Album Review: Isaac Birchall Band – Where We Are

imageHaving 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.

3.5/5

‘Where We Are’ by Isaac Birchall Band is out now.

Isaac Birchall Band links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)

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