Saturday Full-Length: Judas Priest, Stained Class

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Judas Priest, Stained Class (1978)

The Judas Priest catalog has a few classics in it, or I guess they wouldn’t be Judas Priest, and while they’ve joined the ranks of those metal bands who seem to retire as often as not, there’s little arguing one can do with their early years — they’re the raw building blocks on which heavy metal would be constructed. And as much as Black Sabbath gets credit for inventing the sound, listening to a record like 1978’s Stained Class, there’s little doubt Priest played a major role in shaping the style and visual aesthetic of the genre.

Stained Class is the fourth Judas Priest album, following 1977’s Sin after Sin, 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny and their 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla, which gets slagged a lot for not being as “metal” as what followed, but offers plenty for fans of heavy ’70s rock. Songs like “Better by You, Better than Me” (a cover of Spooky Tooth), “Exciter,” “Invader,” the ultra-badass “Saints in Hell” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” are monuments of the soon to rise New Wave of British Heavy Metal, arriving two years before Iron Maiden released their first album and roughly concurrent to Motörhead‘s 1977 self-titled debut. Sabbath at this point were falling apart, releasing Never Say Die in ’78 before the big split with Ozzy, and while early metal seemed to be floundering all around them, Judas Priest would emerge to lead the style into the ’80s, to what many still regard as its peak era.

Not a bad legacy to wind up with. Of course, the mob went wild when Priest issued British Steel in 1980 (1978’s Killing Machine appeared between Stained Class and that album), and that helped propel the Birmingham five-piece to their iconic status, but a couple years earlier, when Stained Class hit, it did so with more of a workman feel. Comprised at that point of guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, vocalist Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Les Binks, they were a band who knew what they were going for and who knew who they were even as pop consciousness shifted toward the rawer and less superficially pretentious punk of the day. I won’t take anything away from that either — if you ever hear me badmouth the Ramones, please alert the authorities that I’ve been kidnapped and replaced by a cyborg with shitty taste — but I think time has proved Judas Priest were right in sticking to their guns.

This is the last week-ending full-length of 2014, so I hope you enjoy.

Why Saturday and not Friday as usual? Well, The Patient Mrs. and I got home a little bit after midnight from about 72 hours straight of Xmas family time. It was delightful, and draining. A final two-hour trip north from Connecticut and by the time we got in, we didn’t even have energy enough to bring in presents from the car. It’ll happen today. Of course, not closing out the week before I went to bed wound up being the wrong choice since I was up until two and then up again from about 5:30 to 8 this morning — something just didn’t feel right — so I got mine in the end for veering from the routine even in this small way. Take that, me.

If you celebrated, I hope you had a good ol’ time. This week coming up is New Year’s, so things get even crazier. The Patient Mrs. and I will head back down to New Jersey in the middle of the week (Tuesday night, I believe) for more festivities and wahthaveyou, but I’ve also decided to close out 2014 with a bang around here. I’ve got stacks of CDs on my desk that have come in for review and it’s time to get them gone, so what I’ve decided to do is a series I’m going to call “Last Licks.” It’ll be 10 reviews per post (obviously each writeup will be relatively brief), Monday to Friday this coming week, rounding up stuff I want to get in before the year ends, and that’ll be that for 2014. Yeah, I know it’ll be 2015 by next Friday, but just roll with me on it. It’ll be good.

So that’s 50 reviews next week. Keep an eye out. Ha.

I also have some news to catch up on, so I’ll work that in where and when I’m able, and we’ll have the results of the Readers Poll — did you get your list in? — hopefully on the first, but maybe the second if Slevin is busy or tells me to screw off, which he’d be well within his rights to do. It’s been a close race the whole month and has been exciting to watch, and I’m thankful to everyone that’s taken part so far.

Thanks also to everyone who shared the lists that went up this week and the podcast as well. I know it wasn’t much for quantity of posts the last couple days, but I hope the quality made up for some of that.

Alright, I’m going to get more coffee and spend the remainder of this lovely day sitting on my ass. Enjoy the holiday weekend. Be safe, have fun, and we’ll see you back here Monday to close out 2014 in style.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Alunah, Awakening the Forest: Spirits Invoked

Posted in Reviews on October 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Alunah-Awakening-The-Forest

Birmingham doomers Alunah make their debut on Napalm Records with Awakening the Forest, their third album. It’s been a long two years since their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), left such a resounding impression — four since their debut, Call of Avernus (review here), was released — and in that time, some things have changed and others haven’t. The four-piece have traded out bassists, bringing Dan Burchmore aboard, and clocked considerable road time in support of their material, touring in the UK and Europe that’s resulted in a considerable forward movement in their songwriting. Their overarching approach, however, is consistent, as is their presentation. Awakening the Forest, like its predecessor, was recorded by Esoteric‘s Greg Chandler and mastered by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, and there’s sonic cohesiveness as a result between the two records. Likewise, Alunah‘s latest maintains the band’s penchant for themes of nature worship, guitarist/vocalist Soph Day here using metaphor and, one imagines, some escapism in coping with the loss of her father, songs like opener “Bricket Wood Coven,” “Heavy Bough” and “The Summerland” evoking an organic feel in lyric and tone alike, a fuller-sounding production from Chandler not taking away from the underlying warmth in Day‘s tone or that of her fellow guitarist David Day, the foursome rounded out by Jake Mason on drums. All told, Awakening the Forest‘s six tracks cover 45 minutes of expansive, rolling doom given an otherworldly feel by Soph‘s echoing vocals and fluid movement between and within the individual pieces.

It breaks about evenly into two vinyl sides and works that way as well, but I prefer a linear, CD-style listen because it underscores two elements working very much in Awakening the Forest‘s favor: The languidness of groove and the immersiveness of the record as a whole. You could put a platter-flip between “Awakening the Forest” and “The Mask of Herne” — which is the shortest cut included at 5:53 — but I’ll take it front-to-back and really dig into the chance to get lost in Alunah‘s rollout, slower here than on the last album overall but with choruses no less memorable or engaging, an overarching sleepy-woods feel pervading each cut in succession, beginning with “Bricket Wood Coven,” which oozes out choice, open-feeling riffing for its eight-minute entirety, Soph telling tales of a high priestess calling the moon, and by the time it’s over, the spell has been duly cast. The subsequent “Heavy Bough,” while shorter and somewhat more uptempo, is ultimately no less ethereal, and with “Awakening the Forest” and “The Mask of Herne” following — the latter referring to the antlers donned by Herne the Hunter, a ghost said in English folklore to haunt Windsor Forest, referenced in the album’s cover art — Alunah‘s hypnosis is long since complete, the title-track offering a high point in its hook, early soloing and spacious post-midpoint jam, and the latter launching Awakening the Forest‘s second half with particularly graceful vocal layering and a steady affirmation that the consuming fuzz on the songs prior was no fluke. Not that there was any doubt, but the reassurance is welcome all the same ahead of the closing duo, “Scourge and the Kiss” and “The Summerland.”

alunah

At 8:39 and 9:05, respectively, “Scourge and the Kiss” and “The Summerland” are the two longest songs on the album, and paired next to each other they make the trance-inducing aspects of earlier cuts all the more apparent. In its structure and focus on the chorus, “Scourge and the Kiss” stands in line with “Awakening the Forest” and “Bricket Wood Coven” as another strong execution of Alunah‘s songwriting, trading off brooding quietness with bigger-toned riffs and layered leads between the two intertwining guitars over the rhythmic foundation from Burchmore and Mason. In its vocals and in those leads, it gives heavy psychedelic flourish to what the band has already accomplished, and in the context of the album, it keeps the momentum moving forward, but the larger impression is made my the closer, which delves as close as Alunah have come to minimalism. A linear build begins soft and sentimental with the guitars, and immediately the focus is on atmosphere more than anywhere else on Awakening the ForestSoph delivers her first vocals shortly before three minutes in, and though weightier distortion kicks in around the halfway point, a patient sensibility holding firm as “The Summerland” works its way toward its payoff. It never loses its contemplative, melancholy spirit, and that’s how Awakening the Forest ends. They don’t force an adrenaline surge where one doesn’t want to be, and above all, the final moments of Awakening the Forest seem honest in their intent and emotional portrayal. Whatever pagan elements might be at work throughout, Alunah‘s third album doesn’t veer from its human core, and for that, and for its marking the continued growth of the band and their coming into own in what they do, moving beyond their influences to an increasingly individualized approach, Awakening the Forest is their strongest outing yet.

Alunah, “Heavy Bough” official video

Alunah on Thee Facebooks

Alunah at Napalm Records

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Alunah Premiere “Heavy Bough” from New Album Awakening the Forest

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

alunah

I don’t mind telling you I’ve been waiting for Alunah‘s new album for what feels like I really long time. The reality of the situation is that the Birmingham four-piece’s third offering and Napalm Records debut, Awakening the Forest, arrives just two years after their previous full-length, White Hoarhound (review here), but as I’ve continued to enjoy that record since first hearing it, my affection for it only growing with the passing months, it seems much longer. I’m not sure what my ideal follow-up to White Hoarhound would’ve sounded like — or, more to the point, I can’t think of a way in which Awakening the Forest isn’t it.

For those who, like me, were fans of the last one or of 2010’s Call of Avernus (review here) before that, the riffs of Dave and Soph Day retain their bounce, and new bassist Dan Burchmore falls in step thickly with drummer Jake Mason to craft a lumbering but still nod-ready groove. At the same time, there’s clear progression evident. alunah awakening the forestThe band is more patient, the pieces that make up the memorable six songs more languid. In general, they sound like they’ve been working since White Hoarhound came out, which of course is precisely the case whether one thinks in the sense of getting on the road for shows or bringing in Burchmore and solidifying their lineup. Alunah come across as more comfortable with their psychedelic side — fitting for their consistently pastoral thematic — but Awakening the Forest presents some of their most doomed material as well.

To wit, the rollout of “Heavy Bough.” At just under six minutes, it’s among the shortest songs on Awakening the Forest (only “The Mask of Herne” is shorter, and by five seconds), and marked out by the lead and rhythm interplay of Soph and Dave‘s guitars as well as Soph‘s riff-riding verse and more open chorus. On an album full of hooks, “Heavy Bough” stands out for its nature worship and for its still-grounded take, sandwiched between the more ethereal opener “Bricket Wood Coven” and the side A finale title-track, but if it’s the first you’re hearing of the album, then its primary function will be to remind of just how easily an Alunah track can get stuck in your head. If this is your first experience with the band, all the better you’ve found them at this moment.

Please find “Heavy Bough” on the player below, and enjoy:

Alunah will release Awakening the Forest on Oct. 6 in the UK and Oct. 7 in North America. The album was recorded by Greg Chandler (Esoteric) and mixed and mastered by Tony Reed (Mos Generator), and is available now to preorder. More info at the links.

Alunah on Thee Facebooks

Alunah at Napalm Records

Napalm Records

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Godflesh Announce A World Lit Only by Fire Album Details; Stream New Song

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The new Godflesh album exists. It’s really coming out and you’re really going to be able to hear it. It’s called A World Lit Only by Fire, and it will be released through Justin Broadrick‘s Avalanche Recordings as the first Godflesh LP since 2001’s Hymns. Due Oct. 6, it will be the follow-up to earlier 2014’s Decline and Fall EP (review here), which stood as testament to the undiminished intensity of Godflesh‘s sound and their unwillingness to ignore a decade-plus of musical evolution since their last time out. It is an album very, very much worth looking forward to.

Here’s the PR wire with artwork, a new song, and more about it:

GODFLESH ANNOUNCE DETAILS OF FIRST ALBUM IN 13 YEARS, SHARE NEW SONG AND ANNOUNCE UK TOUR DATES. A WORLD LIT ONLY BY FIRE SET FOR OCTOBER 6 RELEASE

Industrial metal innovators Godflesh have announced the details of their highly anticipated full length A World Lit Only By Fire, set for an October 6 release on their own Avalanche Recordings label. The album arrives on the heels of June’s Decline And Fall EP, which was met with widespread acclaim for its effortless synthesis of the duo’s fan-favoured early albums, themselves groundbreaking genre experiments that pioneered an integration of electronic music’s bombastic rhythms, metal’s bludgeoning force, and post punk’s aural atmospherics. Whereas the new EP succeeded by fulfilling listener expectations, the full length exceeds them; delivering a full force exploration of the furthest boundaries of Godflesh’s extreme sonics, and then pushing beyond them, detailing the rich musical experience accrued in the dozen year span and countless musical projects (Jesu, Final, Vitriol, Greymachine, Techno Animal, etc.) between recordings.

The duo, comprised of legendary talents of Justin Broadrick (also of Jesu, JK Flesh, Techno Animal, Pale Sketcher, and more) and GC Green, formed in 1988 in the same fertile Birmingham, UK scene that forged the talents of Napalm Death, Carcass, and Head of David among many others. Initially disbanding in 2002, the band resumed live performances in 2010 and began the arduous work of crafting a follow up to 2001’s Hymns. The resultant self-recorded ten song set mounts the thin line between high definition clarity and raw, visceral heaviness, inducing a meditative state via seething minimalism that hinges on ritualistic riff repetition and the tenuous membrane between anxiety-inducing dissonance and cathartic minor key melody.

A WORLD LIT ONLY BY FIRE TRACK LIST

1. New Dark Ages
2. Deadend
3. Shut Me Down
4. Life Giver Life Taker
5. Obeyed
6. Curse Us All
7. Carrion
8. Imperator
9. Towers of Emptiness
10. Forgive Our Fathers

A WORLD LIT ONLY BY FIRE DECEMBER UK TOUR DATES

Tue 09.12.14 The Haunt Brighton
Wed 10.12.14 Garage London
Thu 11.12.14 Rescue Rooms Nottingham
Fri 12.12.14 Sound Control Manchester
Sat 13.12.14 Art School Glasgow

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

http://www.avalancheinc.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Justin-K-Broadrick/118373041529126
https://twitter.com/JKBroadrick

Godflesh, “New Dark Ages” from A World Lit Only by Fire

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Alunah Reveal Awakening the Forest Album Art and Details

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Kind of a news-heavy day, but I’d be remiss if I left out Birmingham’s Alunah, whose album details have just been made public via the PR wire. Their third outing and their Napalm Records debut, Awakening the Forest, is set for release in October and will boast six new cuts of their heavy riffs and peacefully rolling doom. After digging their 2010 Call of Avernus debut (review here) and especially 2012’s sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), this is one I’m genuinely looking forward to, so if the album art and tracklisting coming out puts the record itself a step closer, then all the better.

Awakening the Forest was recorded by Greg Chandler of Esoteric and mastered by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed. A video is also reportedly in the works. More to come, but for now, once more unto the PR wire:

ALUNAH Unveil Details of Upcoming Album

Birmingham’s Stoner Rock Doomsters ALUNAH are set to release a new album via Napalm Records in October 2014. Following their previous releases Call Of Avernus and White Hoarhound it’s finally time for a new masterpiece. The band centered around guitarist & singer Sophie Day have now unveiled first details of artwork, title, track listing & release dates!

Awakening The Forest is set to be released on October 6th in the UK & October 7th USA/CAN and forges forward with hard guitars, pumping heavy grooves and a sound that will make fans of this genre, fans of this album!

Check out the track listing for Awakening The Forest:
1. Bricket Wood Coven
2. Heavy Bough
3. Awakening The Forest
4. The Mask Of Herne
5. Scourge And The Kiss
6. The Summerland

ALUNAH on the upcoming album Awakening The Forest:

“We are delighted to introduce our 3rd album “Awakening The Forest” to our old, new and future friends. Recorded by Greg Chandler and mixed/mastered by Tony Reed, we are extremely proud of this album. We are also very lucky to have worked with the exceptional illustrator Michael Cowell who brought our songs to life visually in the CD and LP package. Napalm Records have been very supportive of us throughout the whole process, and we hope that you guys love the album as much as we do. Our video for “Heavy Bough” and also a short film with Michael talking about the artwork are coming soon; both shot and directed by Rhodri Thomas at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire, England.”

For More Info Visit:
http://www.alunah.co.uk/
http://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom
http://www.napalmrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Alunah, Live at the Unicorn, London, May 28, 2014

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Godflesh, Decline and Fall: To Reside In

Posted in Reviews on June 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

One of the most challenging factors in listening to Decline and Fall objectively, or even attempting to do so, is in separating the reality of the four songs included from the fact that it’s Godflesh. Not just Godlesh, but new Godflesh, and the first new Godflesh since 2001’s swansong full-length, Hymns. Among bands both in the heavy underground and the wider sphere of metal, there have been few acts who’ve had the kind of influence Godflesh have within that 13-year span. To name three others in varied styles: Opeth, Neurosis, Meshuggah. That’s the caliber of contribution, and some 25 years on from their landmark 1989 debut, Streetcleaner, Godflesh hold firm to the core of what made their approach so singular and so heavy to begin with — the industrial churn and aggressive sensibility. Founding guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick has cemented a legacy via his work in the more melodic, ambient Jesu, who arrived in 2004 named for the final Godflesh song on Hymns with a style that seemed bent on exploring the open spaces that Godflesh turned claustrophobic, but there’s no question Godflesh has endured a relevance beyond their original tenure and one that continues to flourish in an industrial revival today. So how on earth does one listen to the Decline and Fall EP (out through Broadrick‘s own Avalanche Recordings) and separate these tracks from the massive influence that Broadrick and founding bassist G.C. Green have had on the heaviness that has followed in their lumbering wake?

Beats the hell out of me.

Since Broadrick and Green began playing shows again, the discussion inevitably turned to new material resulting from the reunion. The reality of Godflesh circa 2014 probably isn’t so far disengaged from what the reality of Godflesh circa 2003 or 2004 might’ve been. In a way, the four included pieces, “Ringer,” “Dogbite,” “Playing with Fire” and “Decline and Fall” are almost too easy to read as Godflesh picking up where they left off. Breaking cleanly into two vinyl sides with a more melodic track — “Ringer” and “Playing with Fire” — and a harsher one — “Dogbite” and “Decline and Fall” — on each as typified by Broadrick‘s vocal approach, Decline and Fall neatly answers some of the progressiveness Hymns presented and Broadrick went on to refine with Jesu, most notably the more open feel and steady use of melody, but it also seems to have come from an alternate reality in which that refining process hasn’t already played out in the way it has. That is to say, Decline and Fall is Godflesh. It sounds like Godflesh from the static noise that opens “Ringer” to the double-timed beats that cap “Decline and Fall” and with every chugging riff in between. Circumstantially — not sonically — it’s not unlike Floor‘s recent release of their first post-reunion album, Oblation, which arrived after several years of playing shows and found a guitarist returning to the band in which he cut his teeth after continuing the creative evolution with another act. Broadrick‘s success with Jesu little informs the songs on Decline and Fall, and while that project has its distinct appeal, keeping them separate unquestionably works to the favor of both. What the EP winds up feeling like is the result of someone trying on an old outfit and finding out it still fits, but with songwriting. Over a decade later, it wasn’t clear what Godflesh would be or how much the intervening years and experiences would play into the songs. It turns out that what makes Godflesh Godflesh has remained intact.

Read more »

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Bastard of the Skies and Grimpen Mire Split 12″ Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This coming May, Future Noise will bring together a pairing of abrasive UK sludgers for a split 12″ of considerable nastiosity. The Sleeping Shaman streamed two tracks from it today, and the combination of Bastard of the Skies and Grimpen Mire works out to be basically like asking the audience whether they’d prefer to the punched in the left side of the face or the right. I don’t know if there’s any letup over the course of the 12″, but there certainly doesn’t seem to be much in “Yarn” or “The Hollow Wreck,” as you can hear via the link below.

Dig it:

BASTARD OF THE SKIES & GRIMPEN MIRE To Release 12” Via Future Noise; Track Stream From Both Bands Now Available!

Future Noise is ecstatic to announce the coming together of 2 of the UK’s rising heavyweights in the form of Blackburn’s Noise Rock deviants BASTARD OF THE SKIES and Birmingham’s filth mongers GRIMPEN MIRE for a limited Split 12” which will see the light of day in early May 2014.

Both sides for this behemoth of a release were recorded by BASTARD OF THE SKIES guitarist/vocalist Matt Richardson at his own Full Stack Studio, mastering was handled by the ever faithful James Plotkin while artwork was realised by illustrator Michael Cowell.

And today, The Sleeping Shaman is honoured to be streaming a track from both bands, ‘Yarn’ by BASTARD OF THE SKIES & ‘The Hollow Wreck’ by GRIMPEN MIRE, now press play below to be devastated by the aural assault you are about to hear…

Tracklisting for the split is as follows:

BASTARD OF THE SKIES side:
A1. Yarn
A2. Bao Fu
A3. Wounder
A4. Old Vessels

GRIMPEN MIRE side:
B1. The Hollow Wreck
B2. Vermin Hive
B3. Fragments of Forgotten Craft

More news on Pre-Orders and release date will be announced soon!

http://www.facebook.com/bastardoftheskies
http://bastardoftheskies.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/grimpenmire
http://grimpenmire.bandcamp.com
http://www.future-noise.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Future-Noise-Recordings/141470275887035
http://futurenoise.bandcamp.com

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Alunah Sign to Napalm Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

So, uh, am I crazy, or did we already know that UK doomers Alunah were going to be working with Napalm Records for their next album? And I don’t mean like they-announced-it-on-Thee-Facebooks-three-days-ago-and-the-PR-wire-just-caught-up “already know,” I mean it as in months ago. Help me out here.

Because I’ll tell you, I’ve been saying their next record was coming on Napalm since June, and while this certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong about something for six solid months, at least in theory I like to get it right when I can. This news came in this morning and I kind of spent the afternoon wondering if I should even bother posting it and then I was like, “Yeah screw it because you can put White Hoarhound on again,” and that’s what I did. Any excuse.

Thinking about Top 20 lists, Alunah should’ve been in mine for 2012. All the more reason to look forward to their next release, which hey guess what? It’s coming out on Napalm Records. Official confirmation awaits:

ALUNAH SIGN WORLDWIDE RECORD DEAL WITH NAPALM RECORDS!

Birmingham based psych doom band Alunah are proud to announce that they have signed a worldwide album deal with Napalm Records!

Alunah worked with them previously on a limited vinyl release of the band’s last record “White Hoarhound”, and after demo-ing some new tracks entered talks with Napalm Records regarding a full worldwide recording and publishing contract.

Napalm Records will release a limited edition digi-pack and gatefold LP; and Michael Cowell will illustrate the full packaging.

“Alunah are incredibly happy to have signed a worldwide album deal with the world renowned label Napalm Records. We already have a strong working relationship from when they released a vinyl version of our second album “White Hoarhound”, and we are proud to have been asked to join the Napalm family on a more long-term basis. We have a hard working ethic, are constantly evolving and appreciate everything given to us. We are joining a roster which boasts some of the best bands in the industry, and we’re confident that this new phase in our relationship is a mutually beneficial one.” – Vocalist & guitarist Sophie Day

Alunah will be working once again with Sound of Liberation regarding the band’s 2014 European tour, and will be embarking on a UK tour in May/June.

https://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom
https://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Alunah, White Hoarhound (2012)

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