It’s a risky business overhauling age-old folk songs with modern musical dynamics.
The key is surely to keep the olde worlde vim and vigour, and not turn the whole thing into the musical equivalent of a theme pub. Serpentyne largely succeed on that front – they know their way around medieval instrumentation. Their occasionally graceless coercion of traditional pegs into 21st-century holes won’t be for everyone, but at heart, this second album has some important essentials in place: infectious tunes, soul-stirring drama and bags of earthy energy. All are evident on the galloping, harmony-laced Boudicca and Alexandria’s Arabic odyssey, held together by Maggie-Beth Sand’s reed-thin but bewitching voice. Sometimes they try a little too hard – the synthetic dance beat behind Valkyries’ woodwind sounds rather gimmicky. Meanwhile, even the keenest medieval music fans may ask if the world really needs another version of Gaudete, but at least Serpentyne’s is a spirited and inventive one, a seven-minute hoedown taking in world music textures, didgeridoo and ethnic chanting. They’re clearly having a high old time – it would be churlish not to join in the fun.