Edinburgh Occult quartet Juniper Grave is no stranger to the stage, having opened for the likes of Witchsorrow, Slough Feg and the spellbinding Dystopian Future Movies during their short existence. Debut album Of Hellions & Harridans (Wasted State Records) shows a style more in tune with the likes of Alunah, a hugely retrospective feel coating the elements of the band’s sound.
Opener ‘The Forest’ is a prime example: Jenni Sneddon’s Folk-like timbre sweetening an organ-fuelled romp through Pan’s party. Riffs are enhanced by the merest hint of fuzz, the atmosphere reeking of must. It’s a similar story with ‘Trick Of The Light’, soulful verses allowing the mellow bass notes to shine while the choruses are graced by grinding, motorised riffs.
The seventies vibe is so well-replicated. ‘Daughter Of The Waves’ is a Soul ballad, gorgeous harmonies backing Sneddon’s fragile high notes, but with that organ and riff duet driving the pace. Drums are an understated but essential feature, the marvellous dictation oft shrouded by more melodious counterparts yet, as with the edgy Folk-Doom and wondrous harmonies of ‘The Bridge Between Worlds’, always in command.
The hoot of an owl introduces the band’s more sinister side in ‘Dance of the Daemon Queen’: initially slow, its swirling, portentous keys and chanted stories of ritual sacrifice delivered in chilling fashion. The somewhat meandering ‘Lunar Calling’, however, despite its tales of hunting werewolves, is a touch haphazard and comedic, and is the album’s weak moment. Closer ‘Rest With Your Dead (Faolitighearna)’ thankfully redeems this: a poignant yet powerful, rattling paean to a doomed warrior queen with a quintessentially British sound that evokes Magnum’s more grandiose moments.
Of Hellions & Harridans is unashamedly stuck in the past, at times delightfully kitsch yet not without invention, and with an Occult flavour to die for. As a first effort its an entertaining and enthralling one, and whilst there are some limitations it will be very interesting to see how Juniper Grave follow this up.
7 / 10