Hestia is the old goddess of home and hearth, tending to the fire and making sure the home is taken care of is what people worshiped her for. The first offerings of every sacrifice were usually for her, so she would keep the house, and the very important fire, safe. Now, The Rumjacks have made their own offering in the form of a kick-ass album, Hestia, which marks their fifth studio album, starring their new lead singer Mike Rivkees!
The Rumjacks have been a long staple in the Celtic/folk punk, and the new album adheres to that with a passion. The use of traditional instruments, dashed with uptempo rhythms along with a great set of lungs from not just the lead, but from all the band members are truly something that sets them apart in their genre. It makes sure that we miss those longer nights, where a few Irishmen had not too much, not too little, but just enough booze in them to start a true sing-along with the rest of the pub. A jolt of energy we could all use in these dark times!
First off, these men come from all walks of life and places and have their very own tumultuous way of being, inside the band and otherwise. When writing Hestia, Mike Rivkees (vocals), Johnny McKelvey (bass), Gabe Whitbourne (guitar), Adam Kenny (bouzouki/mandolin), and Pietro Della Sala (drums) use their diverse American, Australian, Italian, and Irish backgrounds to create a new, fresh variation of the Celtic punk legacy dating back to The Pogues, with the sounds of ska, rock and punk running bloody throughout the whole thing. Mike (who was gracious enough to do an interview with us, which can be read here) is a new face to the Rumjacks, but that has not been a stumbling block for him or the band. Instead, the band has had a surge in creativity, and according to Mike, really found the fun in it all again!
So, Let’s see what this fun is all about, let’s get to the album!
Into the mouth of the wolf
“Naysayers” is the first song and boy-howdy is it a strong start. It is a statement against the “Judges and masters” aka the rich and mighty, who decide that one should lose their lives for stealing for food. Luckily, this doesn’t happen anymore, and we are all happy working under the yoke of rich people who tell us how to live our life. Oh and in case that it wasn’t clear, this last line should be taken with a spoonful of sarcasm. The influence from early workers unionizing, the challenge to the status quo and truly the roots of punk is felt in this song. Fast-paced, not too long, and a prevalence of bouncing legs and head-nodding to go along with the song really hark back to live performances like those of The Dropkick Murphys, Blaggards and the like.
The next song is called “Bullhead“, which refers to the first commandant of the Cork brigade, Terence Macswiney. The song tells his tale in quick succession, a hunger strike that lasted for 74 days, only ended by Macswiney dying in prison, just because he would not be deterred from his goal by the tyrannical ways of the government. The lyrics “No tank or gun or brick or bullet or stone, could turn a rebel mind on their own” really bring home how stubborn (or bull-headed) this man was. Accompanied by the fast pace of punk and traditional instruments like the mandolin, you can almost imagine the rattling of chains and the rebel’s heart pounding fiercely behind bars. “If my will is the wind, then I will die willing and free!”
Then, the title song of the album. Hestia speaks about an old tale in the style of Red Riding Hood, but where little Hood isn’t as harmless as in the old fairy tale by the brothers Grimm. She has an old double-barreled next to the door, and isn’t very keen on visits from the awful wolf. Given the meaning of Hestia, little Hood in this story might be seen as the aforementioned Goddess, defending her home and hearth from intruders. The obvious Celtic influences, especially in the intro, give this song an old school Irish folk song feel. All that while staying uptempo, with a nice heavy-bodied bass, and with vocals that will surely sweep you off your feet and keep them dancing.
Sainted Millions, the fifth song, is about the fallen comrades that we left along the way. A look back on lives that were lived and gone, and if they have any regrets. The answer (according to the Rumjacks) is thus: “I wouldn’t trade it for another, and i would do it all again!” The only regret that they would show is “Well, I would have laughed with a maniacal cry,
At some of the things that lead to being kept awake at night” A good lesson indeed. This song really feels like a party starter, with a little bittersweet taste in the lyrics. But building on the memories made before your life, and making your own, might ultimately lead to your own happiness. Didn’t think a review would turn philosophical, did ya? All craziness aside, this song might be one of the best on, the album. It would really kick the energy in a higher gear would this be payed alive. Here’s hoping!
Light in My Shadow is another of these firecrackers, while the lyrics are a little on the sad side. For as far as the first layer goes, it’s about a man who wakes up after a bad night out, in another country far from home. He remembers the words someone said to him, and he admits to being a fool and that he should talk it out. Haven’t we all been there at one point?
The song is another one of those fast punky songs, with the chorus ready to be shouted back by millions of fans on the bigger stages.
Before we go, we have one more song, but personally I would like to say this: These men understand what they do. The deeper layers in the lyrics, the extra folklore and/or history worked into the songs, marvelous playing of modern and traditional instruments and the absolute fun they are having all really pack it into this album. It is an absolute pleasure to listen to. There are more songs to be discussed, but reading about it doesn’t do it justice. This is not just another run-off-the-mill punk band. Do yourself a favor, and listen to this album.
Goodnight, Make Mends. It’s a wonderful sentence and a great title to the last song of the album. A little slower and ceremonial than the others, but intentionally so. It really makes you melancholic to the beginning of it all, but happy that it all happened (that doesn’t just count for the album). If you close your eyes and imagine this live, i could see some fans tearing up for this, it’s that powerful! It not only is an excellent song, it is a lovely end to the album. So, I would like to say as well,
“Goodnight, Make Mends. We’ll see where this one ends.”
Release date: March 12, 2021
Label: ABC Records
- Through these Iron Sights
- Sainted Millions
- Tell me what Happened
- Rhythm of her Name
- Golden Death
- Lizzie Borden
- Light in my Shadow
- Athens to the North
- Goodnight, Make Mends