Angels of Peckham Rye is the first full-length album release by London-based band, THE WOOD DEMONS, and is one of the most refreshing progressive rock albums I have heard for some time. The group have an intriguing, eclectic and quite unique mix of styles, with elements of progressive rock, folk, psychedelia, alternative rock, ambient and classical/cinematic touches. All of these diverse elements come across in this vibrant, dynamic and beautiful album.
Formed by longstanding friends John Silver (bass) and Rick Startin (keyboards, guitar and vocals) and then Simon Carbery (lead vocals and guitar) – it was the inclusion of classically training violinist, Naomi Belshaw, that proved the key step to creating the band’s unique style. 2017’s The Lost Domain EP was recorded with original drummer Valentina Monsurro, but her return to Italy saw Ed Kontargyris take over the drum chair on the new album and recent live concerts.
Opening track Arithmomania starts in epic progressive fashion (reminiscent of Panic Room’s Satellite) with dark, powerful guitar and keyboards sounds, but then changes tempo into a brisk canter pushed by the drums and bass and Simon starts reciting sequences of numbers and everyday objects befitting the magnitude of those numbers, “Blades of grass, petals on flowers, bricks on churches, leaves on trees”. Inspired by the classical composer Anton Brucker and his obsession with counting, the mantra becomes wonderfully hypnotic and meshes with the music. Changes in pace and atmosphere add new, serene textures, with soft violin passages over “Floating high beyond the steeple. Voices of Angels. White wings soaring… My music.” Violin and soaring guitar soloing dominate the final section, and in one song all the things that make The Wood Demons special are there to hear.
John’s bass pattern and Ed’s percussion introduce the gently paced and atmospheric, The Odd Particle, with lush keyboards from Rick and Simon’s chiming guitar motifs. Almost a Floydian soundscape before Naomi’s exquisite violin flies high, lark-like and takes us into mid-period King Crimson territory. A beautiful instrumental.
Big Game Fishing is a lovely contrast. Pure English pastoral folk but with touches of psychedelic dreaminess. Delicate guitar and clear lead vocals and harmonies, with the violin creating a tranquil feel, helped by haunting keyboard and mellotron chords and gentle support by the rhythm section. The violin stays long in your ears after the final note is played.
Starstruck wakes us all up with Ed’s pounding drums and Simon’s strong guitar riffing with urgent chanted lyrics. It is all rock swagger and a heavy driving rhythm, with discordant guitar soloing and Crimson-like saxophone wailing. Yet very soon we have a soothing, reflective violin interlude creating light amongst the shade with Gilmour-like guitar lines over the sound of giggling children. More mellotron and busy bass and drum patterns before the violin speeds up and the original driving tempo picks up again at the end. Diverse and enjoyable.
Interminable Beige Thing is a cinematic mix of ambient keyboards over an extended classical violin solo and is a thing of true beauty as a prelude to the title track, Angels of Peckham Rye. The song is inspired by the story of poet William Blake, who at the age of 8 described how he saw visions of angels in an oak tree on Peckham Rye. Eastern-tinged violin joins a rumbling bass rhythm as Simon’s clear vocals recount the pleas of a “a tame sururban man” to see the angels himself, “Bring me the angels of Peckham Rye. Let me see them before I die”. Great ensemble playing and perfectly pitched guitar soloing enhance the mystical feel of the violin towards the end of the song.
All Heaven’s Breaking Loose is an enjoyable, popular swirl of upbeat retro-psychedelic and progressive rock, with a danceable beat and catchy refrain and you can imagine the band letting their hair down and partying, encore-like, at the end of a day. Lighter fayre for sure, but no less enjoyable for it.
Angels of Peckham Rye by The Wood Demons is a wonderfully diverse selection of progressive, folk, classical and psychedelic music, played with enjoyment and immense talent. Whilst Naomi’s violin often provides the wow-factor throughout, the rest of the band intermesh so well and Simon’s vocals are very easy on the ear. The sheer variety of music across only 7 tracks is astonishing and their recent engaging live festival performance at ‘Prog For Peart’ shows they can transfer this quality from studio to stage without any problem. Crossover prog, alternative rock, progressive rock, folk rock? They are anything you want it to be! I hope they can maintain this standard in the years to come, as, on the basis of this release, they deserve a much wider audience – within the prog community and well beyond too!
01. Arithmomania (9:15)
02. The Odd Particle (6:19)
03. Big Game Fishing (5:13)
04. Starstruck (8:38)
05. Interminable Beige Thing (2:59)
06. Angels Of Peckham Rye (7:35)
07. All Heaven’s Breaking Loose (6:09)
Total Time – 46:08
Simon Carbery – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Rick Startin – Keyboards, Guitars, Vocals
John Silver – Bass
Naomi Belshaw – Electric Violin
Ed Kontargyris – Drums
Valentina Monsurro – Drums (3)
Michael Wilkins – Saxophone (4)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 4th December 2020