Some bands record an album almost every year; others take the time to come up with an album that was really worth waiting for. That's certainly the case with the latest album of the British band Leafblade, founded in 2003 by singer and guitarist Sean Jude and Daniel Cavanagh (Anathema). On their debut Beyond, Beyond (2006) the band played almost pure acoustic folk and Celtic music with a nice melancholic touch. Now seven years later a successor called The Kiss Of Spirit And Flesh sees the light of day, released by the ever expanding Kscope label. On this second album Kevin Murphy, the former bassist of Valle Crusis, returned and Anathema's drummer Daniel Cardoso joined the band. Compared to their debut the music developed from a semi-acoustic sound towards a more progressive style, but the atmosphere still remains relaxed and intense; it only shifted a bit more in the direction of Anathema.
Bethlehem, the opening piece of the album, immediately shows its intentions. The acoustic guitars and the excellent vocals directly set the atmosphere; a soft orchestration in the background intensifies it and when the guitars change to electric about halfway the song becomes only better. What makes this piece so special is the fact that the vocals remain relaxed and soft, while the music increases power and intensity. Sean Jude's voice is the glue that binds these moods together. The Hollow Hills starts acoustically with a bass that slowly gains power, then changing to a soundscape kind of section and to the repeating of the opening parts. Sunset Hypnos is not quite as powerful as the previous songs, but its tension is similar: the combination of the acoustic guitar and the soft electric guitar sounds in the background perfectly fit the laid-back voice. The short almost instrumental interlude Fuchsia perfectly proves that acoustic guitars can create a unique atmosphere.
Oak Machine opens with a kind of folky close harmony singing on top of an acoustic guitar. This really gave me shivers down my spine and when the heavy guitar joins in this piece clearly improves. The soft acoustic guitar sound remains in the background and after this heavy outburst the song slightly increases tempo, but after the second outburst it settles down and a nice acoustic solo part takes this song to a heavy climax. Thirteen shows again the vocal qualities of Sean Jude. I really like his strong though relaxed way of singing. Thirteen contains more electric guitars than the previous songs, although the middle section remains acoustic which creates a special mood. Beneath A Woodland Moon sounds a bit folky because of the Celtic influences in Jude's vocals. This song reminds me of Leafblade's debut; compared to the other compositions, it proves how they have evolved. The final song is the eleven-minute piece Portrait, which starts soft and acoustic and builds up gently to a melancholic mid-tempo electric piece, but towards the end the acoustic guitars return.
On The Kiss Of Spirit And Flesh the music of Leafblade slightly changed from an acoustic to a more electric driven band, although the acoustic sounds are still dominant. To me the addition of the electric instruments gave the band a boost and somehow the new sound better suits the bands on the Kscope label. The Kiss Of Spirit And Flesh is a great, intense and melancholic album with emotional vocals and dynamic guitars.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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