If you like the melodramatic indie rock of I Like Trains or Fireworks Night, you’ll love Shady Bard. True, the constantly brooding groan of Lawrence Becko takes a little getting used to, but no more than David Martin and James Leslie for those comparator artists, and his voice is offset by some excellent accompaniment and Jasmin Hollingum’s sympathetic vocal backing.
Their second album is inspired by natural disasters and forest fires that have afflicted Greece, where Becko grew up. 'Night Song' invites you to "abandon your hopes and drown in your fears tonight/ and everything here will die" but the air of doom is almost dissipated by a powerfully stirring chorus. That seems to be the template for the album; melody and melancholy waltz hand in hand in stately balance; death and loss are everywhere but rousing strings, strident brass and Sufjan-esque choral arrangements lift songs from despair, while the dark ‘Volcano!’ concludes in richly symphonic post-rock. The more I hear it the more I like it, the way his lyrics evoke darkness and death but the band’s playing creates light and life. And the opening comparisons might have been a touch misleading; while those bands have composed some fine songs, I don’t think they’ve yet produced such a consistently good piece that will live as long in the memory as Trials.