Richard Dawson is the diminutive Geordie troubadour whose moving songs have been described as state-of-the-nation addresses, even — or perhaps especially — when he’s singing about pre-medieval peasants. Circle are the genre-straddling pioneers of The New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal, known for wearing spandex or dead fish onstage and singing in a made-up language.
Together they are… Richard Dawson & Circle! Today, they announced news of their collaborative album Henki, due November 26th via Weird World. Their epic joint record might seem a departure to those who are most familiar with Dawson from recent solo albums like 2017’s Peasant and 2020 (released in 2019). In fact, Henki fits comfortably into the bigger picture of two acts who have always strived for uninhibited originality.
Dawson explains the album’s title: “The word ‘henki’ roughly translates as ‘spirit’. It’s a very rich word, supple in its meaning in the same way as the Geordie ‘canny’; difficult to pin down.” True to its name, while Henki is influenced, in part by heavy-metal bands, it does not sound like any metal album you will have heard before. For one thing, few metal albums are filled with songs about plants. Inspired by Circle’s guitarist Janne Westerlund instructing the group during recording to be less straightforward and more “like a plant”, each of Henki’s seven tracks deal with special plants throughout history.
The first track to be shared from Henki is “Lily” and is less directly botanic and more about the ghostly visions experienced by Dawson’s mother when she worked as a nurse in Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.
The video directed by Mika Taanila features Richard Dawson challenging Steve Davis to a tense game of snooker, even if we’re quite sure how the result will pan out.
As mutual fans of each other, Circle and Dawson originally hit off it via Twitter, which led to Dawson being invited to accompany Circle for their set at Helsinki’s Sideways Festival in 2019. Dawson recalls the moment: “It was like being a teenager and suddenly being asked to go onstage with Iron Maiden. That’s how important this band are to me”. Having pulled that off, they started exchanging demos before they finally got in a room together to set off on their journey proper. Most of the recording took place in Pori – a fine jewel of a city on Finland’s balmy west coast – across several visits, the last being in late January 2020 just as Covid-19 first reached Europe. From there they had to finish Henki remotely – via waves of pure thought beamed across the dark dividing oceans betwixt them, and email.
Circle are Pekka Jääskeläinen (guitar), Julius Jääskeläinen (guitar), Jussi Lehtisalo (bass, voice), Mika Rättö (keyboard, voice), Tomi Leppänen (drums) and Janne Westerlund (guitar, voice). Richard Dawson plays guitar and vocals. Henki was mixed by Antti Uusimäki and mastered by Christian Wright.
Tracklisting as follows…