Album Review – Inkubus Sukkubus – Barrow Wake: Tales of Witchcraft and Wonder Vol. 1 (2016)

Availability: Inkubus Sukkubus, Spotify and YouTube (selective tracks)

Barrow Wake is a compilation album filled with reworks, remastered editions and remixes of Inkubus Sukkubus’ best known tracks across their twenty seven year career, as well as new material. Albums featured are Wytches (1994), Heartbeat of the Earth (1995), Vampyre Erotica (1997), Wild (1999), The Beast with Two Backs (2000) and Queen of Heaven, and Queen of Hell (2013). It is the forth compilation within the discography, though considered unofficial, since The Anthology (Greatest Hits) 2013.

The Enchanted Realm being the first of the new tracks featured follows through with the tone emphasized from the bands previous release from last year, Mother Moon with the inclusion of pagan/folk rock spirit; featuring orchestral introductions and lutes, an instrument used in Medieval Europe, and was present right through until the Baroque period. There is a similarity in tempo, if not much slower in comparison, to the track found on Mother Moon, called Zephyrus, for both are quite raw for their emphasis on acoustic and close to acapella vocalization. Woman to Hare (Daemon Romantica Mix) originates from the album Vampyre Erotica, as mentioned above, and for this album was remixed to take on a much slower delivery; the original being a quickened combination of goth rock and pagan, this addition perhaps to compliment Candia McKormack’s sultry tones. The Daemon Romantica Mix adds haunting church bells, and an oboe.

Lost to the Sea the second new track turns a new leaf with a taster of ambience, orchestra and takes on  psychedelic/progressive rock, and fact sounds similar to the works of Steve Hackett (notable comparisons Voyage of the Acolyte, 1975 and Wolflight, 2015), for the usage of soft demonstration but mournful lyrics, counteracting and yet complimenting each other. Lily Bolane of The Beast with The Two Backs embodies the second generation goth rock era. It combines the post-punk enthusiasm, whilst carrying the paranoid drone of the 80s, commonly used within that era’s art and experimental rock, for this compilation, it is successfully remastered to draw the listener to track’s complex strengths, whilst keeping Candia’s distant, distorted vocals.

Hopkins Man the third new track, starts with an old recording before, not dissimilar to Lost to the Sea and The Daemon Romantic Mix, infuses dark ambient, oboes and eerily repetitive keyboards with chanting vocals, capturing the essence of dark and ethereal wave. Forest Hill, from Inkubus Sukkubus’ Queen of Heaven, Queen of Darkness (2013) contains, what I feel is possibly the last traces of their goth rock origins and transferring most of their energy in creating a full pagan/folk rock album, with goth rock and ethereal wave being an undercurrent.

Corn King (Wicca Man Mix), an official remix of the track found on Heartbeat of the Earth (1995), found its way into other albums such as Queen of Heaven, Queen of Hell and the subsequent The Anthology (Greatest Hits), both released in 2013. The Wicca Man Mix has since become a popular version, and is continuously performed during their live shows as their acoustic take; recently performing it at the University of Bradford Pagan Society. Unlike their other songs of their discography, the mix is a combination of acoustic and folk rock, with very little hint of their goth rock sound. Barrow Wake the fourth new track on the album, and like The Enchanted Realm, and Hopkins Man before, it carries on from the musical direction of Mother Moon, and like The Wicca Man Mix of Corn King, has a dominant folk acoustic composition, with mild ethereal wave influence. In a way, I feel this could be a spiritual companion piece to Mother Moon, for there is a semblance to the instrumental concept, but is narratively much darker than its proceeding track.

The Witch of Berkeley (Daemon Romantica Mix), a remix of the track of the same name and the second track from Vampyre Erotica, and similar to the remix of Woman to Hare, the original fast beat of a traditional goth rock track is replaced by a darkwave/neoclassical ballad, and interestingly, it seems for this track, McKormack may have re-done her vocals, as not only do they appear worn down (deliberately), but her vocals sound mature than in the earlier recording. Death and the Virgin, was initially a hidden track on the album, Wild, tagged right at the end of a Tom Jones cover Delilah. It is of course remastered, however what is interesting about this song, is that it follow the same notes as a Celtic folk song Maighdean Mhara (The Sea Maiden), if not with a more saddened distribution.

The Rape of Maude Brown, the first of the two tracks from The Wytches, the second being a remix of Dark Mother, which will be addressed shortly, is based on the real story of Maude Brown (seen as a folk tale), originating from Cheltenham, UK. The teenager was gang-raped by her uncle (rumoured to be her biological father), and the squire of the town after she declined marriage from both, and she accidentally drowned after seeing the murder of her uncle by the act of an arrow through the heart, not realizing her sweetheart, who was hiding among the trees was responsible. She was found and later buried in where the famed elk tree once stood, legend having it that it grew from the stake that she was impaled with to prevent her from coming back as an undead (vampire). As a consequence, her mother was also killed, accused and condemned of witchcraft, and burnt to death underneath the elk tree, where the squire who mocked her met his demise by Maude’s lover. The elk tree no longer stands, struck by lightning in 1922. To tell this story, Inkubus Sukkubus disguise the dark nature of the tale within a catchy gothic folk song. Dark Mother (Spook Mix) is a dark acoustic adaption of the goth rock track, which borderlines on classic hard rock in places. Whilst the fast paced momentum has gone, it hasn’t taken away the strange conveyance of the lyrical content, filled with sadness and elements of admiration of the unnamed deity of worship.  As The Witch of Berkeley had been, Dark Mother has not only been remixed (this version being released in Feburary 2016, and can be found on their YouTube channel), but also the vocals re-done, as there is a difference between the initial recording and this track.

The Campden Wonder
is the fifth and the last of the new tracks, and is the final track of the album. The band completes this volume by returning to their established sound of goth rock with mild traces of darkwave to tell in gothic fashion, the story of the mysterious disappearance of a man called William Harrison in 1660, thought to have been killed in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, as his clothes were found ripped and bloody. The manservant, John Perry, his mother Joan Perry and his brother Richard Perry were wrongly accused and condemned of his murder, their mother also accused of witchcraft, after an investigation took place, and they were hanged. William Harrison then returned two years later, on a boat travelling from Lisbon and revealed he had been abducted by pirates of Turkish origin and was enslaved in Turkey, only managing to escape a year after his master had died. It has been suggested that his wife committed suicide after his return.

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