Review: A Cunning Man – Practical Applications of Theurgy (Scotland, 2017)

Two are the things that come to mind -mine, at least- as you hit play on A Cunning Man’s debut EP. The first one is that Practical Applications of Theurgy isn’t so good-sounding as it should be. The second one, on the other hand, is that the content of this brief work is excellent. And finally, we have one album which totally centres is forces on the vocal. But, first …

A Cunning Man is Ged Cartwright’s solo project. Based in Scotland -but I couldn’t even mention this, you would have got it by listening to this man’s singing after all- Ged composed, played and mixed everything by himself. A little help came only from Gemma McCabe who added some vocals and spoken word. As I previously mentioned, this workflow centralisation did bring to a not top-notch production. The drums get mudded out and let in the back seats while guitars are barely perceptible. That’s a shame because the composition work has been done perfectly, meticulously and -most of all- originally. It’s hard to tell which genre of music this is, still we may assert, pretty confidentially, that we are dealing with metal indeed.

Three tunes compose Practical Applications of Theurgy. And, besides the fact we have only 14 minutes shy of music to deal with, we also understand that there’s a lot of stuff to absorb. The change of music style always lies in wait. One moment we clearly hear a black metal-like blast-beat and then there’s a gentle, synth-based kind of ballad. And while all the lyrics have to do with occult themes we can’t really say the same for the atmospheres of the songs. Not to mention, that even the “verses” are definitely cryptic and hard to be deciphered, but nonetheless captivating.

There are somethings in this world which transcend statement,
Pure instinct,
Our words can move but they’ll only take us just so far.
So far.

 But now, let’s come to the very sweet spot of this small collection. In fact I wanted to keep this as a good closure: …drum roll please… Vocals. A Cunning Man’s debut is definitely about vocals, singing and words. It’s about time I haven’t heard a metal album giving and paying so much importance to this. Usually they’re all about sharp guitar riffs and pounding drums. Though isn’t not today’s case. Luckily.

Ged Cartwright, on the other hand, owns a terrific talent for singing. All his lines are neatly composed and flawlessly played. Also his vocal range is admirable. Likewise the incredible emotions he can let out through his very own vocal chords. Oh, and yeah, he always sings in clean vocal. No grunt, growl, pig squeal, scream or any of this shit here!
Especially, you will be able to enjoy all of that in the third and last track of the album, Juratus & The Sulfur Psalm. It is the odd one. With its relaxed yet glorious air and that modern-bent type of synths it makes the best tune out of here. The inclusion of few woman spoken word verses and some lovely solutions on the main vocals are just a plus.

Wrapping up -already, but I wish I could go for pages with this new exciting discovery- this disc is totally suggested by me. I wish it could have better production. But if it had I didn’t know what I could point out then. If you love metal with good, clear singing and meaningful lyrics this one’s for you. If you like Scotland, its language and its splendid accent this one’s definitely for you, boy!

Label: Self-Released
Websites: Facebook | Bandcamp
Release Date: 1st January 2017

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About Matteo "Teo" Gruppi 120 Articles
TSL co-founder, co-owner, editor, CEO, reviewer, interviewer and writer. Basically I do a lot of stuff and I can’t get anything done well. I was born in 1991 and started loving music since 1981. Got my very first band in high school and now I play as a lonely dumbass in 3 projects: Chiral, Il Vuoto and |||. I listen to every kind of music as long as it is good and intense. Favourite genres include: everything as long as it’s good! (but also folk, black metal, 70-80’s rock and post-rock).

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