ALBUM REVIEW: O’HAMSTERS – From Green Hills To Raging Sea (2022)

Delayed, delayed and delayed again the fourth album from O’Hamsters, Celtic-Punk band from Kyiv, Ukraine, finally sees the light of day. Not even a full-scale Russian invasion can stop Celtic-Punk! Ireland, women, alcohol, football hooligans, pirates and genitalia, reflections on the Ukrainian-Russian war, the brotherhood and unity of the Celtic-Punk scene and a daring story of prisoners’ escape from jail all feature on this great album. 

The release of From Green Hills To Raging Sea has been on the cards for a while now. First along came the Covid pandemic and then came the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. With no end to the war in sight O’Hamsters have decided to put the album out and raise awareness of the invasion and to raise money for HMV.UA, a group of volunteers lead by friend of the band Alex Sedov who aid the Ukrainian army. One of the many tragedies around the war in Ukraine is that the first time I heard of O’Hamsters was on the compilation album Ex-USSR Tribute To Dropkick Murphys, which featured eighteen Celtic, Punk, Celtic-Punk, Hardcore and Oi! bands from Russia and Ukraine. The album is still available for free download and is heartily recommended. So their existed a very friendly relationship between bands from both countries and whatever happens in the future I really hope that this friendly relationship can survive.

From left to right: Anton Skvortsov (top, looking somewhere far away) – vocals, acoustic guitar *  Ruslan Viter (bottom) – guitars, backing vocals * Andriy Ganzevych (top) – mandolin, whistle, backing vocals * Volodymyr Mazur (bottom) – accordion, piano, backing vocals * Denys Zhukowsky (top) – drums, backing vocals * Maksym Sokolov (bottom) – bass, backing vocals

O’Hamsters have been together for twelve years and have well over 200 gigs under their belts from playing across Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Belarus. Their previous releases include Alcophilosophy (2011), Kyiv /Dublin /Alcohol (2014)2014 and Wherever We Go (2017) and two EP’s Sassenach, Go On Home (2010) and Kiss My Irish Ass (2015) as well as contributing songs to the compilation albums Ex-USSR Tribute To Dropkick Murphys (2013), see above, and the Worldwide Tribute to The Pogues (2016).

The album begins with ‘Cath Ghleann Molúra’ and the rat-a-tat-rat beat soon explodes into full on accordion led Punk slammer. From the first notes you get the idea of where O’Hamsters are going and its great! The tune is dedicated to the Battle of Glenmalur from 1580, when a united army of Irish clans defeated the English army in the mountains of Wicklow setting the mood for the rest of the album. They have in the past sung mainly in their own language but on ‘Black Sails’, their first video in almost five years, it is also the first time they have sung in English. Dating from five years ago it shows how long the planning for this album has been and tells of the fate of James McGraw aka Captain Flint, renowned pirate from the book Treasure Island and the 2014 television series Black Sails.

“As a kid you dreamed of leaving a port town you’ve grown up in 
And you saw yourself a captain like your dad has always been 
Years later you are smiling, standing firmly on the deck 
Famous storm of seas and oceans sailing under the black flag”

Both the lyrics and the context of the songs and adjoining history is superb and instilled with meaning.  ‘Пісенька про Капітана Бена Лаферті / Captain Ben Lafferty Song’ is a song of two halves kicking off as a mental instrumental before bursting into the story of a brave seaman. Anton on vocals has a voice that rivals Ronnie Drew himself for its gruffness. Ronnie was once described as having a voice “like the sound of coke being crushed under a door” and Anton is not far behind! For a band that rocks so heavily Irish Folk melodies still play an enormous part in everything they do and ‘До Ірландії / To Ireland’  tells of an Irish rebel dying in Brixton Prison who asks of the priest who comes to hear his confession if his soul will have one last journey to Ireland. It’s an unusual song here in that it is quite mellow but filled with symbolism. ‘September’56’ features Eugene Tymchyk, vocalist from Ukrainian bands Septa, The Nietzsche and others. It is no surprise that the war dominates this album and O’Hamsters borrow from the Irish rebel songbook next with a updated Celtic-PUNK version of ‘Mій Армалайт / My Little Armalite’ with a Ukrainian fighter taking on the Russian army with the help of his Armalite rifle. Next up is ‘Rocky Road to Odesa’, a song recorded originally by a O’Hamsters side project. ‘Пагорби Дніпра / Dnipro Hills’ springs along spiritedly almost Ska-ish at times but most definitely catchy as hell at all times in a love song to their home city! Finny McConnell has been a busy man of late popping up on these pages in the last few weeks guesting on the recent Paddy Waggin’ single ‘Life On The Booze’ and then when his band The Mahones released their outstanding album Jameson Street last month. Here he is again guesting on vocals for the next song here, ‘Together As One’. The song is one of the albums highlights and was the second single to come out. The video is a tribute to everyone who has supported O’Hamsters over the years. Former members, bands they have played with, the fans and crew.

“In these difficult times, when an army of barbarians is trying to conquer Ukraine, it is more important than ever for us to be Together As One”

Like us O’Hamsters see the link between football and Celtic-Punk and ‘За Свій Клуб / For Your Club’ is for everyone who fights for their team. Lots of “Oi! Oi!” gang vocals and another standout. This is so bloody catchy!! ‘Пеггі Летермор / Peggie Lettermore’ short but fast tune telling of a man whose life was made a misery by the aforementioned Peggie. The fiddle here is played by ex-O’Hamster Dmytro Danov. Like many European countries many, many people left their homes for an uncertain future in north America and elsewhere. Over a million Americans declare themselves of Ukrainian descent many of whose ancestors arrived escaping from ‘the red terror’ after the events of 1917. My industrial home town in northern England, like many others nearby, has a thriving Ukrainian Centre for example. ‘Наш Дім / Our Home’ is the story of those Ukrainian immigrants who sailed West to start new lives. The curtain comes down on Green Hills To Raging Sea with‘П’яний Скрипаль / Drunken Fiddler’ featuring Anatoliy Khomenko of fellow Ukrainian Celtic-Punk band ShamRocks on fiddle. A uttely superb way to end things witha swirling heavy but gentle (!) Celtic-Punk pint (or fist?) in the air moment. Speaking of nostalgia for youth, friends that have left us and music that is capable of creating utter joy. A time for unity and a time to contemplate what these poor guys are going through at this exact moment in time.

The album was recorded during March 2021 – September 2022 at PystelnukArt Studio, Kyiv. It was mixed and mastered by Dmytro Bastanov and the excellent artwork is from Oleksii Demianiuk. I’ve always loved O’Hamsters partly because of the uncompromising way they refuse to soften their sound and stick to their principals of playing it loud and proud. These are extremely talented musicians and capable of playing Irish-Folk that would make any homegrown band swoon. What these Folk-Punk folk, and the rest of their nation, are going through at the moment we can only imagine but we send our love and best wishes to them and while it may sound like some kind of ‘worthy’ review but this is seriously a contender for album of the year. I guess that’s what recording it for four years does!

(You can stream / download From Green Hills To Raging Sea from Bandcamp)

Buy From Green Hills to Raging Sea  Bandcamp

Contact O’Hamsters  Facebook  Soundcloud  YouTube

I’ll leave the final word to the band themselves

As for our plans – right now most of the plans of most Ukrainians look like this: survive and win. That includes us 🙂 We constantly ask for support for our army, which gives us the opportunity to make music. You can do this following the links below

https://savelife.in.ua/en/donate-en/ 

https://prytulafoundation.org/en/home/support_page 

https://linktr.ee/hmvua 

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One thought on “ALBUM REVIEW: O’HAMSTERS – From Green Hills To Raging Sea (2022)

  1. O'Hamsters December 17, 2022 at 8:29 am Reply

    We’re enormously grateful, outstanding review!

    P. S. Just one thing we want to say – we don’t have any “friendship” with russian bands or musicians and won’t have it ’cause our position is simple: every russian is to blame.

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