The Future Kings of England – “Who Is This Who Is Coming?” (Backwater Records 2012, OLKCD21)

Despite loving their first two albums, I can’t say I was as enamoured by The Future Kings of England’s third release, The Vanishing Point. Not sure why, but it just didn’t grab me. So it was with mild trepidation that I approached their latest disc, Who Is This Who Is Coming? But I was more than pleasantly surprised when listening to it; I was blown away by this terrific album.

Based on a creepy 1904 ghost story by M. R. James entitled “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad”, Who Is This Who Is Coming? is a richly evocative tapestry of English folk balladry, ambient music, sound effects and of course, great progressive rock. Divided into parts, but intended to be listened to as one whole piece, the mostly instrumental album begins with a cheerful little folk melody set to the chirping of birds. However, it is quickly overwhelmed by the chugging roar and whistle of a rushing train as the band breaks into The Globe Inn, with its stately organ and intricate guitar melodies counterbalanced by ghostly passages of spooky wailing. Further, amidst the sounds of crickets and gentle night winds, soft acoustic guitar weaves a mesmerizing pattern in Finding the Whistle. The Watcher Part 1, one of two vocal tracks on the album is a poignant English folk ballad which leads the listener down the foggy path into the deeply ambient, swirling, sometimes disturbing textures of the nearly 10-minute long title track. This one’s a real tour-de-force as it whirls and spirals. It builds a slow and creeping tension till it all finally explodes with the shattering rock of Convinced Disbeliever. The Watcher Part 2 is hardly a reprise of Part 1, delving as it does into droning, psychedelic folk reminiscent of The Incredible String Band. What follows is another 10-minute epic, The Face of Crumpled Linen, this one covering many moods as it builds to a shattering revelation, before the denouement of Spectacle of a Scarecrow, filled with haunted memories and dreams.

The Future Kings of England capture the glory days of early 70’s progressive rock, but they manage to take it in entirely new, fresh and original directions. Within this context, Who Is This Who Is Coming? is a truly brilliant evocation of the M. R. James story, not only bringing the story to life, but bringing the landscape and folklore of the Suffolk region of England to life as well. This one is highly recommended!

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Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald

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