It is funny how plans can be altered within a second. Originally, I was going to review something else. However, just as I was about to put fingers to keyboard, I got an email: ‘Paladin Shield’ had just released a new album; ‘Many Blessings’! ‘Hot damn’, I said as I spent more money on yet another album. Below are three tracks that I loved off ‘Many Blessings’ and why I think it’s top notch.
I’ve been a huge fan of ‘Paladin Shield’ since they released their self titled album back in 2015. Looking at the lineup, there are 3 people that play in ‘Paladin Shield’; Jesse Avila on guitar, bass, 8bit programming and vox, Lindsay Baffo on Guitar and vox, and finally Tib Van Dyke Jr. on Drums.
Whilst most chiprock bands tend to utilise famitracker or other music software, ‘Paladin Shield’ opt for using the trusty old gameboy, with the guitar, bass and drums serving as the driving force. The band has gone through various EPs and the album, ‘Road To Alchemy’, with that iconic gameboy sound at the forefront. ‘Many Blessings’ is changes the formula up this time around, with its style being more focused on the guitar and having the 8bit music in the background.
As soon as I started listening to the album, I realised that ‘Paladin Shield’ had changed their sound considerably, particularly in the bass. Instead of having Jesse playing bass he plays lead guitar, with ‘Paladin Shield’ opting for using an 8-bit triangle wave or utilising fm synth to fill his old role. This tones the bass down, effectively making the sound seem more warm and punchy. With this new arrangement, Paladin Shield’s music seems more relatable to jangle pop and shoegaze with chiptune sprinkled in.
The opening track ‘Many Blessings’ exemplifies this in some ways, mainly in the introduction as both guitars, flooded with effects bounce against each other. The guitar is a lot of brighter in sound compared to their previous outings and although at times it can be quite loud, it melds fantastic with the 8-bit melodies and arpeggios. Ultimately ‘Many Blessings’ lays
down the foundation for what the sound of the album is going to be throughout.
Whilst the ‘Many Blessings’ sets the style, everything after must build upon that groundwork with its own unique take. This is why I feel the following song, ‘Salamander’ epitomizes this. It takes to a hot start with FM synth warming up as Jesse barks out enchanting vocals. This happens all whilst the guitars echo in the background, buried in reverb and distortion. It’s all a nice blend sounds and goes on to create something full of sorrow, but also with such beauty. The lyrics are also very on point with Jesse giving such passion to moments such as the chorus, “Is that how it ends? A point of no return?”. The duet of vocals and lyrics really strikes a chord and for me resonates with the state of the world at the moment.
The final track I’d like to mention follows on from the previous song. ‘Winding Down’ is another unique track that contains a satisfying blend together jangly guitar chords and chiptune. It starts off stellar, opposite tones harmonising against each other; the bassy, gritty guitar and the 8-bit sine wave. It whistles and whines, like the furious wind on top of a mountain peak. As you can see ‘Winding Down’ is fantastic at painting imagery with sounds. This also works alongside the with the lyrics, which seem to address the themes of isolation and loneliness. For instance, the line, “The cold below clawing at my soul”, strongly hearkens back to what it feels like to be overwhelmed with sadness and depression; a chilling note but proves very powerful. One last point I’d like to address, the last part of ‘Winding Down’, where we have lead guitar and the chiptune battling out against each other. This is probably one of the strongest parts off the album as throughout the entire length of Paladin Shield’s life, 8-bit melodies have been the only main lead. So, to hear something with such pay off, is quite breathtaking.
‘Many Blessings’ is a tremendous listen and one I’ll happily buy to continue my collection of ‘Paladin Shield’ and all of ‘chiprock’ genre.
This has been a blog post from Chip Bit Sid, a UK based Chiptune Blogger. Along with monthly features here on The ChipWIN Blog, I post once a week on my own blog. To get in touch, please message via the social media links below! I also do my own music under the banner as ‘Kojin’.