The Builders & the Butchers – Salvation is a Deep Dark Well

Salvation is a Deep Dark Well

The Builders’ debut is still one of the most loved records in our house.  I love it, Mrs. Toad loves it and everyone we play it to loves it.  So, erm, where the hell does a band go from there?

Well, to be frank, I don’t like this as much as their first record, but then that was never going to happen.  But after listening to it plenty of times through now, I do still think it’s an excellent album.  The Builders & the Butchers started off thinking of themselves as a funeral band, and those themes are all over their songs – Down in This Hole, Vampire Lake, Devil Town, you get the picture.

The music matches this kind of perverted folk apocalyptica, with the rabid funeral march thumping of dual drummers, mandolin and banjo played as if they were percussion instruments, and, finally, waves of brass and strings bringing swelling grandeur to add the icing to the cake.  It’s big, yet ramshackle and unbalanced enough to feel like a three-wheeled cart runaway down a hill, just waiting to veer tragically off course and smash into a million pieces.

So where does the album fall slightly short of its predecessor?  Well there are a couple of things I would point out.  Firstly, there are very few changes of pace on this record to match the slow-clap, oddly jolly funeral march of Down to the Gallows and others, like The Night Parts 1 & 2, from their debut.  The Wind Has Come is a brilliant exception, but a bit more of this kind of shift of atmosphere would perhaps have been a good thing.

Secondly, while there’s energy, there isn’t as much venom as before.  Bottom of the Lake and Spanish Death Song brim with so much overflowing rage that you get the impression the band performed them whilst chained up in a basement just to keep the public safe.  There are songs on this which have a similar air to them, but the recording hasn’t quite captured that reckless fury which made the previous album so intoxicating.

Anyhow, nit-picking whingeing aside, this is still a fucking great album.  They aren’t exactly a folk band as such, but I’m not sure how else you would describe them.  And they could blow the fucking wigs off almost any folk-related band I could name – in fact the only group I can think to compare them to, in terms of hell-for-leather excitement, would be the Pogues.  And there are few higher accolades than that, in my view.

The Builders & the Butchers – Barcelona

The Builders & the Butchers – The Wind Has Come

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