Having just spent the last three weeks blitzing Sons of Anarchy, my initial thought about ‘Where We Are’, the debut by North Wales’ heavy folk mob [the] Isaac Birchall Band, was just how well songs such as ‘Believer’ and ‘Bones’ would sit on the soundtrack.
Dirty and rootsy, with Isaac Birchall’s roughhewn vocals adding a raspy edge, it starts as an interesting mix of folk and unpretentious blue-collar rock. In fact, as ‘Believer’ and ‘Bones’ rattle along, it’s not hard to picture them accompanying a motorcycle chase scene or the montage that seems to accompany every episode before the credits roll. That neither is a really great song – Birchall’s overbearing vocals are just a bit too much to make them enjoyable – which means ‘Where We Are’ gets off to a slightly downbeat, inauspicious start.
Where We Are by Isaac Birchall
Yet, then, almost from nowhere, ‘Where We Are’ takes a swift about-turn, pushing the folk to the fore and settling down to be an engaging listen. ‘Don’t Send Me Away’ is a jaunty, mid-paced number in which Birchall plays it straight with the vocals and is much more enjoyable than the opening salvo.
Similarly, ‘Omen’ is a folk ballad, which, for some reason, makes me think of Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead or Alive’. I guess whether that’s a good thing or not is down to you to decide, but it is clear Birchall’s band has some serious musical chops and this song has them all on display, including a wandering guitar solo.
Best of all are the driving up-tempo folk pop of ‘Say It Tonight’ and ‘What If I’m You’. The former is built around a stellar riff, recalling Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun’s ‘Death’, the latter a modern take on folk-punk that fans of everyone from Frank Turner to Make War should enjoy.
It means ‘Where We Are’, despite being multi-faceted and fractured, is an ultimately enjoyable experience. There’s plenty of rough edges which need to be refined, but Birchall can write a mean song and has a masterful turn of phrase. If they can just pin down their musical identity then they could be on to something.
‘Where We Are’ by Isaac Birchall Band is out now.
Isaac Birchall Band links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)