Metheglin – Raining In Paradise

Album Review | Pipe Dream | Review by Allan Wilkinson | Stars: 3/5

On first hearing Raining in Paradise, it’s quite possible to imagine you have stumbled upon Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds for the Middle Ages, with its anthemic theme and a sort of David Hemmings’ spoken coda, albeit in ye olde merrie Englishe this time.  A few tracks later and the modern world has caught up with dub drum and bass and a rich variety of styles and influences being employed, a sort of Imagined Medieval Village if you will.  In essence, Methaglin are Peter Coleman on English border pipes and Clare Hines on hurdy-gurdy, whose very choice of instruments in the wrong, or let’s say less experienced hands, could have all and sundry running in to put the cat out of its misery.  In these hands though, it is a delightful sound.  Mike Gulston makes up the essential trio on guitar and octave mandola, with a handful of other invited musicians to help out.  “Five Wits” opens what could be considered a concept album, evoking the age of early Seventies Prog experimentation reminiscent of the Third Ear Band, but with a much more accessible sense of melody.  The aforementioned spoken part is actually Shakespeare’s Sonnet 141 and because there are five wits (common sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation and memory) it might as well be in 5/4 time ala Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.  Pete ‘Peewee’ Coleman is no stranger to the mixing desk and his production credits cover such a diverse range as to include everything from Echo and the Bunnymen and The Lightning Seeds to AC/DC and Napalm Death.  Metheglin is Pete’s baby and attempts to bring something completely new to the listener.  Experimental at its core, Raining in Paradise covers a whole range of styles and themes, with unexpected surprises around every corner.  On “Woodsmoke” for instance, we are very much into a trance like medieval groove when what could quite easily be a Crosby Stills and Nash sample comes through loud and clear bringing a delightful sense of déjà vu to those of us whose memory is still intact.  It’s the various juxtapositions of varying styles that keeps us interested and attentive, and what separates this from what could easily have been considered film soundtrack music.  Not that there’s anything wrong with film scores.  What may escape the two left footed amongst us though is that most of the pieces on this album are actually dance tunes.  If it’s not a standard waltz, and in the case of the opening track a five time waltz, then it’s likely to be a schottische or a mazurka, as in the case of “Grace” which features not only the hurdy-gurdy but the nyckelharpa as well, which I am reliably informed is a little bit like a hurdy-gurdy but with a bow, which I assume is what a fiddler uses and not what goes on top of pressies.  I like Raining in Paradise.  It’s refreshing, experimental, engaging and at the same time easy on the ear.  Once again an unexpected album comes along to brighten my northern sky.