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Fire + Ice - Birdking

Following the release of Runa, Ian Read's masterpiece for the Rune-Gild, Birdking enlisted an enviable list of collaborators for Fire + Ice's most varied and musically alluring release. Immersed in the magic and myth of the Northern mysteries, Birdking wrapped the erudite and poetic lyricism of Ian Read with compositions by Joe Budenholzer of Backworld, Michael Cashmore of Nature and Organisation / Current 93, Douglas P. of Death In June, aided by Michael Moynihan and Annabel Lee of Blood Axis, alongside contributions from Ostara's Richard Leviathan and others.

Amidst the ringing guitars, hand percussion and violin of 'Dragons In The Sunset', the twinned voices of Ian Read and Joe Budenholzer tap into the realm of tradition. It tells not so much of a calling but of an awakening of a ancestral need. Steeped in the mythology of the Valkyries, skald and Odin it pretty much defines Birdking and, to that end, Fire + Ice itself. 'Drighten's Hall' brings in the acoustic strum of Michael Fallson, with Mee supplying violin, whistle and backing vocals. It's a powerful track, with the worldly-wise advise of Ian Read as he sings:

"Sing proud skald of elder times, Of deeds by hero and foe;
Earn your keep, O gifted skald,
For tomorrow your words may slow."

Douglas P. lends his quicktime strum to 'Take My Hand', amidst simple piano notes and fairly incongruous pan-pipes. Also noteworthy is 'Lady of the Vanir', written and sung by Alice Karlsdottir. Its overtly sensual lyric delivered in a lilting Scottish traditional folk voice, beautifully complemented by the acoustic guitar playing of Ostara's Richard Leviathan. It's a fantastic bridge between traditional folk ballads and the folk music typified by the acts once referred to as 'apocalyptic folk'.

The graceful compositions of Michael Cashmore feature heavily on Birdking. His customary majestic guitar stylings shadowing the melody of Ian Read's voice on the title track, and on 'Gaze of the Proud'. 'Birdking' revolves around gentle guitar picking swelling into moving passages of keyboards, melodica and tremulous guitar, slipping away in a haze of piano chords. 'Gaze of the Proud' is a dreamy lament, with Ian Read's warm hushed tones, that in the last verse captures a full accompaniment of piano and bells. 'My Brother' recalls the unadorned singing of the type that Ian Read performed on Current 93's Swastikas For Noddy, Death In June's Brown Book and numerous times during his stint as a member of Sol Invictus. Here though it's underpinned by Michael Cashmore on a church organ, creating grand hymn-like structures for Ian Read's emotive words of kinship and honour.

The repetitious guitar pluck of Joe Budenholzer, and the tempered hand percussion of Michael Moynihan forms the basis for the stern voice and weaving violin score of 'Greyhead'. It steps away from the folk leanings offering a bleak counterpoint when compared to 'Where Have They Gone?' With vivid lyrics conjuring up the landscape of old England and the absence of tradition. It's evidence of the sacred work that Ian Read never tires of exploring through his work with the Rune-Gild and his editorial internship of the publication Runa.

Birdking originally appeared in 2000 and if you missed out you should seek out this Trumpets of Doom vinyl reissue, on milky white vinyl in a foil blocked sleeve in an edition of 400 copies. Those versed in the Northern Mysteries will find much to cherish here. For the uninitiated Birdking represents an exemplary musical exploration of the interests and obsessions of Ian Read, with a cast of collaborators you're unlikely to find together again on one release. Certainly recommended to those who missed this first time around, and wish to acquaint themselves with the vision of Ian Read. For more information go to