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Band Of Holy Joy / Press

“How to Kill a Butterfly by Band of Holy Joy, what a brilliant album. "The Repentant" manages to be sad, harrowing and funny all at the same time.”

“The group’s music is impossible to push into a category, and, spread-eagling itself across several genres, includes elements of brooding post-punk, raucous folk rock, European cabaret, reflective instrumentation and epic pop.”

"The North Is Another Land" is really an album's worth of material, beautifully packaged in an amazing Airmail envelope style sleeve, and containing eight postcards (each connecting to one of the tracks on the disc), all designed by Inga Tillere. Johny Brown - aided by some keening violin from Chris Brierley - uncovers a real poignancy and yearning.

“So, is it punk music? Frankly I don’t give a shit if it is or isn’t. Just go and buy this cd [How To Kill A Butterfly] and allow the Band of Holy Joy take you into their world.”

"Wyrd Beautiful Thyme" is a slow reflection on our troubled times, tempered with optimistic defiance, while "Clean White Shirt" maintains the same sense of pride. We might be in the gutter, but we're looking at the stars...

“In the world of music buying the convenience and instant fix of the mp3 or m4a has taken over, I’m no big critic of the digital track or album they are my constant companions but my restless heart often demands more than the simple company of my digital friends. I prefer my fix to be delivered in a more tactile manner, visually and with a sense of anticipation (you know like the good old days!) which given Band of Holy Joy were responsible for my favourite album of 2011 was heightened on hearing they had a new project out this spring. I say project because there’s a little more at play with The North Is Another Land than just the music, now I’m going to spoil it for you a little and remove some of the surprises so if you don’t want to know what buying the band’s CD gets you (like me), then look away now.”

“The album package is exquisitely designed as a blood-crimson book containing ghostly images which radiate through technical scientific diagrams of anatomy from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I’m reminded of almanacs like Aristotle’s Masterpiece, popular manuals that hybridized folk alchemy with early modern science, gleefully displaying monstrously impossible children. This record, too, is often concerned with birth and sex, which seem to flirt and meld with the headiness of mortality. Brown introduces the liner booklet with a mini-essay of sorts. He shifts back and forth, alternating between optimal instructions for killing butterflies and for making records; both are delicate procedures. How best do you preserve fragile, colourful insects? How best do you preserve ephemeral sound? This record becomes an answer, straddling that line between expiration and beauty, an aural wunderkammer.”

“Johny Brown's wandering vocals lead his Band Of Holy Joy in the tradition of the Olde English ranting preacher - his vocal quivers with emotion, and a horizon of sound opens up as he takes us on an apocalyptic journey. What could be dark and troubled is somehow a comforting vindication of life: mystical, knowing and wise. With Christopher Brierley on seductive, sweet violin, Andy Astle's clear understated guitar, a tight pace from William J. Lewington on drumkit, and James Stephen Finn on bass, electronics and synth, the sounds created are greater than the sum of the musicians. With beautifully packaged design by Inga Tillere and the artfully conceived brutality of the notion, How To Kill A Butterfly is a call to rediscover the spiritual, and for simple sensual thought in a thoughtfully crafted musical construction of folk traditions and state-of-the-art recording.”

“Oxymorons of beauty, grime, darkness and light abound, with an injection of humour throughout, in a complex polished construction of an album that demands you sit down and digest – this is not fast food.”

“Having split in 1993, the band reformed a decade later, their muse having grown more autumnal, regret-laden, sighing at the dying of the light: “For 35 years now the party has raged,” mourns the now-middle-aged Brown on “The Repentant.” Yet Band of Holy Joy remain high on life, their fervent musical melodrama magnificently intact. “Go Break The Ice” and “Northern” are rich, textured and drenched in melancholic violin, while Brown’s defiant carpe diem spirit survives: “You’re either with life, or it’s against you” he gasps on “Oh What A Thing This Heart Of Man.” Twenty-seven years after they began, Band Of Holy Joy are still crafting febrile symphonies for the lost.”

“Northern survivors Band of Holy Joy have been around since 1984, and at this point that’s quite a stretch for any act. They return with ‘How To Kill A Butterfly’, an album which has been suggested as their finest to date, and I couldn’t possibly disagree. Having lived and worked through so many different genre shifts, it should come as no surprise that the band’s sound is pretty widespread, but their dark, spine-chilling take on folk feels genuine and original. With a cabaret attitude and a distinct occult flavor, Band of Holy Joy should drag plenty of new listeners into the fold with this latest slew of eccentricities, and after twenty seven years that’s some achievement.”

“Band of Holy Joy's new album "How to Kill a Butterfly" is one of the best albums so far this year, and I'd been really looking forward to hearing its live debut at this showcase gig.. The group have really put on the afterburners since previous album "Paramour" came out. That was a good record, with some outstanding songs like "I Dreamt the City was on Fire" and "Somehow I Made it thru the Night", but the new one takes things to another level.”

“**** Geordie poet Johny Brown and his band provide atmospheric soundscapes for these vignettes inspired by the natural world. A worthy companion to last year's Paramour.”

The Daily Mirror

“there’s an urgency, a momentum carried along on probably their most musical record, like they’ve finally grown into their junkshop instruments. semi-acoustics. the sorrow of brass band punk hymnals. strings and skins and voice. a restless background buzz of textures and electronics, the sound of things coming apart / coming together.”

“There are occasions, albeit rare ones when listening to an album for the first time I experience a musical eureka moment – How To Kill A Butterfly is one such album and one that made a instant impression but coupled it with a visceral feeling that it will remain one I return to often.”

“Although a traditionally Northern English aspect pervades, conversely, Brown’s delivery invokes memories from above the Border and another true individualist, Alex Harvey, similar passion and intensity within his vocals especially apparent on opening track “Go Break the Ice.” It’s not however Brown alone who stimulates the listener’s attention, the band provides haunting, atmospheric backing, adding to the unconventional aura around this collection. Closing track “A Clear Night, A Shooting Star, A Song for Boo” proves the defining moment, a song eschewing the virtues of a more natural life without electronic gadgetry as Brown’s voice induces near trance like obedience, finding myself deeply ensconced, fully accepting of his naturalist vision, looking for the nearest river or pond in which to immerse myself.”

“Apparently one of the prerequisites for living a happy fruitful life is to ensure that each day you remind yourself of the ultimate fragility of life, I think they used to call it, “seizing the day”… Much the same effect can be achieved by exposure to the rather brilliant new Band of Holy Joy album, How to Kill a Butterfly. It’s easy to forget now that much great music was made as a result of artists having a burning need to communicate something, that is something other than the desire to further their careers, if ever there was a band with such an absolute burning need then it’s the Band of Holy Joy. The message I take from How to Kill a Butterfly is essentially, “wake up, take a deep breath and appreciate this life for all you’re worth.” I’m sure all would agree that’s always a worthwhile message. Of course this is a Band of Holy Joy record so appreciating life means embracing the beauty and the ugliness, because you can’t have one without the other.”

“BOHJ ringmaster Johny Brown has never lacked conviction. Sheer strenght of will propelled the exiled Geordie poet’s barmy army into the independent firmament in the late ‘80s, alchemising junk shop instruments into gold on a trio of manic, majestic albums so sui generis father time has failed to wither them. But while once this bedsit Baudelaire trawled the city streets for doomed romance, How To Kill A Butterfly finds the real thing in abundance in the natural world; whether in the bleak chill of winter, unplugged stargazin or recalling burgling birds’ eggs like a goofy Barry Hines character. “You’re either with life or it’s against you”, he rails as Chris Brierley’s tremulous violin swoops and soars, on a rousing rebirth full of wonder and awe.”

Andy Cowan - Mojo

“In contrast “On the Ground Where John Wesley Walked” is an elegaic tale of loss, “Those good things never last…” rich with atmosphere and the unguarded emotion Holy Joy give so generously. The reference to the founder of Methodism John Wesley is presumably linked in part to Wesley’s strong presence in the east London neighbourhoods closely associated with the band, and the Foundry arts venue where Johny DJ’d, which was named after the building Wesley preached from. The return of Holy Joy was a cause for huge celebration, their continued existence fully justified by recordings such as these and the beauty and raw emotion of their live shows. As was always the case; if you pour your heart and soul into your music, you may not sell millions of records but the people you touch stay with you forever.”

“Band Of Holy Joy are renowned for their inspired choice of gig locations, and St Pancras Old Church - apparently one of the oldest Christian sites in England - was a fitting venue for the launch of their single 'On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked', as well as being in sober contrast to the pomp and pageantry taking place in Westminster the next day for a certain wedding. After a symbolic exchange of vows by 'groom' Marianne Hyatt of Country Dirt and 'bride' DJ Jonny Mugwump, Holy Joy, led as ever by Johny Brown, take to the stage with 'Cold Blows The Wind'. Brown is in his element here. A beatific, benevolent presence, the love that he generates within his audience is almost tangible.”

Les Feuer - R2 Magazine

“Band of Holy Joy were formed by Newcastle émigré Johny Brown in 1984 in New Cross, South London while he was sharing a squat with Test Department, in what was then a thriving post-punk scene. Early experiments revolved around cheap junk shop instrumentation and rudimentary electronics before Johny and collaborators hit on their defining and defiant punk-folk-cabaret overload. Band of Holy Joy reached a commercial and critical peak of sorts after signing to Rough Trade with Manic, Magic, Majestic in 1989 and Positively Spooked in 1990 [...] There was a brief resurgence in 2002 but it was in 2007 that Band of Holy Joy began to find new feet, and over the last couple of years they've hit one of their most prolific periods. They've also incorporated two different radio shows, multi-media and theatrical projects and - I say this not just as a critic, but as long-term fan - burned across stages with the finest line-up and sound since they formed nearly 30 years ago.”

“The set was made up of mainly new material - recent single "John Wesley / Black Middens" and songs from the next album - along with a couple of the highlights from last year's "Paramour" set, notably crowd faves "Somehow I made it thru the night" and "(I dreamed) the city was on fire". In addition, there was a real rarity, a Holy Joy cover version - a nice take on Lindisfarne's "Meet me on the corner". There's a restrained power to their music now, and a real economy (see how many songs they did, no show-off solo padding here). James S Finn's fluid bass has really enhanced the sound and his interaction with Bill on drums provides the ideal environment for Chris' violin and Andy's guitar.”

“Having resisted both Punk's sarcastic anger and Folk's easily digested poetic Soul, they have coalesced into eclectic musicianship and politically charged lyricism. Which has left them in a place of their own – and it's as good as it gets.”

“Band Of Holy Joy On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked **** This song of highflown yearning featured in lead man Johny Brown's excellent recent radio play The North Is Another Land. The BOHJ's sensitivity allows the song to travel an extra special spiritual mile.”

“You can’t beat a stirring piece of folk music with a big arrangement and passionate lyrics, which gives you that feeling of an emotionally swelling chest as it grows and grows. That just about describes “On The Ground Were John Wesley Walked” by Band of Holy Joy. A slow opening with just the electric guitar and vocal before a flute joins followed by the rhythms and then a beautifully mournful violin and we’re heading in to a beautifully constructed and played piece. It’s the voice and violin that really make this, and even though there sounds to be an element of the vocal drifting slightly off key in places that actually adds to, rather than hinders the whole piece.”

“The Band of Holy Joy are back with a double download single “On The Ground Where John Wesley Walked / The Black Middens” on the 28 of April. Originally formed on the squat scene back in the 80's and tagged onto the burgeoning industrial movement, more by accident and their refusal to use conventional instruments than any metal pounding angst, the band enjoyed success until they disbanded in the mid 90's. Now back in a more conventional live format of vocals, guitar, violin, bass and drums, the band have been steadily releasing stunning, beguiling records that seem to allude to our broken cities, dreamlike landscapes, lost values and renewed hope. Live, there's an alarming but equally disarming honesty about Brown's passionate delivery. Poetry, stories and song lines, with snippets of dialogue run through and across the bands musical grain whilst behind them, film maker Inga Tillere's projections, inspired by the songs, but left to develop their own life, flicker like visual postcar”

Pete Bennett - N16 Magazine

“People will know of you from the Band of Holy Joy, going back an implausible quarter of a century to the mid-1980s, and some will have been listening in for the last couple of years to your very own Radio Joy Sunday evening show. It was well worth waiting for, but I only caught up on the action in summer 2009 when, along with almost a hundred other lucky thieves at the Naked Lunch@50 events in Paris, I witnessed “A Lucky Thief in a Careless World.” With the stunning projections of Inga Tillere and the music of Jonny Mugwump and Chris Brierley, you seemed to come close to an act of conjuration in your oblique retelling of the shooting of Joan Burroughs. “Matter, energy, spirit and being, they were our prime concerns,” one of your lines went. It felt like a dangerous game; was that your aim?”

“The Band Of Holy Joy return with a new single to usher in the New Year. Since reconvening in 2002, Johny Brown and co have largely eschewed the traditional album-tour-album treadmill, occupying themselves by writing and staging a series of 'songplays'. The download-only 'Oh What A Thing, This Heart Of Man' is itself taken from The North Is Another Land, which was broadcast over six weekly episodes on London musicians' community station Resonance FM and staged live last Autumn at The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle. While Brown has for some years hosted the Mining For Gold show on Resonance, the Band have also been broadcasting their own Sunday night radio shows online at www.radiojoy.co.uk. The Band will be launching the single with one-off date at The Bull and Gate, Kentish Town, London on Friday 7 January.”

R2 Rock'n'Real

“Digital download single "Oh What a Thing, This Heart of Man" (Radio Joy): The Band of Holy Joy continues the surge of activity and inspiration since the "Paramour" album with the new download single (available from January 7th). Johny Brown's singing and lyrics are as dramatic as ever, with an irresistible chorus, "I say we strike out now". The music builds tension and surges into release, driven by Chris Brierley's soaring violin, enhanced by guests Clive Bell on flute and David Barbenel's cello. If you like "Veedon Fleece" era Van Morrison or early-ish Waterboys, you must hear this. Coming from the extended Radio Joy play, "The North is Another Country", this is another litmus test of the encroaching darkness and how we respond to it.”

“The group are really playing as a tight and purposeful unit now - Bill Lewington was as economical and powerful on drums, Chris Brierley's violin wove magic spells and Andy Astle was as versatile and original on guitar as ever. Watch out for more live action with Bitter Springs in January and check out Lee MacFadden's youTubevideos from this gig in the meantime - right now the Band of Holy Joy are hot - whatever's happening outside!”

“The concept was inspired by a band visit to New York and it takes some stretch of the imagination to summon that city’s bustle and hubbub from these delicate songs. But seek and ye shall find, as the album is rich in the spirit of classic Brill Building songwriting, particularly on the doo-wop flavours of ’Troubled Sleep’. Meanwhile the promiscuity of the 70s gay disco scene is evoked on ‘And Yea, I Made It Through The Night’, while everywhere the shadow of William Burroughs looms large.”

Gerry Ranson - R2 Rock’n'Real

“These days, Band of Holy Joy (and never has a group been better named) occupy a singular space - entirely out of time, entirely now. If their career has any kind of parallel, their closest forebears may well be The Fall. John Peel's adage 'Always the same, always different' could apply to both groups, still firing on the fall-out energy of punk. They both have charismatic lead figures who have spent their entire careers worrying away at their own unique conception of the song. If Smith is Lovecraft via Rockabilly and Salford docks then Johny Brown is Burroughs through Coleridge via folk, cabaret and Newcastle.”

“Since fronting The Band of Holy Joy, North Shields-bred provocateur Johny Brown has been playwright, radio host and journalist. His stage play Troubled Sleep gave birth to Paramour’s soul-wrenching songs, Brown’s colourful and harshly poetic words presenting vivid imagery to complement the musical finery. With its folk macabre meets William Burroughs/Lou Reed-like sagas of lust, desire and obsession it’s a singular but mighty album that should redirect attention to The Band of Holy Joy’s fitful but illustrious canon.”

Gavin Martin - Uncut

“And then there’s singer/writer/performer Johny Brown – Johny acts the songs as much as sings them. The lyrics – whether sung or semi-spoken – continue the themes of isolation, dependency & redemption explored in the group’s other recent projects. The songs inhabit a demi-monde where its always five in the morning, the drink & drugs have long run out, a time where emotions are fragile & intensified, and the sun’s just starting to shine thru tattered grimy curtains. Take a listen to tracks like “I Dreamt that the City was on Fire”, “I Propose” & “Somehow I Made it through the Night”, & you’ll see why many people feel that the Band of Holy Joy are one of the best-kept secrets on the UK music scene.”