Magna Carta Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


I've always known of Tempest. As one of the leading bands in the movement to fuse rock and traditional Celtic/European styles of music, they show up a lot in the CD collection of pagan and SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, for the unenlightened) friends of mine. I even have a couple of Tempest discs myself. But I'll be honest; they've never made as much of an impact on me as other Celt-fusion artists like Rawlins Cross or Great Big Sea. For one reason or another, I didn't consider myself a Tempest fan.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Until now.

Because let me tell you, children, Tempest has put together one heck of a tasty piece of music here. Balance is tight, powerful, and fast-paced, an in-your-face who's-your-daddy twelve tracks of Celtic fusion that'll remove paint. This CD should be marked "DANGER: Contains Serious Grooves. Can Cause Jigging And Moshing In The Same Movement." Lead singer Lief Sorbye says it best: "My first love is traditional music...{but} I feel in order for it to survive it has to be updated.."

Updated indeed. For the first time on this CD, Tempest has juggled the demands of traditional music with the power and majesty of rock and roll perfectly. It's no wonder the album is called Balance.

The musicianship and production are excellent. Fiddle player Jim "Hurricane" Hurley lights his strings on fire on a regular basis, guitarist Todd Evans plays some pretty complex guitar licks, and the rest of the band storms on behind them, on key and in time, sort of the musical equivalent of a Viking bad hitting the east coast of Scotland and looking for the nearest whiskey distillery. Tempest is not terribly subtle, though "Between Us" is surprisingly gentle; this is music for your ceili, not for your cotillion. (Thank the gods.)

Tracks that are worth special mention include the incredible "Dance Of The Sand Witches", "Battle Mountain Breakdown", the traditional tunes "Villemann" and "Captain Ward", and in a contender for Oddest Cover Of The Year, a brooding, intense version of Phil Ochs' anti-capital punishment "Iron Lady". (Sorbye's half-wistful, half-snarling delivery of the final line of Ochs' vicious lyrics is worth the price of the CD alone.)

Finally, Tempest has struck a Balance they can be pleased with, proud of, and that both keeps traditional music alive and rocks out like no one's business. This is easily one of the best CDs of the year.

Rating: A

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© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Magna Carta Records, and is used for informational purposes only.