Over the past four years, ex-Hefner man Darren Hayman has been releasing records about lidos, dogging and Russian space dogs. He has played gigs in libraries, observatories and remote Hebridean Islands.
In all that time, however, Haymanís real focus has been on this, a a double album of strangely beautiful, haunting songs that chronicle the Essex Witch Trials of the 17th Century against a backdrop of the English Civil War.
The record constitutes the third part of Darrenís Essex Trilogy. The previous two albums, Pram Town and Essex Arms, dealt with the new towns and suburbs and the lawless countryside.
ďI have been drawn to my birthplace because it is both familiar and alien to me,Ē says Hayman. ďEssex is so close to London yet so remote from it in many ways. I want to be both brutal and tender about the place in my songs.Ē
ďItís easy to become trapped by your own tropes. I write easily about modernity and pepper my lyrics with slang, brand names and colloquialisms. I wanted to write about something in Essexís past that spoke of its strangeness and also forced me to write in a language suitable for another period.Ē
Between 1644 and 1646, approximately 300 women were executed for witchcraft in the eastern counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Matthew Hopkins was the self appointed Witch Finder General who travelled East Anglia and helped small communities to rid themselves of these lonely, widowed women.
The album deals with fear and isolation, the way we use our own terror in times of trouble to lash out at the weak. Itís about how societies persecute otherness and outsiders.
The album also concerns itself with the wider context of the English Civil Wars. Hayman sings about King Charles Iís doomed love for his French bride; Parliamentarian spies; Puritan ideals and the comfort of animals.
The album is epic in both concept and sound. The landscape of the Dedham Vale is bought alive by beautiful intricate woodwind scores, trembling strings and destroyed church organs. The albumís artwork is equally stunning, drawn as it is by one of Haymanís long-time heroes, the original comic book artist behind 2000 ADís Judge Dredd.
The Violence is an outstanding creative achievement, a truly unique and unprecedented album.
ďItís about how violence frightens us and how fear just leads to greater violence,Ē says Hayman.
Impossible Times - Darren Hayman and the L from Darren Hayman on Vimeo.