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Galley Beggar - Heathen Hymns

Label: Rise Above Records
Format: mp3 download
Released: 2017
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 9.5/10

Galley Beggar's 2017 album, "Heathen Hymns" is intriguing in a thousand different ways. . . It's dark, mysterious, mellow, trippy without getting avant-garde and off-putting, Zeppelin-y, folky, lush, mystic, pretty, enchanting, and a bunch of other complimentary adjectives.


Countless bands toy with retro gimmicks and images these days, but Galley Beggar inhabit the Retro and make it feel fresh and vitally current. Their music manages to bring a natural down-to-Earth 70s folk fabric, without scratchy wool florals or gallons of patchouli. I'd call their sound "Hippy Metal," but that sounds a little bit like an insult, which would not be my intent. The band apparently prefer "Acid Folk."
Behind Maria O'Donnell's crystal clear lead vocals, the instrumentation sounds incredible. The simple, powerful bluesy lead guitar licks, Bill Lynn's lively, Geezer Butler-John Paul Jones-ish bass, from a throwback era when bass mattered more (even if bass players still got the short end of the respect), and Celine Marshall's bow-and-string instruments masterfully weave a layer of tactile atmosphere and beauty around the room.
I mentioned the Zeppelin flavor; it's strong with with this one, specifically from the era encompassing Led Zeppelin III, IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti. But I also hear The Beatles - - especially the Harrison-stuff, Blackmore's Night, Heart, Jefferson Airplane, Velvet Underground, Mahavishnu, Opeth's acoustic sounds, first-album Def Leppard, a smidge of the Grateful Dead, and Beck's latter-day, post-DJ stuff. Any kind of Metal branding is a stretch for their laid-back groove, but the parallels and appeals for Metal audiences are obvious. I can see why they're being marketed at us. The songs on "Heathen Hymns" are consistently wonderful and enthralling. This is a special record, one of the absolute best of 2017, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice by dismissing it.
The piece de resistance of the many great songs is probably "Moon & Tide," which doesn't roll in until Track #6. Listen in order and you'll recognize the moment when like turns to love. "Four Birds" and "The Girl I Left Behind Me" are pretty goddamn good and catchy too.


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