ALBUM REVIEW: THE SCARLET- ‘Hardfolk Shanties’ (2017)

It’s been five minutes so must be time for another amazing Hungarian celtic-punk release from another amazing Hungarian celtic-punk band!

2015 was the year of the Hungarian celtic-punk band with a seemingly never ending succession of celtic-punk releases throughout the year that filled the end of year Best Of polls for not just ourselves but for all the other celtic-punk media. Well last year was a bit on the quiet side but the Hungarians are back in 2017 with a bang and already this year we have had Hungarian Celtic-Punk week when we reviewed three releases by bands old and new to the scene in Firkin, Crazy Rogues and The O’Neills plus as well as finding space for the excellent Jolly Jackers album and a new Paddy And The Rats release due any day soon its shaping up to be a repeat of two years back. The Scarlet’s singer/songwriter Dániel also plays in The O’Neills and while they are a much more traditional Irish folk band it seems he has chosen The Scarlet to take out his aggression on and their music has a much harder edge to it than previously. Which brings us to this release which came out in March (when else!) and is the debut long player from Budapest based band The Scarlet. They have previously released a Demo (available for free download from here) in late 2012 and in January, 2015 they released their first official record in Midnight Avenue. That was six tracks and twenty minutes of, mostly Dropkick Murphys style, quality celtic-punk that introduced them both to the celtic-punk scene and the world (here). A combination of pirate ‘Yo-Ho’s’ and metal guitar riffs accompanying the celtic instruments it left us itching to hear more and we were jumping for joy on the news that an album was coming out.

Now as is the case with music genre’s many overlap and while to the casual listener it may all sound the same but to those that like to label things this is probably more towards the pirate punk end of celtic-punk and maybe even celtic-metal as well.

The album kicks off with ‘Heroes of Our Future’ and even though it’s the shortest song on the album it’s still one of the high points. The Hungarians love the flute and The Scarlet are no different with Júlia’s flute competing with fiddle and metally punk electric guitar riffs. Dániel’s vocals as on that earlier EP are clear and even with his slight accent the English lyrics are easy to understand though sung in a more rock style than before.

The music has a urgent feel to it and ‘The Darker Shade of Red’ doesn’t let the pace slip while the sea theme continues with ‘We Plunder’. The heavy guitar and thundering bass, which sounds particularly good, give the song a hard feel but all the time the flute and fiddle keep it celtic. ‘Monday Morning’ is another album standout and one of the more ‘trad’ celtic-punk moments on the album. Gang vocals on the track are a nice touch and keep it interesting. We are halfway through Hardfolk Shanties and ‘Son of a Pirate’ keeps the pace up. I am a new convert to the use of flute in celtic-punk. I was never one for it but on seeing the mighty Firkin here in London on NYE 2015 I have to say I was totally won over. The Scarlet and Firkin share a lot of similarities except in sound and once again it’s pleasing that bands have managed to tread separate paths in a, sometimes, one dimensional scene.

Saying that if there was one song on the album that has a Firkin shadow looming over it then it is ‘Take the Wheel’. In a album of high points it’s not hard hard to pick out songs worthy of attention and ‘Heading to South’ is one. Great fiddle work and chugging guitar and a real catchy tune too. We coming up to the end of the album and ‘Battlefield Requiem’ keeps up the good work and another mention here for Dániel’s tortured vocals which fit perfectly with the sound the band are producing. ‘Runaway’ has a punk feel to it with that thundering bass back again and finally Hardfolk Shanties comes to an end with ‘Long Live the Dead’. The song begins folky acoustic style before moving into celtic-punk territory. Another class song and that The Scarlet can pack so much into their songs when the longest here is only just over three minutes long is remarkable.

So the album is over and you get ten songs all penned by the band themselves that comes in at literally just over half an hour long. If you like your celtic-punk a bit different then Hardfolk Shanties will be right up your street. More punk than most and with metal influences that keep it on the harder side side of things but thanks to the addictive flute and fiddle here it is firmly within the celtic-punk scene. Fiddler Dominika can be thanked for the superb pirate themed album artwork and the album was mixed by Zoltán Cs.Szabó, of the Hungarian garage rock band The Trousers, who has done a grand job and got the maximum out of The Scarlet. A great album and as already stated it sits proudly on the harder edged side of things but it is nevertheless still a fine concoction of both old time folk and more modern punk and metal. Heartily recommended ship mates!

(you can hear Hardfolk Shanties by pressing play on the Soundcloud player below)

Buy Hardfolk Shanties

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