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Reveal Records REVEAL045CD 

Who says Scotland can't play the 11 man game? I'd put this team up against anyone in the world, especially as the line-up is unchanged from their winning Origins CD. The members of Treacherous Orchestra include Kevin O'Neill, John Somerville, Innes Watson, Ross Ainslie, Adam Sutherland, Eamonn Coyne and Ali Hutton, all with enviable reputations. Uniting them is a passion for the music, a freshness of approach and a prodigious technical ability. There's also the musical glue provided by Duncan Lyall, Barry Reid, Martin O'Neill and Fraser Stone on bass, guitars and drums. Grind shows other similarities to the previous Treacherous album too: it's nine tracks long, it's full of riffs and licks and loops and motets, it's never properly explained in the sleevenotes and, of course, it's pure dead brilliant.

But seriously, here we have 50 minutes of musical creativity, as good as it gets, every piece different, every minute carefully choreographed. There is a unifying theme: the smith's craft, the heat, the grime, the sweat and violence, the ugly side of crafting a finished article. This whole package - text, graphics, music - has a post-industrial feel to it, a sophisticated society collapsing back to its ancient roots, sort of Braveheart meets Mad Max and realises they're both Mel Gibson. The pastoral themes of The Long Count give way to more frenzied sounds, then the wailing and thumping of Masters. The bright shimmering melodies of Halcyon Daze and Hounds are both underpinned by a dark power (no - not the banjo) as the meaty modern rhythm section threatens to overpower the pipes and whistles. There's a startlingly sweet top line on Banger, but the bass bites back, and The Sly One becomes a deadly duel between cool grass and hot metal as the fiddle and banjo struggle to break free from the thundering chords and relentless beat of the back line.

At least, that's one interpretation. There are others. Certainly the hypnotic pibroch mood of the title track and the gentle ripples of the final Numbers number represent a more relaxed state, a calm before the ultimate sonic attack. If you're already a fan of this outfit, you'll be delighted with this CD. If you're not, you really should give Grind a listen, because with this release Treacherous Orchestra has succeeded in forging another link in those flexible chains between traditional and contemporary music. It ain't pretty, but it's solid gold.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 105 of The Living Tradition magazine.