Open with a fuzzy, fluttering flurry of distorted sound like being in the midst of bats and birds, lead track The Collector turns swiftly into a grand prog-folk-metal number, moving from lively sections into slower, trippier washes of descending chords, distantly hollered vocals and snowy ambience. John Mosley and Donny Hopkins’ guitars square up to one another nicely, Neil May’s bass burping along and Matthew Atkins’ drums are pummelled furiously. It’s a strong and intriguing opener, one that spider-like has a foot in many styles.
There’s a far more distinctive and traditional folk arrangment to Omie Wise, the music’s pattern is from a traditional folk song that was based on an eyewitness account of a murder. Whilst Crumbling Ghost bring a pleasingly heavy feel to the track it’s perhaps restrained by its familiar tropes that it sort of passes the listener by, the twiddly fiddly opening of Aggro Pronto is more interesting, almost poppy, Atkins drumming sending it crashing towards lurching, hypnotic refrains. If it drifts effortlessly into the mystical and portentous sounds of The Stumbling Host, alive with a very proggish sense of theatricality, the driving bassline punctuated by Atkins’ drums pushes the track towards its cacophonies of sound that come on much like the titular ‘Host’, stumbles of clatter and noise. It climaxes with delightfully epic, repeated chord progression that is left hanging until the Eastern-influenced Daytrip To Bungay kicks in, a spritely two and a half minutes, it’s a derivative but joyous aside, though it’s a shame it fades out, though at the same time it feels like it’s drawing the curtain on half the album and acts as the point where you feel a flip from side A to B would be necessary.
Blasted Heath picks things up with a danceable melody and choruses where the chords tap-tap-tap out as if there’s some sort of routine that should accompany the track, almost as if you’re watching The Wicker Man at double speed. Nobody Here is one of the rare occasions on this record where the band use vocals heavily and it is unfortunately probably the weakest moment on the LP, with neither the music or the vocal really complimenting one another.
Things pick up with the raucous Sheriff’s Ride, based on a morris dance, it’s a lively track, with John Mosley’s melodica adding a particularly nice touch, contrasting well with Hopkins’ howling guitar. The vocals return for The Man of Burnham Town, the lyrics of this traditional song have a suitably workmanlike feel, that fits Mosley’s delivery better than the more abstract Nobody Here. Interestingly the band cut down the original lyrics to omit the original song’s conclusion that talked about the titular man beating his wife, instead their version turns into a dizzying rock-out that – as the liner notes rightly suggest – leaves the listener to imagine their own conclusion borne of the last sung words; ‘Yes, I’ll go meself to drink.’
The record’s finale is the near 11 minute Battle Of Barnet, a swirling torrent that goes from crashing waves of sound into lucid, laidback movements. It’s a great chance for the band to really get into a performance and flex their creative muscles, they keep the track ebbing and flowing along different courses, with each band member getting the spotlight pointed at them here and there, and it turns into a swaggering trippy shuffle around the 8 minute mark.
This is a very strong record for fans of the genre, it’s not hard to imagine Crumbling Ghost as an act somewhere down the line who would be the main draw for a folk festival crowd, and there’s also enough intelligence and creative energy on display here to encourage even those somewhat uncertain of the genre to give it a listen.