Monday 8 January 2024

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