The Band Of Holy Joy: How To Kill A Butterfly – album review
Band Of Holy Joy ‘How To Kill A Butterfly (Exotic Pylon Records)
Ltd Edt CD & 20pg Book, DL
“And the magic of the land / lay in the madness of the light”
Pundits and followers of the Mayan calendar predicted the world would end on 28 October 2011; grasping the nettle, The Band of Holy Joy released their new album ”How to Kill a Butterfly’.
Singer Johnny Brown leads his Band of Holy Joy with wandering vocals in the tradition of the Olde English ranting preacher – his voice quivers with emotion and a horizon of sound opens up, as he takes us on an apocalyptic journey. What could be dark and troubled is somehow a comforting vindication of life: mystical, knowing and wise. With Christopher Brierley on seductive, sweet violin, Andy Astle’s clear understated guitar, tight pace from William J. Lewington on drum kit and deep undertones of James Stephen Finn on bass, electronics and synth, the sounds created are greater than the sum of the musicians.
The band’s history of using unconventional instruments is brought to bear in painting musical landscapes, through which the vocals roam. Clashes of pastoral and industrial imagery run throughout as an allegory for human emotion in the soundscape of the wanderer with a rural soul caught in the hedonism of the city. The ravages of time have sweetened into a mature velveted pitch and lyrics paint a broad canvas with slow meters to melancholic verse. Oxymorons of beauty, grime, darkness and light abound, with an injection of humour throughout, in a complex polished construction of an album that demands you sit down and digest – this is not fast food.
Opening song ‘Go Break the Ice’ is a literal atmospheric chill and metaphoric beginning as the pace twirls into an instrumental spin. As the album progresses the music steals you away to a train of meditative thought. From ”ËNorthern’ with its sense of lost roots and belonging, Brown moves through the very English ‘The Observer Book of Eggs’, eccentrically of it’s time, honest and touching in its direct appeal, to the tainted urban stains of ‘Repentant’ where deceptively comforting harmonies are juxtaposed with harsh lyrics that place the cards of hard living on the table. The more the lyrics paint a picture of debauched despair the sweeter the intoxicating instrumental melodies become.
Brown is ever the safe the retrospective repentant who can tell us the essence of it all. It’s all very dramatic and at same time very simple, at best when his affecting vocals lead although the more glossed instrumentation adds a dynamic to the overall recording.
The penultimate ‘Shake the Dust off Your Feet’ has a quirky upbeat tone in the face of human assault on the planet and leads to climactic ‘A Clear night, A Shooting Star’; a Luddite cry, a calling to the senses of humanity.
With beautifully packaged design by Inga Tillere and the artfully conceived brutality of the notion, ‘How to Kill a Butterfly’ is a call to rediscover the spiritual, and for simple sensual thought in a thoughtfully crafted musical construction of folk traditions and state of the art recording.