Review || The Rumjacks - "Hestia"

The Rumjacks have returned with a brand new album titled "Hestia", out March 12 via ABC Records. It comes three years after the acclaimed "Saints Preserve Us" and also features a new presence, singer Mike Rivkees.

With 14 tracks, at first I was a little worried the album could be overwhelming. After the first spin, I realized I couldn't be more wrong. "Hestia" is a very well-rounded album that flows really nicely and is practically what you would expect from The Rumjacks at this point in their career. And while I'm not an authority in folk genres in any way, I feel that I'm quite familiar with this band to acknowledge progress. The first thing that I noticed -and I need to stress here that I'm not comparing singers- is Mike's voice. I really like his tone and projection; his middle register, where he appears to be more comfortable in, is particularly warm but he's not shy when it comes to showcasing his impressive vocal range. His use of distortion in the vocals never gets over the top and at times I must admit that he reminds me of Greg Attonito of The Bouncing Souls (take "Hestia" and "Goodnight And Make Mends" for example). 

Another thing I appeciate with this album is the unpredictability of the rhythms and I have a feeling that not all the tracks were products fo the same writing sessions. While some songs take a more street punk approach ("Naysayers", "Through These Iron Sights"), others sneakily blend in ska/reggae patterns ("Wonderust") like we saw on the previous album, and then return to the trademark character of The Rumjacks. Furthermore, I can easily see the more energetic songs ("Sainted Millions") finding their way into the setlist once shows come back and have the dynamic to make people go crazy. These songs are complemented with more downtempo tracks ("The Rhythm Of Her Name") which still have a vivid character and, while they add a beautiful variety, not once do they feel dull or out of place. Finally, I really like how the otherwise unusual choice of song "Lizzie Borden" ends with the renown nursery rhyme ("Lizzie Borden took an axe/And gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done/She gave her father forty-one"), a choice that is eerie on its own but the staccato vocal style somehow ends up sounding more spine-chilling and menacing when juxtaposed with the basslines that underpin it.

If I had to pick favorites, those would be "Naysayers", the title track, "Rhythm Of Her Name", "Light In My Shadow" and of course "Goodnight And Make Mends".

Overall, "Hestia" is a very pleasant and memorable album. It continues the tradition of the band while adding a certain creative tone in a genre that could be accused of low artistic innovation. The Rumjacks have overcome a hardship that could have broken other acts and didn't seem to affect or alienate their fanbase. Recruiting Mike Rivkees is a bet that paid off for the band; he added an artistic quality and kicked off the new era for The Rumjacks in the best way possible.

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