Named after the witty fool (“better a witty fool than a foolish wit”) from Shakespeare’s evergreen ‘Twelfth Night’, Feste are every bit as intelligent as their namesake and, on ‘first folio’, the band deliver a smart, raucous set of twelve songs (split neatly into six song acts) that draw equally from the twin worlds of blues and classic rock, and which engage the listener utterly from the start.
Opening song ‘Hollywoodland’ sets out the band’s stall perfectly. Rich, southern blues-infused hard rock with an American edge, the guitars surge with real force and power, whilst vocalist Tony Torrico has a hard-edged vocal style that struts and swaggers across the musical backdrop laid down by Feste’s four musicians. The song speaks of disillusion from an early age (“no one told me Santa clause wasn’t real”) and a desire to return to the titular location to indulge in a life of illusion and fantasy. ‘The bad man’ is rooted in the blues, but kicks with the mean-spirited fury of ‘Appetite’-era G’n’R, Charlie Magdaleno’s guitar grinding up against the rhythm section of Kurtis Keber (bass) and Carlos Macias (drums) with white-hot precision. ‘Sixty/Sixty Inn’ takes Jack White’s unreconstructed love of classic rock and throws it in a blender with Audioslave and Bob Dylan for a song that is possessed of an almighty groove that slithers out of the speakers with the sort of oily grace that Metallica spent ‘load’ and ‘reload’ trying to perfect. ‘Satisfaction street’ is, in contrast, pure blues pastiche with a slinky bass line throbbing salaciously at its heart. ‘Come away death’ is the band’s first reflective number, and it is a rich, warm piece of work referencing Shakespeare (it is one of two direct lyrical lifts found on the album) and awash with gentle strings and acoustic guitar work that seems a million miles away from the blazing fury of the other songs on offer. ‘Annie’, in contrast, is a bluesy number with Mark Mccombs’ atmospheric mandolin work adding a deft shimmer to the music which is both unexpected and welcome. It is an imaginative touch which, whilst relatively simple, adds extra depth to the band’s compositions and marks them out as a group of musicians ever keen to engage with the unusual.
Act two opens with ‘feathers + Wax’, a song that builds up over a rumbling beat before finally exploding into life with a fury that burns out of the speakers with a ferocity that sears the flesh. It’s a monstrous work, on a par with Rival Sons’ unfeasibly brilliant epic ‘Manifest destiny (part 1)’, and its carefully orchestrated layers engender similar feelings of awe and wonder. ‘Black’ has a thunderous intro leading into a taut groove, all greasy guitars and sensual bass lines and it would prove a perfect single for the album, as Tony swaggers onto the stage with the self-assurance of Mick Jagger and the delivery of a hellfire preacher whilst the outro recalls Wolfmother’s neon-clad blues from ‘cosmic egg’ crossed with Soundgarden. Opting for a more laid-back sound, ‘dancer from the island’ is a funky number with a whimsical lead guitar line and sultry backing vocals. ‘Sweating bullets’ (not a Megadeth cover) is pure, driving road rock with attitude and energy which, with its massed chorus vocals, edges ever so slightly into Kiss territory before ‘midnight ride’ kicks out the jams for a pure blues run that sounds like Jimmie Vaughan kicking back with rival Sons. ‘The mud’ closes act two with some nimble guitar work and a swampy groove thanks to the mid-paced percussion and growling bass. It’s a fine act closer and leaves only the epilogue, ‘the wind and the rain’ to conclude the album with Feste’s beautiful, closing monologue from Twelfth Night. Thus the fool (whose wit bested the best minds of his company in Twelfth Night) returns to deliver the closing lines once more to an album which never fails to surprise and delight with its lyrical and musical invention. It seems a fitting close to the record and it leaves you wanting more.
Feste are one of the most imaginative and interesting bands to have come SonicAbuse’’s way in a while. The Shakespearean references are incorporated with wit and style and it is clear that the band’s name is well chosen. ‘First folio’ is rich with brave, beautifully constructed songs which take blues and hard rock as their starting point but which are never afraid to add their own elements to suit their needs. Brilliantly produced by Ali Nikou and the band, Feste deserve to find a wide audience with this wonderful record and it comes highly recommended indeed. Don’t miss out, ‘first folio’ is a treasure that deserves your undivided attention.