When we saw a collaboration was going to be released between Richard Dawson and Finnish metal band Circle the idea just seemed to make so much sense. Dawson’s often wild acoustic guitar playing and tendency to strain his vocal chords to within an inch of their life seems the perfect accompaniment to a metal band. What was rather unexpected, despite Circle’s known tendency to straddle genres, is that this feels somewhat more like they have fit themselves into Dawson’s world a little more than the other way around. This is certainly the case for the first half of the album. I was expecting big riffs, but this doesn’t often become totally full on.
“Cooksonia” opens the album with a similar sense of foreboding to 2020’s “Civil Servant” only with less skronk.
For the most part Henki surprisingly smooths out the brutally rough edges evident in Dawson’s 2020 and Peasant albums. It retains the chamber folky melodies and chord structures. That’s not to say it loses any excitement. Circle certainly add new elements. There’s super tight drumming and twinkling pianos are skattered throughout. Tracks regularly drift into soft abstraction. “Silphium”, in particular, features a lengthy free jazz breakdown before pulling back into shape.
“Methuselah” is somewhat an exception to the previously set standard by the time it arrives.
It begins on a promisingly chunky and choppy muted riff before taking us on a journey through power chugging psych rock and Sonic Youth-esque noodling, before coming full circle (pun slightly intended). This marks somewhat a turning point on the record, with “Lily” also having a wilder edge to it. It sees the band incorporate almost operatic backing vocals. There are gnarled guitar solos as well as Dawson’s unbelievable falsetto, which really lets rip.
Everything comes to a head on “Pitcher”; a manic, bombastic closer that shifts from aggressive riffing to a sort of noodly country funk jam by way of Neil Young’s Trans. You can imagine this absolutely ripping through the fourth wall it in a live setting. It even makes time for a crazed almost Freddie Mercury-esque vocal display that one can only assume is sung in Finnish.
It’s another exciting release from one of the UK’s most prolific and unique musicians. A collaboration that surprises in its subtlety and wide ranging explorations.
‘Henki’ is out now via Domino
Listen to ‘Henki’ here: