Having originally hailed from North Wales and across Yorkshire The Trials of Cato are an astounding and almost magical folk group who fresh from having spent a year in Lebanon returned to their homeland ablaze with fresh ideas and carefully honed talents. The result of this was all of the material they needed to form their official debut album Hide & Hair.
Hide & Hair is a stunning album that is filled with a series of carefully crafted and calculated measurements that gently taper the edges of traditional folk music and the more contemporary indie folk of modern times. Opening their album with the dextrous and melodious instrumental Difyrrwch, The Trials of Cato immediately display precisely everything that they are capable of. Difyrrwch is one of the most peaceful and luxurious melodies in recent years and as it serenades and envelops you it’s impossible not to get washed away in their tranquil happiness. It’s the perfect opening to an album that is every bit as enlivening as it is beautiful.
The music that the band produces is an invigorating and enriching experience. Remarkable and elaborate tunes are brought to life through the exclusive use of a variety of string instruments with which the band enrapture their audience. With guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and banjo melodies all jostling and rivalling one another to make the most of its own unique and inimitable sound the result should be an indescribable cacophony of sound but instead the result is song after song with raw, striking power that seems to roar and crackle like forest flames as their powerful sound absorbs everything in their path. Their refreshing powerhouse melodies draw influences from across the seas as with song Gawain which seems to intertwine their virulent and contemporary folk melodies with Eastern influences.
It’s not just musical prowess that The Trials of Cato possess however but a rich and harmonious vocal range that adds a rich, emotive layer to their music. Songs such as Gloria are lead by a deep and powerfully brazen vocal the brims with passion, not dissimilar from the likes of Great Big Sea or Rawlins Cross. Songs such as Haf however are lead by a softer, more subtle and almost more emotional vocal style. In Haf in particular the band also lapse into the traditional Welsh language and despite my lack of knowledge as to the content itself the song was still something of a truly remarkable beauty to hear.
The Trials of Cato have been working their magic on the folk scene for a few years now and to make it to the end of 2018 before releasing their official debut album seems strange. However as you are absorbed by the majesty that is Hide & Hair it becomes abundantly clear that there simply couldn’t be any other alternative for this band. Whether it took a year or a decade, it feels as though the result would have been the same version of Hide & Hair. It is an album of almost indescribable joy and beauty, the perfect album to sing you into winter and keep you warm in the long, dark nights.
DEBUT ALBUM HIDE AND HAIR RELEASED NOV 9th
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Review by Joe Knipe