The highland Clan known as Campbell takes it’s name from the grandfather of Sir Colin Mor, known by the Gaelic “CAM BUEL”, or “Crooked Mouth”. There are many legends behind the origin of that epithet, but the truth is lost to history. So it comes as know surprise the creator of this Canadian Neofolk project bears said surname. And it’s a name I’m proud to claim as my own bloodline. Needless to say, I was immediately intrigued.
And “Decay” is nothing if not a story of heritage, of courageous ancestors braving the journey from the Scottish Highlands to settle in the untamed Canadian wilderness. In Ian’s own words to me, his intent was “a record that had something particularly Canadian about it”, and so it is. This is the second full-length release from the project, and comes on the heels of 2015’s split with Night Profound (with whom Mr. Campbell also contributes live duties and whose member Shawn Haché guests here), originally released on Brave Mysteries and just recently reissued on vinyl by Belgium’s Neuropa Records.
The album kicks off with a cover of the 18th century pipe and drum march “The Campbells Are Coming, embellished to make it the perfect intro for the journey to come. If your blood isn’t stirred from the first notes, you may want to check your pulse. This gives way to the acoustic strains of the title track “Decay”. If there’s such a thing as a perfect Neofolk tune, this one would definitely be in the running. While owing allegiance to those that set the standards like the grandfather of all Neofolkers, Death In June, as well as Sol Invictus, Crooked Mouth is more akin to the current wave, an amazing array of young, mostly North American bands creating their own niche in the genre: Cult of Youth, Blood and Sun, Destroying Angel and the above mentioned Night Profound.
Next up is a true to form cover of a traditional Irish tune, “Here Come the Navvies”, originally made famous in the late sixties by Ian Campbell and The Ian Campbell Folk Group. Coincidence? Me thinks not. The inclusion of hammer on spike as percussion is stellar. Then comes a trio of somber, heart-wrenchingly beautiful songs, delicate and steeped in sadness: “The Ballad of Kilburn Campbell” “Shatter” and “The Arms of the Mountain”, or as I came to know them, “the eighteen minutes of joyful gloom”. And I mean this is the best possible way. Like watching the mist roll down a mountain, enchanting, but filled with sadness.
Rounding out the album are “A Bindrune for You” and the closer “Farewell to Brackendale”. The former another wonderful, forlorn ballad with the line that immediately struck me…
So I carve a Bindrune into my flesh
Raging against this terrible fear
The latter a short but sweet ode to Place, of Homeland, and the love and longing for it. If you’re a fan of Neofolk, or if you love Folk in general, this is going to be one you won’t want to miss. I’d say it’s a shoe in for a lot of year end “Best Of” lists. This one will be available on cassette from Brave Mysteries and direct from the artist’s own Shadow of the Stone label on CD. Don’t miss it.