Tuesday 26 April 2022

ALBUM REVIEW: Famyne, "II: The Ground Below"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/05/2022
Label: Svart Records

“II: The Ground Below” CD//DD//LP track listing
1). Defeated
2). Solid Earth
3). Gone
4). A Submarine
5). Babylon
6). Once More
7). The Ai
8). For My Sins
The Review:
Famyne remain a bright hope for UK doom, getting brighter. Their debut was dark, immense, and unique in all the right ways, so what does their sophomore release hold?! Well, it may or may not be what the band sound like ‘right now’ due to it being recorded over a year ago in the dark days of the pandemic… but it certainly sounds fresh, vital, and full of youthful passion.

Opener “Defeated” (4.45) fairly growls out of the speakers; it’s huge and crushing with an organic drum sound, swirling vocal effects and no small amount of sturm and drang to the lyrics. It’s epic without being melodramatic or camp. It’s heavy without being hard to listen to (like some sludge often is, for instance).

Yes, there are shades of Count Raven, early Paradise Lost and so forth but the influences don’t directly inform the band’s presentation. Famyne are very much their own thing and that is why they are so exciting to listen to. “Solid Earth” (5.22) completes the opening one two punch combination with a meaty right hand that lands appropriately solidly right on the jaw. The drum sound is great; massive and muscular, the guitars have a good earthy tone to them with the mix well presented. Lyrically, the words are open to interpretation- if you fancy a song about astral projection… this could be it. Or it could be about much more introspective themes. Up to you.

The vocals of Tom Vane are essentially another instrument for Famyne to use. They are multi-dimensional, multi-tracked here and there and bring a healthy dose of melody and tonal variety to the album. Of the great bands, they all have unique vocalists; whether they be technically great or just have a certain timbre or sound that makes them stand out (Ozzy, Dio, Dickinson, Di’Anno, Liebling, Wino, Reagers etc.). It’s a more restrained type of track and a left field choice for the third song. Naturally, it gets louder as it builds and contains some nice lead work which pushes Vane’s vocals to soaring new heights. The use of the quiet/loud dynamic forms a motif- or frame- for the songs and while that may be an old trick, it’s still one of the best in the book.

“Gone” (5.40) is a moodier beast with clean guitar and dynamic drums combined with an almost shoegaze type ethereal feel. The band have conjured up this kind of vibe before, but this is done effectively and deftly.

“A Submarine” (7.27) represents the mid-point epic of the record and again it’s quite restrained to start. It’s noticeable that the record doesn’t rely on riffs alone- by any means- instead it creates moods and soundscapes for an epic feel. There are synths/keys present in the mix and the band seem to be exploring different shades in a rather pastoral way (appropriate, considering their Canterbury location). Dynamics are to the fore again, here. This is not your standard doom album.

“Babylon” (6.48) is unremittingly dark. While it may feature varying dynamics, it is pitch black in tone and outlook- musically and lyrically. The central riff is a good one; heavy as lead and just as poisonous. The guitars and bass weave nicely together here and the tempos shift a little too- this is a good thing as doom albums are all too often single paced, leading to one track melding into another when listening through a whole album. Again, the lead work down the back stretch is rather good- another nice dimension to the band.

“Once More” (4.47) may be a shorter track- but it retains the central motifs of the record; dynamics, tempo shifts, dark melody and emotive vocals. All the instrumentation here is excellent with the guitars working together really well and the rhythm section solid and adventurous at the same time. It’s a well-crafted track with enough of a hook to stand out.

“The Ai” (4.04) is another short sharp shock; there is a lot of weight here. One of the best riffs on the record opens proceedings and the band keep the weight on the bar from thereon. The work around the kit here is particularly good; off kilter fills and snare shots, grace notes, double pedal work- good variety and ideas. For me, this is one of the bets tracks on the album. Nice bass tone, too.

“For My Sins” (4.59) finishes the record in some style. It’s pulsing, urgent and paranoid. In fact, it’s a good summary of a certain type of doom; it’s slow but doesn’t drag. It’s heavy but listenable- before I get too paradoxical, suffice it to say that this is a mighty distillation of the band’s sound inside of five minutes. With the first half of the record being longer and the subtle differences in lyrical and musical approaches, I’d be tempted to speculate that the band were taking a leaf out of The Stranglers book on their third Black and White album- a sublime and innovative record that was an album of two halves in terms of approach and content… or that could be way off the mark.

All told, this is a superb album. It’s dark, epic, dynamic and doleful in equal measure and represents progression of the band’s unique sound without being a departure. For a second album this is really all any fan could ask for. In terms of the present and future of UK doom: this is it. It’s here. If your life is chaos and you feel you have no control over it, or complacency and the hidden hand just seems to void your goals… this is the band for you, as you will find much that resonates here.

“II: The Ground Below” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Tuesday 5 April 2022


By: Pim Latuny
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 25/03/2022
Label: New Heavy Sounds

“The Harvest” CD//DD//CS//LP track listing:
1). Oblok Magellana
2). The Harvest
3). Interstellar Wrecking
4). Logic Bomb
5). Betrayal
6). Altamira
7). Let’s Send These Bastards Whence They Came
8). Strontium
9). Moon Rise
The band formerly known as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are going through changes. They shortened their band name and they aren’t using their usual enigmatic Welsh language to name the album. It’s just “The Harvest” now. After the trilogy in Welsh, they’re now making a trilogy with English album names? What’s going on in the MWWB camp? Is everything ok? Well, it is now.
The album release was delayed by a year because guitarist Paul contracted Covid and suffered a stroke. Fortunately, he has recovered and what this record represents, is a testament not only to Paul’s undoubted talent, but the bands’ ability to write colossal grooving riffs and create interstellar anthems.
Two things that have always stood out on an MWWB record, is their use of sound effects/synths and the vocals of Jessica Ball, and “The Harvest” is no different.  Without the sound effects, the imagination of ‘we are somewhere in space’ would be a lot harder. With them, they take me back to the soundtracks of old John Carpenter sci-fi movies (‘Interstellar Wrecking) and playing Mega Man II (‘Let’s Send These Bastards Whence They Came’). Those influences make this album more vivid and cinematic. Especially when the vocals come in. Jessica’s vocals have that shoegaze smokiness, which is always a delicacy to hear. Layer by layer she builds these harmonious waves that submerse you completely in the cosmos of the Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. Listen to the title track, “Logic Bomb” and “Strontium” if you want to be submerged.
What makes this record so great, is the blend of retro synth music, shoegaze and stoner doom. It just works. “The Harvest” is a grand stonerdoomgaze sci-fi opera. It’s a journey through the past, the future and everything in between and outside of it. It makes me remember the magic of listening to concept albums again.
“The Harvest” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook