Back in the murky mists of time, when I was around eight years old, I read a couple of children’s fantasy books by Alan Garner – The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath.  Filled with wizards, witches and evil magical creatures, they were terrific; I read them over and over back then.  I read them again just a couple of years ago and I still enjoyed them immensely. baron_torpor_cd

One species of evil creature in the books was the Svart, a slit-eyed goblin-like demon from the bowels of the earth.  My eye was caught, therefore, when I saw that there was a record label called Svart.  My interest was further piqued when the press release for Baron’s new album mentioned Alan Garner as an influence on the band. Torpor isn’t some warlock-festooned prog-fest though; if you need a musical shortcut comparison, imagine Fleet Foxes with more iron in their diet and fronted by John Grant for starters.

Like Fairport Convention’s Liege And Lief, Torpor exudes a sense of place; it is unmistakably English.  This is not  traditional finger-in-the-ear folk music but there is tradition here nevertheless – the dark, mystic tradition of the Green Man and the Cerne Abbas Giant; the power of the land and the seasons and of blood.

The band (Alex Crispin on vocals, guitar, and keyboards; Peter Evans on bass; Blue Firth on organ, recorder and vocals, Luke Foster on drums and percussion) recorded parts of the album not entirely legally at one of the UK’s last surviving medieval halls, Purton Green. The album opens with Dragonfly; a cyclical organ figure –  I’m briefly reminded of English composer David Bedford whose Song Of The White Horse similarly tapped into the ancient landscape –  is joined by Crispin’s vocals, pounding drums and droning guitars.  The lynchpin of the album is Stry; questing guitars mingle with prowling, purposeful bass as the song gains intensity and the guitars thrash and howl.

Torpor does not give up its secrets easily, I’m still trying to unlock the tale it tells but it’s a journey worth pursuing as the nights grow longer and winter looms.

John Scott

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