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Richard Dawson & Circle – Henki

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“Henki”, released November 26th, is the newest album by Richard Dawson and Circle. “Henki” roughly means “spirit” in Finnish, and each track is named after a plant. This collaboration between the troubadour and Finnish metal group creates a beautiful melding of experimental rock, folk, and metal.

The first track, “Cooksonia,” is named after the Silurian plant that changed the biosphere and paved the way for animal life. Similarly, this song sets the tone for the rest of the album. Circle keeps the background melancholic and simple, allowing Dawson’s melodious vocals to shine through. Like many tracks on the album, there are two sections; The first emphasizing Dawson’s continued strength in folk music, while the driving second section exhibits Circle’s mastery of progressive rock and metal.

Another track that follows this structure is “Methuselah,” named after the oldest tree still in existence. The song starts ominously with a steady bass line and hushed vocals that build to a fiery, in-your-face climax before returning to the opening theme. Dawson showcases his use of falsetto, while Lehtisalo (bass) and Leppänen’s (drums) dynamic performance controls the fluctuating momentum. Rättö’s (keys) effects combined with bright guitar solos call back to early metal of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Despite this complexity, the mix is incredibly balanced, never feeling busy or too dense.

Photo credit: Antti Uusimäki

The first release from this album was “Lily,” and it’s no wonder why. It’s generally relaxed compared to the rest of the album, and the vocal support of Lehtisalo, Rättö, and Westerlund encourage the listener to sing along to the foreboding hook, “Black lights looming in the distance.” These haunting lyrics were inspired by Dawson’s mother’s visions while working as a nurse in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Richard Dawson and Circle have also released a Spotify playlist named “The Making of Henki,” which gives insight into the artists’ influences for the new album. Artists such as Judas Priest, Alice Donut, and Roxy Music shed light on how heavy bass, careful dissonances, organ effects, and other elements are incorporated to create a unique hypno-folk-metal experience.

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