My friend and co-host on Pagan-Musings Podcast introduced me to a unique band from Washington in 2014. Chronilus is a family, a tribe of musicians and Pagans that have been inspired by the musical styles of various lands and centuries. Styling themselves as chrononauts, they borrow from ancient times and modern times. They take a little bit of this and little bit of that and make it all work together in a most unique manner.
On February 2, 2015 they released their first full length album, Threshold. Prior to this release they had an EP called Prologue and had been featured performers at Redmond, WA’s Soulfood Coffee House and Fair Trade Emporium. Soulfood has also featured artists like Bone Poets Orchestra, Celia, and Betsy Tinney. Being in the Redmond area they are lucky enough to have a large music tribe in the Pagan community. They also have ties to the poly-community in that area.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with the bandmates twice on the Pagan-Musings Podcast. You can listen to the first interview from March 9, 2014 and the second from November 9, 2014. The tracks from Threshold that we played during the second interview were rough cuts and do not appear in those forms on the album. So, listening to the interview means that you get to hear some of what is different from the official release. A rare treat!
From their “about the band” sidebar on their homepage:
“Chronilus is a new Celtic and World Fusion band from the Seattle area. Their enchanting vocal harmonies float over a musical landscape created by a combination of historical, traditional, and modern instrumentation, from all around the world. Here the clairseach, the brass-strung harp that entertained medieval Irish nobility, may play with harmonies from an electric guitar influenced by progressive rock. Funky electric bass may provide a solid foundation alongside the driving rhythms of the West African djembe.
“With a range of expression from raw, primal energy to ethereal finery, Chronilus’ songs explore such subjects as connection, history, fantasy, and ageless spirituality.”
Threshold has twelve tracks for your listening pleasure. Each one will raise you up out of your seat and make you dance a jig. From “Ecstasy” to “The Wild Hunt”, you get a taste of just what this group is capable of. Let’s meet the band before learning more about the album.
Chronilus consists of four main players, occasionally accompanied by others while on stage at various venues. Those four players are Bone Deep the Bard, the captain of this merry band of time travelers. He plays hand drums, bass guitar, banjo, mandola, mandolin, percussion, woodwinds and does electronic arrangements. Manfred More is his trust first mate and plays the electric and acoustic guitar. Caera, who had a solo career before boarding the ship with these mad travelers, does vocals and plays the medieval style Irish harp called clairseach and provides additional percussion. Last but not least are the vocal talents of Sonia, who also plays keys, conga, djembe, viola and percussion. As you can tell, they are a diverse and talent foursome!
“Ecstasy” gets things going with a lively drumbeat and dulcet strains of music, introducing you to the circle dance of many ancient lands and today’s Pagans. The ethereal voices of Caera and Sonia tell the listener just how to dance to these beats and strains. A delightful piece to use both in and out of ritual. Great for getting things done around the house, too.
With harp, guitar, and djembe “Brighid” is the perfect accompaniment to an Imbolc celebration, as well as a lovely lullaby to help you relax and go to sleep. Sonia and Caera bring the essence of Brighid into your presence and tells you how She can help you along your path. The gentle sway of their voices and the instrumentation makes me want to sway along as well.
In a cover from Loreena McKinnett, Chronilus brings their own sound to the classic “The Mummer’s Dance.” Another of those get-up-and-dance pieces that have inspired many a Pagan and New Age spiritualist alike. Staying close to the original tones of Ms. McKinnett’s work, the foursome lends a unique quality with the duet of Caera and Sonia and the individual talents of Bone Deep and Manfred.
“The Wild In Me” is perhaps my favorite piece from the CD. It gets played frequently on both the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel and Murphy’s Magic Mess on KZUM. Bone Deep wrote the words (Caera wrote the third verse and chorus) and music for this piece with the help of the fans. Asking them just what they wanted to hear as the “wild” in the community and how it all interacts with each individual and as the whole. This piece will definitely get you out of your chair to move around – and I don’t dance very well!
With another cover, this time from Blackmore’s Night (Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night), Our intrepid time travelers bring us “Under a Violet Moon.” A classic rock riff from the electric guitar leads into the tambourine and drums talents of the whole group. Sonia and Caera lend their voices together to encourage you to “raise you glass and your voices too” and dance under the violet moon, just as the incomparable Candice Night does on the original recording from the Blackmore’s Night album of the same name. The words are the same, but the instrumentation is something very much Chronilus.
And now comes a piece written by Caera, originally recorded on one of her solo albums. “Gifts of the Faeries (Bronntanais na Sioga)” is entire in the Irish Gaelic tongue. With Caera on her Celtic harp and the rest of the crew accompanying her, it has a much richer sound than her original recording. The lyrics talk about the gifts that the faeries give to a child in the cradle, they can be found at this page. The chorus translates as “faeries are dancing around the cradle to safeguard ‘to thee/the faeries are dancing around the cradle to gifts ‘to thee”, at least according to Google translate. The gifts of the faeries are strength, heart, music, and happiness.
“Byker Hill” is an English traditional ballad. Chronilus brings their one of a kind combination of musical talents to this traditional piece and make it their own. Bone Deep referred to it as one of his favorites to play on stage, it gets the whole audience involved. A bit of a dirge, a bit of a seafarer’s lament. Around the middle of the song it slides into a jig that one might dance to celebrate a fallen comrade in arms.
Speaking of laments, or songs of lost love… “Longing” is just that. Another piece written by Caera, it speaks of a woman’s longing for the love of one who understands her and knows everything about her. Sonia joins Caera on this piece to add her dulcet voice to the magickal voice of an electric guitar and the Celtic harp. A truly interesting combo of musical tones come together in this song of love and longing. Brings a tear to my eye everytime I hear it.
Christopher Bingham, of Bone Poets Orchestra, gifted the crew of Chronilus with “The Rede (An it Harm None)” to add to this collection of magick and beauty that is their debut full length album. A cover, yes, but one that they again turn into something truly their own. You can hear the sounds of BPO and Gaia Consort in the opening of the song, even throughout the entire piece, but Sonia and Caera’s voices are just enough different from Sue Tinney’s and the rest of GC/BPO that you cannot mistake the two groups for each other. It gives a lesson, just as the Wiccan Rede does, but it speaks a bit beyond what most would normally intuit from the text of the simple Rede.
“Heave Home” reminds me a bit of the open theme to an 80’s adventure series or film. That’s not a bad thing. It’s lively, creatively choppy, and grabs you. I suppose you could call it the theme of the Chronilus. It tells a bit of the story of our intrepid friends as they travel through musical time and space to bring their listeners their Celtic and World Fusion sound, a sound that is not like anything you will hear anywhere else, I dare say. The song invites you to join them on this journey they call life.
Caera’s lyric and music writing talents are evident again in the eleventh offering on this album, “A Promise Unbroken.” With playful, almost child-like music to open the piece, Sonia and Caera play off each other to tell of this promise that is unbroken – that no matter what, no matter how far or how long between, the Gods (or whatever term you wish for the Divine) still endures and is there for you.
“The Wild Hunt” finished off the CD with Sonia writing the lyrics and music. With Manfred on his electric guitar and Bone Deep providing bass and djembe for percussion, Caera and Sonia’s voices meld into a spooky story of the Wild Hunt. Evoking the foggy meadows and moss covered trees that can be found in both the Seattle area and Ireland, the sounds of hooves and horns of the hunt can be heard in the rhythms and voices of this band.
As you can tell, I really enjoyed this CD. I could go on and on about it. But I’d like for you to listen and decide for yourself if it is one that you want to add to your collection. Check their website for more details about Threshold and Chronilus. They play frequently in the Pacific Northwest and do plan to tour outside of that region sometime in the near future.