Such is the power of Apple of my Eye‘s storytelling, that the review that follows takes the form of a story. Imagine it if you will, collaborately told about a table, its ballads sung to the clatter of falling dice.
“Your troupe sits lazily about a large table in the cider house, lost in fatigue and reverie from your last quest. The air is thick with a sickly smell of cider and sweet tobacco. A few of you are tweaking the trollgut strings of your instruments, picking stray strands from the bows. Jo, you notice a man across the room staring at your cello.”
“What does he look like?”
“In a word, drunk. Very drunk.”
“I’ll ready the finger positions for Delay Poison.”
“Do I have my harmonica?”
“No Dan, it’s still with the blacksmith. He’ll have it rid of the curse in the morning.”
“Urgh, I get Break Enchantment next level. Okay, no worries.”
“The drunk man wanders over to your table. He places his feet carefully as he crosses the room, looking like he’s trying to avoid invisible patterns on the floor.”
Is a penguin a mammal?
Or is it a kind of fish?
Is it a kind of demon?
“I bloody hate riddles. Why is it always a man in a tavern with a riddle?”
“Be patient, Arran. As you listen on, it’s clear that this man is paranoid as well as drunk, but his words are frightfully funny. At the very least, it’s proved pleasant diversion and amusement on a quiet evening. Does anyone want to make an Insight check?”
“Yeah, I will. Uh, add four — that’s eighteen.”
“Excellent. Kit, you notice that there seems to be a hidden pattern to his drunken ravings. With some subtle nudging, you’re able to get him to repeat parts of his speech. You’re able to jot down some directions…”
Run, brother please run
To town please carry the tragedy of what’s become
For, of the four hundred men who went down
Twenty or so they came up from below
“Folks, your bardic lore means you recognise the location the drunk man was directing you to.”
“What’s his name?”
“The drunk guy. Surely he’s got a name.”
“It doesn’t matter. Oh, I don’t know. Tomwards. He’s called Tomwards.”
“All of your drunks are called Tomwards.”
“Shut up. Anyway, your bardic lore means you know where he’s talking about. It’s the Barnsley Undermountains.”
“Haven’t we been looking for them for ages?”
“Yeah, but we didn’t know where they were.”
“That’s that dungeon with all the clothwork sprites, yeah?”
“That’s the one. But to get to it, you’ll have to cross the eastern waterways. Shall we call the scene here? How do you want to get across the ocean?”
“I’m not taking a balloon again. Not since the last balloon owner tried selling me into marriage.”
“We can charter a fishing boat. I used to work as the compass on the Fruits of the Sea.”
“Cool, so you manage to make a deal with the captain of the Fruits of the Sea. He makes a point of not asking you why you’re crossing the expanse. The passage is calm, until … Wait, let me just check this… Ah.”
“The boatswain calls out to the rest of the crew to help haul in the net, for it’s picked up the biggest catch yet. However, the load is so heavy, it takes everyone pitching in and using the mast as a pulley to drag the net even near the surface — the tumultous waters of which are soon broken by the thrashing of gargantuan tentacles.”
“Uh, I want us to cast Greater Heroism.”
“Okay. I want you guys to roleplay this one.”
Fire the cannon at the Beast Below
We’ll not go down without a fight, my lads!
The album is excellent: a gorgeous collaboration between strings, mouth organs and melancholy. It goes on sale tomorrow, Monday 19th September. If you’re free this Weds, you can visit the beautiful St Pancras Old Church for the album release party.