April was a pretty jam packed month review-wise for yours truly and I had to pass on several albums I would have covered in less hectic times. Though my dance card was full, as soon as I heard a few seconds of Heathen Hymns by hitherto unknown to me Galley Beggar, I started clearing space. Galley Beggar may have a name that conjures images of the worst pirate-corish, Alestorm-wannabes, but they play what they dub “acid folk,” and freely admit to an obsession with old sounds and styles. Their music is in the tradition of 60s rock acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle, and you’ll also hear similarities to the folksy side of Led Zeppelin and even Fleetwood Mac. Yet it also has a subtle, mysterious goth rock vibe slithering through the folk revivalism leaving a slightly dark, oily trail. Is it metal? Not exactly. Is it good? Oh yeah! This is some seriously enchanting, groovy stuff sure to conjure images of Woodstock, free love and hippies running amok in fields of green.

Opener “Salome” is the tune that got me frantically moving my review schedule around to accommodate the album and once you hear it, you’ll know why. It’s a mesmerizing piece of hippie magic with so much 60s aura it almost imparts a contact high. Maria O’Donnell’s voice is captivating and seductively soothing and the backing music makes excellent use of guitar and mandolin to suck you into the hazy, lazy past. It’s trippy and psychedelic without losing the story, which is all about top-notch songwriting. You only need to hear this song once to love it. Hell, I only needed to hear a minute of it. “Four Birds” weaves in the aforementioned goth vibe, reminding me a lot of The Eden House though there are nods to Houses of the Holy era Led Zeppelin in the shuffling drum-work. The chanting vocals craft a powerful spell and it’s a brilliant piece of writing with a certain atmosphere that’s hard to explain and impossible to resist.

At no point does the band let you off the hook, as one high-level flower power anthem follows another, resulting in a trance-inducing album that takes you drifting through the purple haze. The band tackles the ancient folk standard “The Girl I Left Behind Me” and transforms it into a beautiful 60s era ballad with Indian influenced music floating behind the guitars and vocals. It’s the kind of song you’d imagine playing as you were lured into a hippie commune by the pretty blonde you followed home from the beach. “Moon and Tide” is a gentle, undulating wave of a song, gorgeous and compelling, magical and mysterious. Its raga rock speaks to the inner child hidden within us all; the one that still believes in magic, myth and wonderment. That kid doesn’t get out much these days, so he/she deserves this!

There isn’t a wasted note to be found on Heathen Hymns and I can’t recall the last time I was so enamored with an album this quickly. At a concise 43 minutes, it feels like the perfect length. The sound is amazing, with a rich, warm, old timey production and the drums in particular sound organic and crisp. Maria’s siren song vocals are given ample room to breathe and never dominate the proceedings. It’s just a top-notch production perfectly suited to this style of music. If there’s a knock against the album, it’s that 2 of 8 tracks are covers of folk standards. Even so, I can’t stop spinning this thing.

Maria O’Donnell is a real talent and her smooth, unforced delivery puts every song over the top. She never over-sings or tries to do too much, content to chant and hypnotize in the spaces left her by the acid-drenched guitar and mandolin. The band also includes all sorts of folk instrumentation like fiddles and what sounds like a sitar, but always use them sparingly and subtly. Guitarists David Ellis and Matt Fowler put on a clinic on how to play to the song, not over it, delivering understated riffing until it’s time to cut loose with a jam or spacey solo (“The Girl I Left Behind Me” being the best example). Even these jams are more controlled than you’d expect, never going over to the dark side of Lord Yngwie. Paul Dadswell’s kit-work channels a mellower John Bonham and his little fills and flourishes put the icing on the ecstacy-laced cupcake. This is psychedelic folk rock done by those who love the style deeply and it shows.

Maybe the astrologists got it wrong. Maybe 2017 heralds the Age of Aquarius. If that means more music this good, I’m ready to welcome my new hippie overlords. Heathen Hymns isn’t the heaviest thing you’ll hear this year, but it may be one of the best. There’s something special here that defies mere description. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself and see if the magic strikes you. Hair peace.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rise Above Records
Websites: galleybeggar.com/wordpress | facebook.com/galleybeggarmusic
Releases Worldwide: April 28th, 2017

  • Alex Timmer

    Despite my best efforts I couldn’t find anything online as well.. Worth noting the rest of the discography is available on Spotify, and well worth a listen. I can hear the magic you speak of on these earlier releases, but I’m a bit missing the ‘acid’ in there. Looking forward to the actual release.

    And by the by, how does a folk record end up on the angrymetalguy review stack? It’s neither angry, nor metal, nor, uh, guy.

    • Google “Galley Beggar – Heathen Hymns streaming”, and ye shalt find the song The Lake on a site called BrooklynVegan.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yeeha! Let us put flowers in our hair and all listen to this all together in an event of cosmic oneness, because we’re all brothers and sisters!

        • herrschobel

          no we are not ! still we should try to be nice to each other… :-)

          • Drew Music

            Are you a rock?
            Are you an iiiiiiiiiisland?

          • herrschobel

            i am a Meteor actually

          • Drew Music

            Been there, done that. I don’t remember shit, but I’m sure it was stellar.

          • No, we shouldn’t! Fuck you and him and that dude and his sister. Mohaha.

        • Drew Music

          Personally, I was hoping our united attempts to be Angry Metal Sidekicks would crash the internet and usher in a new age of chaos and destruction.
          Y’know, family stuff.

        • Bas

          ..but events are always temporary !
          After that we need some doom, death, grind, black or thrash to balance things out !
          Folk, ambient, drone and hippy music is the ying to my metal, tango (not kidding) and noise yang.

        • I hope to Lucifer that you’re only being sarcastic. I just wanted to help all the pussies* find a sample to chant along to whilst holding hands. they must be tired of Kumbaya by now.
          And for the record. I’d rather be listening to Tetragrammacide, and that speak volumes.
          (*tongue in cheek)

          • Monsterth Goatom

            ; )

      • Drew Music

        And yet you’re a supervillain where the clean don’t sing. If we gave you Trump, would you adopt my country?

        • The question is; what would you do for me if I kept him locked up in my basement and occasionally tortured him for you?

          • Drew Music

            Anything that wouldn’t render me unable to look at myself in a mirror.
            I’m not asking for much here, only that you become the ruler of a foreign country, why do you gotta make it about you? Help a brother out!

          • The thing about World Domination is that if you’re offered it on a silver platter, it’s just not all that fun anymore.
            I’d love to help you out, but I think Trump is on the travel ban to my area. If it’s any consolation, at least he’s made the politics section of the news hysterical again.

          • Drew Music

            Try to give you a stepping-skull to trod upon on the path to global domination and you’re gonna let travel security symantics get in the way?
            This is what happens when we get our RotM too early: complacency!
            If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect that just maybe you weren’t a supervillian at all!

    • basenjibrian

      iTunes has several songs available as a preview

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Hey Alex, it’s on Spotify now…. At least Spotify Canada. Cheers.

    • There’s a video included now.

  • lennymccall

    Can’t listen at work right now. Does this sound anything like Jess and the Ancient Ones? Kinda sounds like it might, and I love them.
    With Dool, The Riven, and Tower there so damn much great female fronted rock right now!

    • Similar but more old timey in some ways.

      • lennymccall

        Yeah this is not for me. Oh well.

    • Hideous destructor

      Ha. Was just going to ask the same thing. JATAO are my benchmark for female fronted, hippified, sorta metal.

  • Bas

    If its a combination of Fairport Convention (great ! Matty Groves is one of my favourite non-metal songs) with Fleetwood mac (green manalishi !!!!) and Led Zeppelin (duh) then I have to check this out !!!
    and as its not heavy it will be something that also my wife will like :-)

  • Wilhelm

    My heart has a special place for folk rock, especially with female vocals, the tidbits I heard so far sound rather good.

    • Tofu muncher

      Mine has a special heart for a band that has a guy who looks like Iggy Pop (? him so much)

  • rumour_control

    “…there are nods to Houses of the Holy era Led Zeppelin in the shuffling drum-work.” — Nice mention in a solid review. Some of Bonham’s best, and most underrated, work appears on that classic bit of vinyl.

    • Ivan E. Rection

      Bonham was something very special- his kit had a distinct sound and he had a recognizable style.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Alright, as of late every few reviews we get the writer asking two questions: Is it metal? Is it good? The second question coming after the first being answered in the negative. So, for good stuff that isn’t Metal may I suggest you guys start a parallel blog called Angry Good Guy?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Those hippies running amok in fields of green are being chased away by Metalheads, right Steely D? That shouldn’t be right though, as I just remembered about Kronos’ Law of Increasing Hippietude.

  • rumour_control

    Minor correction.
    “She never over-sings or tries to do to much, content to chant…”
    should read “…or tries to do too much…”

  • Bas

    In the good olde times, good albums like the ones of Fairport Convention always contained a couple of covers of fold standards. So its quite traditional in that aspect.
    Its like early metallica demos ;-)

    Nobody has reacted to the ‘Lord Yngwie dark side passage’…
    so I will do it anyway: blasphemy !
    (neh, he’s too much.. but thats the fun thing about him also)

    • I wouldn’t want Yngwie any other way. Anything less than too much, is too little!

  • Thatguy

    I’d be taking a lot on faith to seek this out with THAT band photo and the names you referenced, so I think not.

  • Paul VH

    I enjoyed the last Royal Thunder offering and this looks promising too.
    It’s an adjustment going from a hard core diet of Cult of Luna and Helhiem to this retro sounding stuff, but once I’m hooked I realize what made me fall in love with hard rock/metal to start with.

  • AnnieK13

    Your review was enough to pull me away from what I was listening to (the new Ayreon) and check this one out. I like what I heard and will definitely be checking out the rest later….now back to Ayreon.

  • I’m listening to the full album on Spotify right now and I’ve got to say I’m pretty disappointed. You made it sounds so awesome with all those words of praise for the production, the vocals and the songwriting, but I find exactly all of those three areas to be where this falls a bit short. There’s better folk rock out there. I find the debut album by Jess and the Ancient ones to be a good example of folk rock revival with lots of personality.

    • I’m surprised you feel that way. This album grabbed me from go.

      • I’m definetely not saying it’s bad music. If I was hanging out with friends and this was on the stereo (how archaic!), I’d be totally fine with it.
        If anything, I feel like it is weird that I don’t like it, but for whatever reason, I’ve had a bad track record with this particular genre mix for whatever. Purson is another such band that I wanted to love, but didn’t.

        I like some real, actual old folk like for example Vashti Bunyan, and I like retro sounding rock like Christian Mistress, for example. I’m forcing myself to give the Galley Beggar album a full listen this evening, so I’ll se what happens now that I have some seriously dark beer to go along with it.

        I will say this much: In terms of production, it sounds better to me now. Earlier today I had listened to a handful different albums before it, so that might have polluted my perception.

        If my mind doesn’t change, then I’ll chalk it up to the illogical nature of personal tastes.

  • andym

    I’ve listened to this album many times since release and agree with this review wholeheartedly. Great folky songs and the vocals of Maria are sublime. Thanks Druhm.