Syr is a Celtic Folk Rock band from Columbia, South Carolina. Music inspired by Celtic history, mythology, and folklore… like what you would listen to just before smashing a Roman legion!
Our first ‘proper’ review of 2022 and it falls to Syr a Celtic-Rock band from South Carolina. Sentinel is the bands third studio album and comes after a series of predictable pandemic-related delays. Two years of canceled and postponed live shows, live streams and uncertainty about the future only seems to have amplified Syr (pronounced Sire) and their stories of Celtic history, stories and myths taking in themes like battle, love, and victory. Lead singer and founder Kyle MacCallum says
“The idea is to write about Celtic history, legends, and stories finding themes that would resonate with a modern audience.”
Taking the well trod route of humble beginnings of pubs and local venues, the band’s high-energy live performance has since received a welcome at regular performances at some of north America’s biggest Celtic events and festivals. Sentinel is their third album after the self-titled Syr in 2015 and The Winter King in 2017. These have been accompanied by a couple of singles all available via the band.
Not a band I’m familiar with so fresh ground to be trod for the site and while Syr think of themselves as more a Celtic-Rock band
“While I wouldn’t characterize the band as “punk” you’ll definitely pick up on the metal influence, and the defiant tone that has always been a feature of us Celts!”
I couldn’t agree more! Sentinel begins with ‘Isolation’ a short atmospheric intro that sounds like it could come from a movie that soon bursts into ‘Revenant’, a track that spans everywhere from trad Irish Folk to New Model Army to Euro Folk-Metal. This is the kind of Celtic music that is accessible to all. Tuneful, catchy, light hearted (in a serious way!) and 100% genuine. ‘Tir N’aill’ was the albums first single and here Laurel takes over from her brother Kyle on lead vocals. Kyle has more the ‘rock’ style vocals while Laurel is more folk orientated reminding me of the lovely Aoife O’Donovan.
Like the music the video is also atmospheric and features the lyrics above sweeping landscapes from the Celtic nations. The tribal sound of the drums is used to great effect in ‘Specters’ despite its slightly poppy sound (though that’s probably just by our standard!). Title track ‘Sentinel’ stands out with it’s unrestrained power even though it’s played little more than a ballad.
The music itself is played simply but effective with only Worth Lewallen’s constant fiddle (alongside the occasional whistle and mandolin) embracing Celtic instrumentation but then the voice is as powerful as any instrument especially in Folk music and in Kyle and Laurel both have the most expressive voices that seem to cross both ancient and modern. Of course the drumming adds a dimension to the music lost in the more ‘traditional’ style Celtic-Punk and nowhere on the album is this expressed better than on the instrumental ‘The Painted Ones’. ‘Baobhan Sith’ has shades of great trad crossover band Planxty. Slow, gentle and beautiful. ‘Lay of the Ashes’ kicks it up a notch with a lively song led into with some great fiddle. ‘Idistaviso’ gives us a positive slice of Celtic-Americana that wouldn’t be out of place being ruined by many a star (BS anyone?). It may sound funny that as editor of a Celtic-Punk site it is the slower more Folky Syr offerings I prefer especially this. ‘Oran Na Gaillinn’ is upbeat and catchy and also the longestvtrack here at almost six minutes. Known in the Celtic-Punk as either a head-nodder or a thigh-slapper. Kyle sings in Irish next on ‘Albion II’ and understand the meaning of that. Of a Irish-American who has taken the time to learn the language of his ancestors. It’s a shame more Irish musicians don’t follow him. A great rocking song with some super fiddle. We are almost at the end and ‘Legacy’ starts with what sounds like the feet of marching men off to wage war and fight to defend their homes. Stirring stuff alright. The curtain comes down on Sentinel with ‘To Avalon’ and an instrumental fit to see out the album. Great in scope and style and a rousing way to say goodbye.
Thirteen tracks that come in at just under a hour and absolutely note perfect production. Syr play the sort of music that bridges not just the gap between Celtic-Punk and the Trad/Folk scene but also the sounds of the 70’s and 80s Irish Folk scene and now while also embracing the better bits of the Folk-Metal scene too. This is a grand record and it’s easy to see why they are becoming so well known on the American Celtic circle. Music played with a passion but also a belief in it.
(You can listen to / steam/ download Sentinel from the Bandcamp player below)
Buy Sentinel From The Band-CD Download
Contact Syr WebSite Facebook Instagram YouTube
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