That’s The Way; the latter features a mesmerising turn by guest vocalist Celia Drummond of UK acid folk legends Trees. Elsewhere Lorelei resembles a sparse, chilling lullaby; The Lake is a shadowy affair featuring just guitar, sitar and cello; Four Birds is how Blackmore’s Night would sound if the members were evil mutants.

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.