Curse of the Bandshee

A Tough Call

Curse of the Bandshee came out last year without all that much fanfare. I mean, they are just a little band from Kentucky, and the decision to release a first EP in December seems like a tough call to make. All of us are focused on wrapping up the year, what were our favorite albums, what do we need to be ready for in January? There are two dates that I never recommend a band release on: 4/20 and right around Christmas. It’s too easy for a great band to go unnoticed!

Anyway, Bandshee did get the attention of Joop over at Stonerhive. His short review NAILED it right out the gate, which you can read here. I distinctly remember listening to the album and his recommendation, and I had a similar reaction way back nine months ago.

A Tough Sub-Genre

There are a few things working against a band like Bandshee. I think the first thing any casual listener is gonna notice is the use of flute throughout the recording. This immediately brings up comparisons to Jethro Tull and Blood Ceremony, two of the giants in many ways. It takes massive stones to attempt to assert your band into that niche.

Second, Joop was also right about the vocals from Romana Bereneth, which are a force to be reckoned with. Almost to the point that they work against the band. Almost, that is…

Third, they’re asserting themselves into a very crowded space in the heavy underground. Retro, proto, throwback bands are multiplying faster than anyone can reasonably keep track of. A lot of that space has a lot of sameness going on. It’s not bad thing, but it’s hard to make a name for a band when…there are so many others, and they’re all at least pretty good with some being fantastic.

On the Other Hand…it’s Curse of the Bandshee

The thing is, for all the factors that might weigh against their chances of success, Bandshee have some compelling counter-arguments.

First of all, the flute-playing from Beverly Reed is fantastic! Once I got past the Tull/Ceremony vibe of it all, it started to lure me deeper into the music in ways I didn’t expect. Beverly also has a potent weapon in her arsenal: her saxophone. My only complaint is how sparsely it’s used. But when she whips it out, it’s with bad intentions, and in the best possible way.

Secondly, the percussion work is nuanced in a way that, frankly, reminds me of Michale Giles from King Crimson’s first album. There’s just something about a drummer who deftly works the whole kit that can really make for deep, repeated listens. Nick Beach brings that kind of touch, along with power when it’s needed.

Bassist Z Zhou is flipping outstanding. She really shines on Diamonds in Our Prime, which begins with the most Tull-sounding intro on the album and then thankfully dissolves in a very un-Tull-like direction. The bass isn’t prominent, but it is clear and distinct with a bit of flourish when needed.

But it’s guitarist Stephen K. Phillips who really blows my mind. He’s like a GMO hybrid of Martin Barre from Tull, Eric Bloom from Blue Oyster Cult, and Billy Zoom from X. He makes everything sound effortless and simple, but underneath it all he’s kicking some serious ass with a major assist from Romana.

The Only True Measure of an Album

I freely admit I resisted the charms of the Bandshee at first. But the cleverness of the name kept tugging at me, along with vocal performances. After a few months, I noticed it’s an album I keep returning to weekly. Maybe a stray melody from Forgotten Daughter or a vicious riff buried deep in Curse of the Bandshee would float in my mind. In the end, I’ve gone back to this ten times more than Blood Ceremony’s The Old Ways Remain, which is a highly rated and regarded album.

But Bandshee throws so much into the songs and performances that it’s hard to ignore. There are nooks and crannies throughout Curse of the Bandshee that compel me to keep going back, allowing me to discover even more to like about it.

I think the true and only measure of an album is how often I return to it a few months or even years later. Curse of the Bandshee is far from perfect, but I also think that’s where its greatness lies. I can only imagine how good a follow-up is going to be. Meanwhile, I keep going back to it.

Working It

In the meantime, Bandshee is seriously working their butts off. They have a solid social media presence, share pics from their gigs, and never miss an opportunity to let us know how much fun they’re having.

Looking at the Bandshee Facebook page, it seems they’ve had some lineup changes. They’re also laying down new tracks and getting ready for their next big adventure. $5 for the EP is a fair price on Bandcamp, and they also have other merch. I would certainly have shelled out some coin for a shirt, but they don’t have XXXL available (Bands: a lot of dudes at your shows are big dudes)!

Shirt or not, this is one of the bands I’ll follow closely. They write great songs, perform them with bombastic subtlety, and are doing all the right things to promote the band. Bandshee is definitely a band worth supporting!

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