By Kenny McMurtrie
The Furious Sound is album number two from the Edinburgh-based group The Douglas Firs and straight from the off you’ll realise the title’s a misnomer. Debut Happy As A Windless Flag hardly assaulted the eardrums like Slayer in their heyday when released last year but these 13 new tracks would barely register on one of those decibel reader thingys.
This time around they’ve also embraced a concept, or at least a theme, in that the work is intended as a (loose) record or commemoration of the East Lothian witch trials of 1590. To that end they’ve recorded a number of the songs in churches, castle dungeons and at outdoor sites either directly linked to the trials or to the practicing of witchcraft in the general area of the alleged hocus-pocus.
As with other bands who’ve stepped outside of their own place in time to tackle an era that pre-dates the rock ‘n’ roll one, their sound has matured to be equal to the task of memorialising the events in question. Unfortunately this makes for an almost complete lack of hooks or musical fireworks. Gigs for this material will end up being particularly low key and I’d not be surprised to see the use of a filmed backdrop throughout, much like one would expect if going to see British Sea Power perform Man of Aran or the like.
The first song to raise its head above the rim and make you pay proper attention is number five, ‘Backroads’. Disappointingly, after a bright start, it passes away as just drumming for the final minute or so. Elsewhere images of cowl clad figures celebrating black mass or talking round cauldrons to prospective murderous kings of Scotland are evoked with tolling bell-esque tracks (‘Black Forest’) or murmurs of possible incantations (‘Devils’, ‘Vastations’).
Within ‘Fortress’ there are distinct jazz elements being flirted with and repeated listening definitely brings out the work’s deeper layers. However, it remains to be seen whether this is something the group felt they had to get out of their systems before pursuing the more straightforward path of the first album once more, or if it is a challenging change of tack (for both them and their audience) that they plan to pursue further.