Review Summary: Albion, how fine your trees stand gilded by the sun.
Ian Read started his musical career with a guest spot on Current 93's 1988 album Swastikas For Goddy, providing a unaccompanied vocal performance to opening track Benediction
and closer Malediction
that was not completely unlike C93 frontman David Tibet's strongly pronounced pommie accent. In fact, if there is one thing that can be claimed of many of the artists that belonged to the slew of musicians that made up the scattered origins of the British neofolk scene (Douglas P. of Death In June, Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus), apart from the distinctive love it or hate it “mad minstrel” vocals of Tibet none of them could really sing in the traditional sense and share something of a British “layman appeal”, despite the often pretentious lyrics they all had the quality of folk musicians doing it out of love despite lacking a technical ability to sing. Read would go on to work with Death In June and form Sol Invictus along with Tony Wakeford, leaving later to pursue his own project with Fire + Ice in 1991.
“The heartlessness of the modern commercial consumer society ruins the lives of many. FIRE + ICE takes the purity and philosophy of early music and melds it into a message redolent with powerful seeds of honour, truth, loyalty and the bond of true friendship.
” – a description from Read's official website
Gilded By The Sun
was his debut album released in 1992, starting off the project which reflects “Read's keen interests in magic lore, runes, tradition, renaissance medievalism, Nordic mysticism and other esoteric and occult mysteries.*
”. The lyrical content is centered around these concepts, of which Read has described the writing process as so -
“I write songs whenever they come into my head. I write them in about ten to fifteen minutes, I write them as fast as a pen can move so there's no conscious thought involved.
Read has never considered himself a musician as such, in interviews he has often discussed that his role in the Rune-Gild and esoteric spiritual studies have always been of much more importance to him. Despite this the musical side of Gilded By The Sun
is very pretty in a restrained sort of way, strummed acoustic guitars provide most of the background template with the occasional dip into ambient and even a slight post-punk influence becoming apparent as the album moves on. The Horseman's Word
opens the albums with a reverb laden chant, whilst Long Lankin
sets the scene of what the rest of the album sounds like with its hypnotic lyrics -
"Said the lord to his lady as he mounted his horse
Beware of long lankin who lives in the moss
Said the lord to Milady as he went on his way
Beware of long lankin who lives in the hay
starts with a gloomy bassline, with gorgeous clean guitars it seems to marry the best of a post punk influence with traditional folk music. This influence isn't as fully pronounced as it is on Fire Above
however, which features burning distortion and a simple rhythm that carries it to a wonderful plateau that makes it more distinctly rock then just about anything else in the British neofolk canon. Ljosalfar
has a simple ambient opening, with strings and keyboard that sound very pretty making it apparent that is small musical sections like this that make the album what it is such as the wind instrument sections in Sir John Barleycorn
and Basilisk Abode
. Ian Read's voice and lyrical content sits comfortably here, and whilst they may not be to the taste of everyone it is a suitable accompaniment to the morose, subtle nature of the music which seems to be aiming for a kind of nostalgic medieval appeal.
Gilded By The Sun
is a superb debut from Fire + Ice, as someone who doesn't consider himself a musician as such it would appear to capture a very specific period in Read's life and beliefs which he has translated well into music with a group of likeminded souls to assist him. The late 80's and early 90's period was a very exciting time for neofolk, and the small band of british artists that popularised it overseas to Europe and elsewhere wouldn't be quite the same without the involvement of this man. Later albums such as Hollow Ways, Midwinter Fires, Runa
(which was Read's meisterwork for his Rune-Gild) and Birdking
would all be exceptional releases and an improvement in many ways up until the point Read would seem to have completely retired from music in the late 90's, but with its leanings towards 80's post-punk and traditional folk nostalgia there is something distinct here which makes Gilded By The Sun