Wednesday 8 May 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: Black Tusk, "The Way Forward"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26th April 2024
Label: Season of Mist

“The Way Forward” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1). Out Of Grasp
2). Brushfire
3). Harness (The Alchemist)
4). Lessons Through Deception
5). Breath Of Life
6). Dance On Your Grave
7). Against The Undertow
8). Lift Yourself
9). Ocean Of Obsidian
10). Flee From Dawn
11). The Way Forward
The Review:

Black Tusk are back with another very noisy 35 minutes of punky, sludgy, speedy goodness. These Savannah veterans have been around for some time now and have even survived the tragic death of original bassist/vocalist Jonathan Athon.
Since Athon’s last appearance on the “Pillars of Ash” record, we have had a new line-up put forth “Taking Care of Business”, a b-sides comp and now “The Way Forward”. Black Tusk are best compared to an early Mastodon with prevalent punk influences or a punk Baroness without dynamics or texture. If that sounds like your thing- and you’ve never heard the band- you’ll love this.
The sound is raw, loud, fast and in your face. The songs are short and to the point; eleven tracks and the first three blaze by with “Harness (The Alchemist)” being my pick of the opening trio with its Motorhead pacing and attitude. Having solidified as a four piece line up, the guitars do more- more interplay and more weight. The drums and bass rumble and thrash very convincingly and the whole effect is gnarly, noisy and absolutely over the top.
As the album goes on, the band is taking care of business in the way they know best: as usual. There are no great surprises, no huge changes of direction. While the riffage of “Breath of Life” may reference Fu Manchu, Black Tusk are a much more frenetic kind of beast; revved up and turbo charged.
There’s nothing weak here, nothing wasted either. It is exactly what you expect it to be and it is what it is when you first hear it. Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay here is that “The Way Forward” is real! What you hear is what was played. It sounds live and reckless and full of energy. No sound replacements or overproduction- just a tight band playing as hard as they can- kind of like a modern spin on Black Flag mixed up with any of the bands previously mentioned.
Truthfully, you can press play on any track here and know EXACTLY what the band is about. “Dance On Your Grave” is great and full on, but I could say that about “Against The Undertow” or “Lift Yourself” or.. any song.
Yep, Black Tusk have done it again- they continue to produce noisy and totally committed music in the most unfussy and direct fashion. With the way things are going, we need Black Tusk more than ever. Essential.
“The Way Forward” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday 25 April 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: High On Fire, "Cometh The Storm"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/04/2024
Label: MNRK Heavy

“Cometh The Storm” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Lambsbread
2. Burning Down
3. Trismegistus
4. Cometh the Storm
5. Karanlık Yol (instrumental)
6. Sol’s Golden Curse
7. The Beating
8. Tough Guy
9. Lighting Beard
10. Hunting Shadows
11. Darker Fleece
The Review:
Heavy music has a fine tradition of power trios. It’s a great format for a band to cut the fat and simply go for the throat- or to expand into free form jam territory. Thinking about power trios, there are bands of both types in most of heavy music’s sub genres; from The Jimi Hendrix Experience to Cream, to Motorhead, to the doomy likes of The Gates of Slumber, the extreme likes of Dying Fetus, to the epic likes of Manilla Road (80s vintage) and on and on.
With High On Fire firmly in the go-for-the-throat camp, their closest classic cousin is Motorhead. That’s not to say there is no room for extended guitar freakouts, winding instrumentals or laid-back vibes… but it’s at that Motorhead on steroids sweet spot that Mike Pike and friends really excel.
After losing powerhouse original drummer Des Kensel, the band recruited Coady Willis, toured to get him bedded in and then embarked on the follow up to “Electric Messiah”. Can the band cut it and deliver another pummelling feast of noisy pyrotechnics?
Well, with Kurt Ballou producing, this was always going to be a sonic war of an album. Since he hooked up with the band for “De Vermiis Mysteriis”, the band’s sound has got bigger and bigger. Jack Endino did a great job with “Death Is This Communion”, but it is Ballou that has made his sound synonymous with the band.
“Cometh The Storm” sounds massive. Huge. Crushing. Very noisy. Very heavy. Crystal clear, as well! Of the eleven tracks, the band run the gamut of their repertoire. The opener, “Lambsbread” is ferocious, heavy and absolutely primes you for what is to come. From there, you get heavy and epic (“Burning Down”), noisy (“Trismegistus”), dynamic and rhythmic AND crushing (the title track) and so on… In short, the band is firing on all cylinders here.
“Cometh The Storm” has, perhaps, more light and shade than “Electric Messiah”, less aggression than “Luminiferous” or “DVM”, but has similar features to all three of those records. This is, quite simply, very heavy stuff and right in my personal sweet spot for heavy music in general. There is a welcome return for the middle eastern sounds heard on “Death Is This Communion” (“Karanlik Yol”), which adds a nice diversion into the mix and varies the texture of the record nicely.

At eleven tracks long, this is no short sharp shock- the band spread their wings impressively on closer “Darker Fleece”, alongside the aforementioned title track and “Burning Down”. The band even revert to their more sludgy roots on “Sol’s Golden Curse”, while simply beating the listener senseless on “Tough Guy” and the aptly named “The Beating”.
“Lightning Beard” here is a great exercise in rhythmic beatdown, while “Hunting Shadows” allows some melody and hooks into proceedings. By the time of the ten-minute “Darker Fleece”, my ears are tired- this is a beastly sounding record. There are a few tracks which allow for respite, but- to draw a comparison- much like Judas Priest’s “Painkiller album”, this is as heavy as things get. It is just unbelievably weighty.
Where this sits in the High On Fire Discography will be revealed in time, but the band have never put a foot wrong and have pretty much gone from strength to strength with each record. Now at the quarter century mark, they show no signs of mellowing, slowing down or changing direction. Much like Motorhead, in fact. So, great songs, great sound, good variety, relentlessly heavy… business as usual and probably the album of the year.
“Cometh The Storm” is available HERE

Band info: Bandcamp || Facebook

Tuesday 19 March 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: Judas Priest, "Invincible Shield"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 06/03/2024
Label: Columbia | Epic

“Invincible Shield” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Panic Attack
2. The Serpent And The King
3. Invincible Shield
4. Devil In Disguise
5. Gates Of Hell
6. Crown Of Horns
7. As God Is My Witness
8. Trial By Fire
9. Escape From Reality
10. Sons Of Thunder
11. Giants In The Sky
Deluxe edition bonus tracks:
12. Fight Of Your Life
13. Vicious Circle
14. The Lodger
The Review:

It’s been six years since “Firepower”, which was released 28 years after Judas Priest had made their last classic record, “Painkiller”. “Firepower”, as I stated at the time- and as I still affirm now- was nothing less than a latter day Priest classic. Can a band that is 50 years old still deliver the goods?!
As soon as “Panic Attack” opens this record the answer is emphatic: yes.
Of course, this is not exactly Judas Priest as we know them. KK Downing is long gone from the ranks. Glenn Tipton is still credited and listed as part of the band, but he must have taken a back seat in the recording process at least, as he is sadly suffering from Parkinsons and is now in his mid 70s. However, Rob Halford is back at the front, Ian Hill is as solid and unflashy on the bass as ever and Scott Travis remains behind the kit- as he has done for 34 years at this point.
Richie Faulkner must be given huge credit here; his guitar pyrotechnics are all over this record. He plays like a demon from hell. He shreds. He soars like a bird of prey. He is flashy, melodic, stone hard and occasionally delicate. Truly, the guitar work on this album is stellar. The solos and rhythm work is uncredited, but I really hope that Tipton got to play on here somewhere- if not every track.
The production, courtesy of erstwhile Sabbat man Andy Sneap is state of the art. It is slick, incredibly well mixed and it sounds, to be frank, incredible. Personally, I prefer more rough and ready sounding albums and drums that sound ‘live on stage/in a room’ but I cannot fault the production here for what it is: a modern, huge, and slick sounding metal behemoth. Judas Priest got things right with “Firepower” and they get things right again here. Metallica: take note.
The album covers a lot of ground and a lot of moods and approaches. Yes, Priest sound like Priest, but each record is different with its own identity. Turbo” is a far cry from “Painkiller”. “Stained Class” is very different to “British Steel”. “Jugulator” is totally different to “Nostradamus”. If comparisons are to be drawn, this is not dissimilar to “Firepower” but is perhaps closer in some ways to “Redeemer of Souls” in terms of moods and melody. Indeed, “Redeemer…” could have been a Priest classic, were it not for a lacklustre production and mix and too many mid paced moments.
Priest don’t make those mistakes here. The first three tracks are simply headbanging heaven. Neck-snapping nitro-glycerine for newbies and oldies alike. “Panic Attack”,The Serpent and the King” and the title track simply put the pedal to the heavy metal and fly. Screaming vocals, searing guitars and pounding drums create an adrenaline fuelled vehicle- made of metal. Halford sounds incredible and once again Travis is awake and on fire with his effortless and ambidextrous precision behind the kit.
It’s nice to hear the Halford lyricisms present and correct as well; instead of ‘desolisating’ we get ‘volatise’ and so on. A nice nod to the group’s history and Rob’s approach to words and the English language: if it sounds right… it’s in!
The band drop down the tempo for “Devil In Disguise” and it reminds me of a kind of throwback to “Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather”- a dose of melody, a dose of groove, some heavy riffage and a big chorus. It’s a really solid track and not one I would have expected on “Firepower”. This is the band spreading their sad wings wider.
“Gates of Hell” is again at a different tempo, utilises some excellent guitar motifs and features an excellent Halford performance. This one could have fitted in on “British Steel”, or Screaming…” or “Defenders…” it’s that kind of track. Quality hard rock/metal. “Crown of Horns” is up next and represents the slower and more melodic side of Priest. A side, to be honest, I don’t much care for. This would indeed have worked on “Redeemer of Souls”, “Point of Entry” or even “Turbo”. It’s well crafted and catchy, but NOT what I want from Judas Priest, even at this late stage of their career.
Pleasingly, “As God Is My Witness” sprints out of the blocks with the double bass drums rolling. This is what I’m here for; HEAVY METAL. Yep, this rules and sprinkles liberal doses of lead work throughout as Travis simply pulverises the kit. “Trial By Fire” drops tempo again, but more effectively this time. Interesting timing and clever riffing coalescing for a big chorus with a nice rolling feel- again shades of the best “Redeemer” material. Changing up again, “Escape From Reality” has a Sabbath vibe to the riff, before using dynamics to build the tension and another strong chorus. Halford channels Ozzy for the middle eight and it really works.
The last two tracks of the album proper are “Sons of Thunder” and “Giants in The Sky”. “Sons of Thunder” is a distant cousin of “Hell Bent For Leather” with a ‘freedom biker’ theme- and a gang backing vocal on the chorus. It’s fun, it’s metal; it opens the throttle up for the solo sections and allows Halford to once again give voice to his open-highway fantasies. “Giants In The Sky” is a celebratory affair but tinged with a little sadness. A tribute to the fallen gods of the metal world, Halford remembers his friends and pays heartfelt tribute to them here; you can imagine Lemmy, Dio et al voicing their approval and raising a glass in return. It’s lovely to hear Halford’s passion for the legends of the genre- he remains a fan, even after all these years.
It’s a nice closing statement and a reminder that Priest won’t be around forever. If this is the last studio album, it’s a very good one to go out on and represents everything that is good about the band; varied material, masterful metal and a real ear for melody missing from much of the modern-day genre. Halford’s final scream is excellent, as well.
If you are streaming the album, or if you shelled out for the special edition CD, you will also hear three bonus tracks. “Fight For Your Life” is a grooving stomper with another melodic chorus. It’s a decent track, but not quite up to the standard of the rest of the record, perhaps. “Vicious Circle” is a chugging monster and- for my money- could have made the main body of the record easily; a quality slice of steel.
Finally, there is the outlier. The oddball. The bonus track that wouldn’t have fitted on the main record. “The Lodger” is a strange one. It’s not written by the band. It is the work of Bob Halligan Jnr who wrote “Take These Chains”, in the band’s early 80s golden years on “SFV”. As a point of note, I dislike “Take These Chains” intensely. I don’t like “Some Heads are Gonna Roll” from “Defenders…” either. This song is like something out of a Broadway musical. It’s kind of a crime drama, but for me is far too close to Spinal Tap’sJack The Ripper” musical idea for comfort. He’s a naughty one, that Bob Halligan Jnr. All of that said, it is a bonus track and the band is to be commended for trying something different and giving the fans more for their money. Many will love it.
So, what’s the verdict? It’s a latter-day Priest triumph. I don’t think it quite matches up to “Firepower”, but some will disagree. This is a quality record through and through and certainly better than everything the band did in the latter half of the 80s and then better than everything other than “Painkiller” and “Firepower” since. Really, for a band half a century in, I could absolutely not ask for any more than this. The band is still firing on all cylinders and the vast majority of the eleven tracks that make up the album proper are excellent. Of the three bonus tracks, one is a killer, one is a filler and one is not for me at all. Overall, this is superlative heavy metal and absolutely worthy of one of the best bands in the genre.
Sign on the line and let The Priest have your soul, indeed.
For my own bonus track, here is my list of Priest studio albums in order of preference. Don’t get too upset, it’ll change tomorrow. And next week. And on and on.

1). Sad Wings of Destiny
2). Stained Class
3). British Steel
4). Firepower
5). Killing Machine (Hell Bent For Leather)
6). Painkiller
7). Sin After Sin
8). Defenders of The Faith
9). Invincible Shield
10). Jugulator
11). Screaming For Vengeance
12). Rocka Rolla
13). Redeemer of Souls
14). Angel of Retribution
15). Point of Entry
16). Ram It Down
17). Demolition
18). Turbo
19). Nostradamus

Band info: official || facebook

Saturday 24 February 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: The Obsessed, "Gilded Sorrow"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16th February 2024
Label: Ripple Music  

“Gilded Sorrow” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1.Daughter of an Echo
2.It's Not OK 
3.Realize a Dream
4.Gilded Sorrow
5.Stoned Back to the Bomb Age 
6.Wellspring - Dark Sunshine
8.Yen Sleep
9.Lucky Free Nice Machine
The Review:
The first album in well over half a decade, the first as a new four piece- Dave Sherman sadly departed this mortal coil in 2022- so we are in somewhat untested waters here. Well, to an extent; as Wino is The Obsessed in the same way that Lemmy was Motorhead.
He is in fine voice- it’s fully intact and not ravaged by age or touring. He sounds great. In fact, the whole album sounds great- a big beefy sounding thing with real drums and real playing. Musically, you know what to expect here: traditional doom metal and doom rock. This is the street level doom of Maryland, not the more epic variety bandied about by Candlemass or similar.
In that regard, The Obsessed are closer to their stateside cousins Pentagram and closer family members like Saint Vitus. It’s a style of doom I particularly like, and one I find endlessly entertaining. The opening one-two of “Daughter of an Echo” and “It’s Not Ok” set the stall out; grooves & riffs, Wino pissed off and switched on. The record is a little more cohesive than “Sacred” was- it hangs together nicely.
I mentioned rock as well as metal earlier. I say that as there is a distinctly classic rock vibe to the songs here, kind of like how there was with Place of Skulls and Victor Griffin’s best material. You could imagine Thin Lizzy laying down some of these riffs, or even Nazareth. It has that kind of timeless quality to it. Whether it be the mellow title track that creeps and teases out of the speakers or the more traditional doom of Stoned Back to the Bomb Age, this is very convincingly played and presented.
It’s not all absolute gold; a couple of song intros are a little drawn out for my liking and the record has some songs that are clearly stronger than others. But, for every “Wellspring” there is a “Jailene” and Wino’s story telling is on point throughout. The record is perfectly paced and curated at nine tracks- and closing statement “Lucky Free Nice Machine” is a minute lone instrumental. There is no need for any more than that and each track offers something different. Eight tracks was often the magic number back in the halcyon days of the 70s and so it proves today.
Overall, then, you get another quality album from The Obsessed, full of fire and venom as well as some pleasingly hazy vibes at times as well. Where this will sit in the band’s discography, I am not quite sure as repeated listens will bring big rewards, I think. For fans of Wino, this is essential and for fans of ‘doom’ that doesn’t have any songs, have a listen to this and enjoy some actual songwriting for a change. A still magnificent beast, refusing to toe the party line. Business as usual, then.
“Gilded Sorrow” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday 12 February 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: Blaze Bayley, "Circle of Stone"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23rd February 2024
Label: Blaze Bayley Recordings

“Circle of Stone” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Mind Reader
2. Tears in Rain
3. Rage
4. The Year Beyond This Year
5. Ghost in the Bottle
6. Broken Man
7. The Call of the Ancestors
8. Circle of Stone
9. Absence
10. A Day of Reckoning
11. The Path of the Righteous Man
12. Until We Meet Again
The Review:

Blaze returns with another fiery and anthemic album of heavy metal. Blaze has been on a roll for the best part of a decade now. Since harnessing the considerable talents of British metal heroes Absolva- now further bolstered by Luke Appleton joining the team to work alongside his brother- Blaze has been on a musical winning streak. He managed three albums in three years with the “Infinite Entanglement” Trilogy, followed that up with a superb collection of songs in War Within Me”, plus a couple of live albums and DVDs.
Blaze and band are exceptionally hard working- the pandemic was a cruel period as it left them kicking their heels while they couldn’t tour. Significantly, Blaze suffered a near fatal heart attack in 2023, so the fact he is still at all here is a blessing. The fact that the quality of his records is still very high is a real gift to the fans. After coming close to death, Blaze could be forgiven for dialling things down, going acoustic, reducing touring or even just retiring.
However, a short run of UK dates last year were a triumph- the voice, the energy and the life force were still there. That life force runs right the way through this record. “Circle of Stone” is a life affirming winner, that’s for sure.
Things start confidently with “Mind Reader”, “Tears of Rain” references Blade Runner and is even better. “Rage” is a darker proposition and finds Blaze delivering a superb vocal performance. It delivers a Welsh folk tale, via heavy metal. Excellent. As usual with Blaze’s recent records, the pacing and sequencing is great; each track is different from the last and has its own personality- but it doesn’t sound disjointed.
On the contrary, Chris Appleton has done a good production and mix job here, allowing the album a distinct sound and character. Sonically, it sounds much better to my ears than “War Within Me”. I’m unclear as to whether a pro studio was used or if this was a home production, but it doesn’t matter as it sounds great. The drum sound is significantly improved and the instruments are nicely blended with Blaze’s voice front and centre.
According to the man himself, the first six songs here represent tales of resilience, fighting against the odds and so forth. It’s prime Blaze stuff and expertly delivered. As the band blast through “The Year Beyond This Year” and “Ghost in the Bottle” the record flies high. It comes back to earth with “The Broken Man”, which is more introspective and a slow burning emotive listen. Any listener might think this was written in the wake of Blaze’s health problems, but in fact this entire album was recorded before his dance with death.
The latter six tracks here represent six connected tracks that tell a story of connection to the past and redemption. “The Call of the Ancestors” kicks side two off in grandiose (mostly) instrumental style; bagpipes, guitar, ethereal vocals…. It sets the scene for the mighty title track. It’s majestic, it recalls “The Clansman” and is a killer. “Absence” is a straight up rocker, with killer riffage and guitar work in general.
From there, it’s three tracks remaining. Numerous moods and approaches are covered; the melancholy and murderous tale told in “A Day Of Reckoning” gives way to hopefulness, while “The Path of the Righteous” engages the turbo charger for a convincing metal romp. “Until We Meet Again” caps the album off with acoustic atmospherics and a haunting guest vocal from Tammy Rae-Bois, who duets stirringly with Blaze. It’s a folk-y and hopeful conclusion to an album with hidden depths and themes.
To summarise, “Circle of Stone” continues the high-quality music that Blaze has been putting out since 2016 and offers some different aspects to his writing and sound. It’s a triumph, it’s a tour de force and I’m so glad he is still here.
“Circle of Stone” is available HERE

Band info: official || facebook

Monday 8 January 2024

ALBUM REVIEW: Cruciamentum, “Obsidian Refractions”

By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 24/11/2023
Label: Profound Lore Records

“Obsidian Refractions” track listing:
1. Charnel Passages
2. Abhorrence Evangelium
3. Necropolis Of Obsidian Mirrors
4. Scorn Manifestation
5. Interminable Rebirth Of Abomination
6. Drowned
The Review:
British death metal? Well, there are some great examples out there; Bolt Thrower, CarcassCruciamentum?! Yes, them too- even if they have US and UK blood. While we are a few years on from “Charnel Passages”, this sophomore full length picks up where that nasty slab of malevolence left off. Indeed, “Obsidian Refractions” opens with a song called “Charnel Passages” which is creepy and packed with riffs, blasts and double bass drum carnage.
This type of death metal is nothing like the other two mentioned British dead legends. Cruciamentum are dark and complex with an arcane and sinister atmosphere pervading their compositions. It’s not hooky or necessarily song based- it’s atmospheric and evil but not ‘br00tal’ in the way of USDM like Cannibal or Morbid Angel, or Cryptopsy etc.
The six songs on offer here offer up epic soundscapes, during which growled vocals tell tales of suffering and woe. It’s bleak stuff and made bleaker by some black metal type riff progressions here and there. “Abhorrence Evangelium” is more of the same style; lots of tempo changes, some dynamics, a solo of atonal delights and it’s all wrapped up in a very solid production job. “Necropolis of Obsidian Mirrors” is the best title on the album and it’s this kind of fantasy horror that lends itself to death metal so well.
In fact, the whole album is the aural equivalent of a nightmarish landscape, filled with horror both seen and unseen. It’s unsettling and violent. With the second half of the album opening with “Scorn Manifestation” at quite a thrashy gallop, the band manages to engage the listener straight away (on every song) and the blasting verses alternated with slower passages. “Interminable Rebirth of Abomination” starts slower and uses reverb drenched riffage to excellent effect.
As you might expect from the short tracklist, the songs are lengthy; the band stretches to over ten minutes on closer “Drowned” (not an Entombed cover!) with only “Abhorrence…” clocking under five minutes. Epic and sprawling is the order of the day, then, which is perfect for the band’s expansive sound. Drowned mixes sinister atmospherics- imagine Dragged Into Sunlight crossed with Dissection and something American, maybe that’s close-ish to the vibe here. Overall, it’s six dense compositions of thorn filled death metal, played expertly. If you are a death metal fan, this is simply a must hear.
Come and get lost in the labyrinthine nightmare that is “Obsidian Refractions”; you won’t escape these charnel passages unscathed.
“Obsidian Refractions” is available HERE 

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Green Lung, "This Heathen Land"

 By: Richard Maw
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/11/2023
Label: Nuclear Blast

“This Heathen Land” CD//DD//LP track listing:
1. Prologue
2. The Forest Church
3. Mountain Throne
4. Maxine
5. One for Sorrow
6. Song of the Stones
7. The Ancient Ways
8. Hunters in the Sky
9. Oceans of Time
The Review:
Green Lung are the best ‘new’ band in the UK today. This is their third album and takes in folklore, esoteric and occult albion (Britain) and so on. “Woodland Rites” was rough and ready with the artwork, the vibe and the songs in place. “Black Harvest” was nothing short of a modern classic; beefed up production, better arrangements and songs with vibe and artwork intact.
“This Heathen Land” is more developed and varied than the previous albums. It has the muscle of Nuclear Blast behind it- once again, the artwork is stellar (kind of a Wild Hunt pastiche), the production is superb and the songs, well….
A spoken word prologue sets the scene for a journey into a hidden, pagan, Britain. The first track proper, “The Forest Church”, should have you invested. If it doesn’t, please give the rest of the record a chance. The track takes in epic soloing, doom like pacing and some dynamic tempo shifts- plus a more prominent role for the keys. Having as they do the line-up of classic Deep Purple or Jethro Tull, it makes sense to make use of the keys to a larger extent.
The grooving tempo of “Mountain Throne” makes for an excellent and headbanging track, while advance track “Maxine (Witch Queen)” is just brilliant. Catchy, clever and full of hooks and ideas. Essentially, this is for fans of folk horror, films like The Wicker Man, Straw Dogs, Witchfinder General, A Field In England, The Devil Rides Out etc. It’s got that hard-to-define aspect that makes it somehow otherworldly- much like compatriots Pagan Altar.
The doom vibes are back for “One For Sorrow”- it’s slow and creepy, with a dose of melancholia woven into the grim portents. Reference points abound in terms of the band’s sound. This is not doom, per se, but the spectre of Sabbath looms. However, classic 70’s rock like Heep, Jethro Tull and Purple is also present- as is, in particular, Queen. Backing vocals, varied instrumentation, varied styles, well orchestrated guitar parts and hooky vocals. Yep, Brian et. al. would approve.
The band has expanded their sound- not just by the use of keyboards, either. “Song of the Stones” mixes folkloric ghost story telling with acoustic instrumentation and is much further from Sabbath and much closer to Tull at their ’77 peak or even Led Zeppelin at their most arcane. It’s fantastic and transportive. Crucially, this is also music played by younger people; these aren’t a load of middle aged old hands trying their luck at occult rock. It feels organic and authentic.
The UK, even the world, needs younger rock bands who are not yet into their 40s to keep the genre alive and thriving. Sabbath are done. Priest and Maiden are in various stages of their twilight, other large bands are now just embarrassing corporations or the core of the bands are dead and buried. Elsewhere on the album, Green Lung delve into the distant past and fictional horror with strong success. The band keep the vibe on point with a forty two minute playing time. It’s all here; Ley Lines, barrows, stone circles, paganism, sorrow, despair and hope.
Modern day Britain is becoming increasingly out of touch with its past (the good and interesting parts of it in particular) in favour of a culture of individualism, consumerism and distrust. Bands like Green Lung and albums like This Heathen Land” place the listener firmly in a different time and a better place. While some of the material here may be a little more stately (“Ancient Ways”) and grand, there are also the headbanging thrills of “Hunters In The Sky”, so the album comes off as balanced and considered in its track list.
The record closes with a take on the vampire myth- “Oceans of Time”- referencing memorable dialogue from the early 90s film with Gary Oldman in the lead role. Again, it’s clever and effective and hugely enjoyable, with some Type O style production and arrangements. Green Lung haven’t put a foot wrong with this record and it may well be the one that puts them over the top from underground prospects to legitimate headliners. They deserve it, as having witnessed the band live at Desertfest I can confirm that they have that indefinable extra factor; charisma, mystery, x-factor- call it what you will. In short, this band is unique and this album is excellent. Treasure them both.
“This Heathen Land” is available HERE