In days of yore you only had to mention the term ‘progressive’ to merit a gatefold album sleeve complete with castles, dragons and day-glo mountains. But young south Devon-based trio Ethyrfield don’t need anyone else’s psychedelic images to spell out what they’re about.
For sure, In Delirium, their debut full-length collection, is full of epic visions – nine tracks full of them, to be precise – but the music alone is more than enough to do the conjuring. And what a magic act it is: fusing the spirit of the old with the unbridled energy of the new, it’s an end-to-end masterclass in song construction underscored by burgeoning emotion and bellies full of fire. Quite simply, it’s by far the most electrifying thing you’ll have heard in donkey’s years. End of.
There are moments of subtlety and moments of grandeur. There are gigantic chords and there is silence and space. There are sequences and key changes that make the blood quicken. There are jolts and shocks and yet there is also time to bask in the soundscape. Honestly, it’s like being flown through an outrageously ambitious theme park that takes in the most jaw-dropping vistas. And you can’t help but surrender to it wholeheartedly. But you will also, occasionally, just have to sit back and marvel at the precociousness.
Not many young bands have the guts to resist opening an album full-throttle, but River sees them break the ice with the understated side of their hand. It’s a folky acoustic that mostly alludes to Led Zep’s Gallow’s Pole, with Zac Cornish (vocals and bass) and Ben Cornish (guitar and backing vocals) trading vocal harmonies so sparklingly clear you feel they might actually be inside your brain. And then Sunstroke comes along and smashes you in the face like a lithe, youthful Sabbath and all types of glorious hell break loose. It’s here you can start to marvel at the axe-wielding prowess of Ben Cornish: mentored by none other than Tony Iommi, he pulls out spectacular feats as if casually wielding a flamethrower, then backs off to let the melodies gleam. And despite those big, big sounds it’s all a far cry from bonehead bluster: the pared-back moments have indie-rock shades, Zac Cornish delivering precise, skin-tingling diction. Clever, dazzling and brilliantly unnerving.
It only gets more breath-taking. The Hunter is a fired-up rocker with real catchiness: if ever a track was crying out for a main stage festival slot it’s this one. Delirium features more drop-dead-beautiful guitar work with Dream Theater style tinges that would no doubt make John Petrucci sit up and pay attention. Then there’s Laying on of Hands, a dizzying journey through moods and tempos that clocks in at seven minutes eight seconds yet doesn’t feel a moment too long. Remembering, already released as a single, is cerebral yet instantly likeable folk-edged metal. And Bitter Wishbone, the grand finale, would surely make Tony Iommi proud with its persistent, driving grunge.
If an album makes you hunger to see a band live then it’s done its job. In Delirium does that and a whole lot more.
In true progressive rock fashion some of the tracks here extend well beyond the standard four minutes. But the whole thing can be easily summed up in three simple syllables: work of art.
In Delirium is out on June 16
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