MAY ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Six years of showcasing a new generation of bands and its high time Northern Ireland got an accolade from Great Music Stories! My work with Wildfire has showcased Scottish bands and Wales has given us two of our last three Bands of the Year. This May, Baleful Creed represent the immense musical talents of Northern Ireland as the band lands an album of honest musical intensity and craft.
I’ve followed the band since 2016 and charted their grassroots rise. Baleful Creed is a ‘people’s band’ committed to writing the music they believe in, maintaining a direct connection with their fans and relishing those opportunities to visit new towns and play live. They’re not a band tempted by the fame game or writing music that will make them popular. They wear their influences on their sleeves, their music demonstrates a seriousness about growing creatively and – step by step, week by week – they are winning people over on the strength of their own music and their own integrity as nice people. With gigs down and the associated hype machine out of answers, it’s all about the people and the merit of the tunes – and with ‘The Lowdown,’ Baleful Creed have matured both their song writing and their production to deliver their finest collection of songs to date.
‘Mr Grim’ opens the album. Direct, urgent and with sonic depth, it’s a real grower and one that should become a staple with rock radio. ‘Mr Grim’ rolls seamlessly into ‘The Phoenix’ giving the opening section of the album a ‘live set’ feel to it, the rhythm section shining on this one.
‘Pilot Of My Head’ follows, one of a few songs that had some early outings on my radio show and attracted reaction and repeat requests. It’s always a true measure of a band when the songs, sometimes unannounced, garner listener reaction. It’s always been about good songs that can stand on their own two feet and Baleful Creed’s new songs work well both as a collection and as stand-alone tracks.
With ‘Riled Up’ the pace quickens and it’s by track four one gets the convincer that something’s going on here. This is not one of those albums with a few headline radio songs that falls apart by track three. Rather, the opposite is happening, as each track pulls you in a bit deeper. Arresting guitar grooves, bass rhythms and vital drumming that locks well together with the best vocal performances so far on Baleful material.
‘Tramalamapam’ (yeah, try saying that after six pints!) brings the mood back down, more light and shade and greater room for the vocals to impress. One to be played with the volume up and the lights down low, a song that’s all about mood and one where each of the musicians has their moment to shine. On first listen it was one of the more vanilla songs to me – but by third listen it was probably my favourite track on the album. So often it’s the slow-burn growers you have to watch out for.
‘Confused’ will probably become a live favourite and after this it’s the dramatic ‘One Shot’ – lyrically rich, athematic and framed by expressive guitar work that elevates this song above the ordinary. I have a feeling this may be the song that can endure on radio, a song that can stand repeat plays and arrest attention. It combines the familiar with something freshly alert. A song with depth that paints pictures in the mind.
‘End Game’ brings the riff party, ‘Line Of Trouble’ evokes the narrative thread with a widescreen opus that has more than a nod to the band’s 70s heroes. And as with ‘Seismic Shifter’, the album closes with a musical departure. I remember when the last album came out the band offered me a track to run with early. I immediately chose album-closer ‘The Wolf’ which, with hindsight, acts as a creative bridge between ‘Shifter’ and the new album. And now, once again with ‘The Lowdown,’ it was the closer ‘Southgate Of Heaven’ I premiered and ran with for some weeks. Featuring the signature keys work of maestro Keith Weir, this song really showcases the band’s potential for those broader soundscapes they can open up and grow into. As the album closer it leaves you with the inescapable feeling of a band on the rise – creatively evolving, confidence rising and that sense that this is a journey and the best is yet to come.
In the rock scene today there are bands that are pushed heavily and there are bands that are breaking the mould. Baleful Creed are a band whose music does the talking. Twice making the top echelon of my annual Band of the Year vote says a lot about a band who can win fans simply on the strength of their songs. That band are not breaking musical boundaries but they are crafting a very strong music identity on their own terms. Their songs are instantly recognisable as Baleful tunes, and even people not into their genre get hooked on the infectious grooves, riffs and rhythms.
In recent weeks the world has changed and, when we get out of the tunnel, I very much doubt it will be a return to the old days. What matters more today than ever is bands that have belief in what they do and a tenacious will to keep going. From this new generation it will be the tortoises not to sprinting rabbits that make the finish line first – and whilst Baleful Creed’s rise has been one of measured patience, I have a feeling they will outlast many. I have a sense their story is only just beginning and ‘The Lowdown’ marks the calling card of a band that can outlive fads and fashions and last the distance.
Order the new album online https://balefulcreed.bigcartel.com