Quarterly Review: Pelican, My Dying Bride, Masonic Wave, Bismarck, Sun Moon Holy Cult, Daily Thompson, Mooch, The Pleasure Dome, Slump, Green Hog Band

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Welcome back to the Quarterly Review. Good weekend? Restful? Did you get out and see some stuff? Did you loaf and hang out on the couch? There are advantages to either, to be sure. Friday night I watched my daughter (and a literal 40 other performers, no fewer than four of whom sang and/or danced to the same Taylor Swift song) do stand-up comedy telling math jokes at her elementary school variety show. She’s in kindergarten, she likes math, and she killed. Nice little moment for her, if one that came as part of a long evening generally.

The idea this week is the same as last week: 50 releases covered across five days. Put the two weeks together and the Spring 2024 Quarterly Review — which I’m pretty sure is what I called the one in March as well; who cares? — runs 100 strong. I’ll be traveling, some with family, some on my own, for a bit in the coming months, so this is a little bit my way of clearing my slate before that all happens, but it’s always satisfying to dig into so much and get a feel for what different acts are doing, try and convey some of that as directly as I can. If you’re reading, thanks. If this is the first you’re seeing of it and you want to see more, you can either scroll down or click here.

Either way, off we go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Adrift/Tending the Embers

pelican adrift tending the embers

Chicago (mostly-)instrumentalist stalwarts Pelican haven’t necessarily been silent since 2019’s Nighttime Stories (review here), with a digital live release in Spring 2020, catalog reissues on Thrill Jockey, a couple in-the-know covers posted and shows hither and yon, but the stated reason for the two-songer EP Adrift/Tending the Embers is to raise funds ahead of recording what will be their seventh album in a career now spanning more than 20 years. In addition to that being a cause worth supporting — they’re on the second pressing; 200 blue tapes — the two new original tracks “Adrift” (5:48) and “Tending the Embers” (4:26) reintroduce guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec as a studio presence alongside guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg. Recorded by the esteemed Sanford Parker, neither cut ranges too far conceptually from the band’s central modus bringing together heavy groove with lighter/brighter reach of guitar, but come across like a tight, more concise encapsulation of earlier accomplishments. There’s a certain amount of comfort in that as they surf the crunching, somehow-noise-rock-inspired riff of “Adrift,” sounding refreshed in their purpose in a way that one hopes they can carry into making the intended LP.

Pelican website

Pelican on Bandcamp

My Dying Bride, A Mortal Binding

My Dying Bride A Mortal Binding

Something of a harsher take on A Mortal Binding, which is the 15th full-length from UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride, as well as their second for Nuclear Blast behind 2020’s lush The Ghost of Orion (review here. The seven-song/55-minute offering from the masters of misery derives its character in no small part from the front-mixed vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe, who from opener “Her Dominion” onward, switches between his morose semi-spoken approach, woeful as ever, and dry-throated harsher barks. And that the leadoff is all-screams feels like a purposeful choice as that rasp returns in the second half of “The 2nd of Three Bells,” the 11-minute “The Apocalyptist,” “A Starving Heart” and the ending section of closer “Crushed Embers.” I don’t know when the last time a My Dying Bride LP sounded so roiling, but it’s been a minute. The duly morose riffing of founding guitarist Andrew Craighan unites this outwardly nastier aspect with the more melodic “Thornwyck Hymn,” “Unthroned Creed” and the rest that isn’t throatripper-topped, but with returning producer Mark Mynett, the band has clearly honed in on a more stripped-down, still-room-for-violin approach, and it works in just about everything but the drums, which sound triggered/programmed in the way of modern metal. It remains easy to get caught in the band’s wretched sweep, and I’ll note that it’s a rare act who can surprise you 15 records later.

My Dying Bride website

Nuclear Blast webstore

Masonic Wave, Masonic Wave

Masonic Wave Masonic Wave

Masonic Wave‘s self-titled debut is the first public offering from the Chicago-based five-piece with Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Corrections House, Led Zeppelin II, etc.) on vocals, and though “Justify the Cling” has a kind of darker intensity in its brooding first-half ambience, what that build and much besides throughout the eight-song offering leads to is a weighted take on post-hardcore that earlier pieces “Bully” and “Tent City” present in duly confrontational style before “Idle Hands” (the longest inclusion at just under eight minutes) digs into a similar explore-till-we-find-the-payoff ideology and “Julia” gnashes through noise-rock teethkicking. Some of the edge-of-the-next-outburst restlessness cast by Lamont, guitarists Scott Spidale and Sean Hulet, bassist Fritz Doreza and drummer Clayton DeMuth reminds of Chat Pile‘s arthouse disillusion, but “Nuzzle Up” has a cyclical crunch given breadth through the vocal melody and the sax amid the multiple angles and sharp corners of the penultimate “Mountains of Labor” are a clue to further weirdness to come before “Bamboozler” closes with heads-down urgency before subtly branching into a more spacious if still pointedly unrelaxed culmination. No clue where it might all be headed, but that’s part of the appeal as Masonic Wave‘s Sanford Parker-produced 39 minutes play out, the songs engaging almost in spite of themselves.

Masonic Wave on Bandcamp

Masonic Wave on Bandcamp

Bismarck, Vourukasha


There are shades of latter-day Conan (whose producer/former bassist Chris Fielding mixed here) in the vocal trades and mega-toned gallop of opening track “Sky Father,” which Bismarck expand upon with the more pointedly post-metallic “Echoes,” shifting from the lurching ultracrush into a mellower midsection before the blastbeaten crescendo gives over to rumble and the hand-percussion-backed whispers of the intro to “Kigal.” Their first for Dark Essence, the six-song/35-minute Vourukasha follows 2020’s Oneiromancer (review here) and feels poised in its various transitions between consuming aural heft and leaving that same space in the mix open for comparatively minimal exploration. “Kigal” takes on a Middle Eastern lean and stays unshouted/growled for its five-plus minutes — a choice that both works and feels purposeful — but the foreboding drone of interlude “The Tree of All Seeds” comes to a noisy head as if to warn of the drop about to take place in the title-track, which flows through its initial movement with an emergent float of guitar that leads into its own ambient middle ahead of an engrossing, duly massive slowdown/payoff worthy of as much volume as it can be given. Wrapping with the nine-minute “Ocean Dweller,” they summarize what precedes on Vourukasha while shifting the structure as an extended, vocal-inclusive-at-the-front soundscape bookends around one more huge, slow-marching, consciousness-flattening procession. Extremity refined.

Bismarck on Facebook

Dark Essence Records website

Sun Moon Holy Cult, Sun Moon Holy Cult

Sun Moon Holy Cult Sun Moon Holy Cult

That fact that Sun Moon Holy Cult exist on paper as a band based in Tokyo playing a Sabbath-boogie-worshiping, riff-led take on heavy rock with a song like “I Cut Your Throat” leading off their self-titled debut makes a Church of Misery comparison somewhat inevitable, but the psych jamming around the wah-bass shuffle of “Out of the Dark,” longer-form structures, the vocal melodies and the Sleep-style march of “Savoordoom” that grows trippier as it delves further into its 13 minutes distinguish the newcomer four-piece of vocalist Hakuka, guitarist Ryu, bassist Ame and drummer Bato across the four-song LP’s 40 minutes. Issued through Captured Records and SloomWeep Productions, Sun Moon Holy Cult brings due bombast amid the roll of “Mystic River” as well, hitting its marks stylistically while showcasing the promise of a band with a clear idea of what they want their songs to do and perhaps how they want to grow over time. If this is to be the foundation of that growth, watch out.

Sun Moon Holy Cult on Instagram

Captured Records website

SloomWeep Productions on Bandcamp

Daily Thompson, Chuparosa

Daily Thompson Chuparosa

Dortmund, Germany’s Daily Thompson made their way to Port Orchard, Washington, to record Chuparosa with Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed at the helm, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist/vocalist Mercedes Lalakakis and drummer/vocalist Thorsten Stratmann bring a duly West Coast spirit to “I’m Free Tonight” and the grunge-informed roll of “Diamond Waves” and the verses of “Raindancer.” The former launches the 36-minute outing with a pointedly Fu Manchuian vibe, but the start-stops, fluid roll and interplay of vocals from Zaremba and Lalakakis lets “Pizza Boy” move in its own direction, and the brooding acoustic start of “Diamond Waves” and more languid wash of riff in the chorus look elsewhere in ’90s alternativism for their basis. The penultimate “Ghost Bird” brings in cigar-box guitar and dares some twang amid all the fuzz, but as “Raindancer” has already branched out with its quieter bassy midsection build and final desert-hued thrust, the album can accommodate such a shift without any trouble. The title-track trades between wistful grunge verses and a fuller-nodding hook, from which the three-piece take off for the bridge, thankfully returning to the chorus in Chuparosa‘s big finish. The manner in which the whole thing brims with purpose makes it seem like Daily Thompson knew exactly what they were going for in terms of sound, so I guess you could say it was probably worth the trip.

Daily Thompson on Facebook

Noisolution website

Mooch, Visions

mooch visions

Kicking off with the markedly Graveyardian “Hangtime,” Mooch ultimately aren’t content to dwell solely in a heavy-blues-boogie sphere on Visions, their third LP and quick follow-up to 2023’s Hounds. Bluesy as the vibe is from which the Montreal trio set out, the subsequent “Morning Prayer” meanders through wah-strum open spaces early onto to delve into jangly classic-prog strum later, while “Intention” backs its drawling vocal melody with nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and hand percussion. Divergence continues to be the order of the day throughout the 41-minute eight-songer, with “New Door” shifting from its sleepy initial movement into an even quieter stretch of Doors-meets-Stones-y melody before the bass leads into its livelier solo section with just a tinge of Latin rhythm and “Together” giving more push behind a feel harkening back to the opener but that grows quiet and melodically expansive in its second half. This sets up the moodier vibe of “Vision” and gives the roll of “You Wouldn’t Know” an effective backdrop for its acoustic/electric blend and harmonized vocals, delivered patiently enough to let the lap steel slide into the arrangement easily before the brighter-toned “Reflections” caps with a tinge of modern heavy post-rock. What’s tying it together? Something intangible. Momentum. Flow. Maybe just the confidence to do it? I don’t know, but as subdued as they get, they never lose their momentum, and as much movement as their is, they never seem to lose their balance. Visions might not reveal its full scope the first time through, but subsequent listens bring due reward.

Mooch on Facebook

Mooch on Bandcamp

The Pleasure Dome, Liminal Space

The Pleasure Dome Liminal Space EP

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it that guitarist/vocalist Bobby Spender recruited bassist Loz Fancourt and drummer Harry Flowers after The Pleasure Dome‘s prior rhythm section left, ahead of putting together the varied 16 minutes of the Liminal Space EP. For what it’s worth, the revamped Bristol, UK, trio don’t sound any more haphazard than they want to in the loose-swinging sections of “Shoulder to Cry On” that offset the fuller shove of the chorus, or the punk-rooted alt-rock brashness of “The Duke Part II (Friends & Enemies),” and the blastbeat-inclusive tension of “Your Fucking Smile” that precedes the folk-blues finger-plucking of “Sugar.” Disjointed? Kind of, but that also feels like the point. Closer “Suicide” works around acoustic guitar and feels sincere in the lines, “Suicide, suicide/I’ve been there before/I’ve been there before/On your own/So hold on,” and the profession of love that resolves it, and while that’s at some remove from the bitter spirit of the first two post-intro tracks, Liminal Space makes its own kind of sense with the sans-effects voice of Spender at its core.

The Pleasure Dome on Facebook

Hound Gawd! Records website

Slump, Dust

Slump Dust EP

A solid four-songer from Birmingham’s Slump, who are fronted by guitarist Matt Noble (also Alunah), with drummer David Kabbouri Lara and bassist Ben Myles backing the riff-led material with punch in “Buried” after the careening hook of “Dust” opens with classic scorch in its solo and before the slower and more sludged “Kneel” gets down to its own screamier business and “Vultures” rounds out with a midtempo stomp early but nods to what seems like it’s going to be a more morose finish until the drum solo takes off toward the big-crash finish. As was the case on Slump‘s 2023 split with At War With the Sun, the feel across Dust is that of a nascent band — Slump got together in 2018, but this is their most substantial standalone release to-date — figuring out what they want to do. The ideas are there, and the volatility at which “Kneel” hints will hopefully continue to serve them well as they explore spaces between metal and heavy rock, classic and modern styles. A progression underway toward any number of potential avenues.

Slump on Facebook

Slump on Bandcamp

Green Hog Band, Fuzz Realm

Green Hog Band Fuzz Realm

What dwells in Green Hog Band‘s Fuzz Realm? If you said “fuzz,” go ahead and get yourself a cookie (the judges also would’ve accepted “riffs” and “heavy vibes, dude”), but for those unfamiliar with the New Yorker trio’s methodology, there’s more to it than tone as guitarist/producer Mike Vivisector, bassist/vocalist Ivan Antipov and drummer Ronan Berry continue to carve out their niche of lo-fi stoner buzz marked by harsh, gurgly vocals in the vein of Attila Csihar, various samples, organ sounds and dug-in fuckall. “Escape on the Wheels” swings and chugs instrumentally, and “In the Mist of the Bong” has lyrics in English, so there’s no lack of variety despite the overarching pervasiveness of misanthropy. That mood is further cast in the closing salvo of the low-slung “Morning Dew” and left-open “Phantom,” both of which are instrumental save for some spoken lines in the latter, as the prevailing sense is that they were going to maybe put some verses on there but decided screw it and went back to their cave (presumably somewhere in Queens) instead, because up yours anyhow. 46 minutes of crust-stoned “up yours anyhow,” then.

Green Hog Band on Facebook

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Pallbearer, BleakHeart, Pryne, Avi C. Engel, Aktopasa, Guenna, Slow Green Thing, Ten Ton Slug, Magic Fig, Scorched Oak

Posted in Reviews on May 17th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


By the time today is through — come hell or high water! — we will be at the halfway point of this two-week Quarterly Review. It hasn’t been difficult so far, though there are ups and downs always and I don’t think I’m giving away secrets when I tell you that in listening to 50 records some are going to be better than others.

Truth is that even outside the 100 LPs, EPs, etc., I have slated, there’s still a ton more. Even in something so massive, there’s an element of picking and choosing what goes in. Curation is the nice word for it, though it’s not quite that creatif in my head. Either way, I hope you’ve found something that connects this week. If not yet, then today. If not today, then maybe next week. As I’m prone to say on Fridays, we’re back at it on Monday.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Pallbearer, Mind Burns Alive

pallbearer mind burns alive

While I won’t take away from the rawer energy and longing put into their earlier work, maturity suits Pallbearer. The Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell, guitarist/backing vocalist Devin Holt, bassist/synthesist/backing vocalist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly have passed their 15th anniversary between 2020’s Forgotten Days (review here) and the self-recorded six tracks of Mind Burns Alive, and they sound poised harnessing new breadth and melodic clarity. They’ve talked about the album being stripped down, and maybe that’s true to some degree in the engrossing-anyhow opener “When the Light Fades,” but there’s still room for sax on the 10-minute “Endless Place,” and the quieter stretches of the penultimate “Daybreak” highlight harmonized vocals before the bass-weighted riff sweeps in after the three-minute mark. Campbell has never sounded stronger or more confident as a singer, and he’s able to carry the likewise subdued intro to “Signals” with apparent sincerity and style alike. The title-track flashes brighter hopes in its later guitar solo leads, but they hold both their most wistful drift and their most crushing plod for closer “With Disease,” because five records and countless tours (with more to come) later, Pallbearer very clearly know what the fuck they’re doing. I hope having their own studio leads to further exploration from here.

Pallbearer on Facebook

Nuclear Blast website

BleakHeart, Silver Pulse

Bleakheart silver pulse

With its six pieces arranged so that side A works from its longest track to its shortest and side B mirrors by going shortest to longest, Denver‘s BleakHeart seem to prioritize immersion on their second full-length, Silver Pulse, as “All Hearts Desire” unfolds fluidly across nearly eight minutes, swelling to an initial lumbering roll that evaporates as they move into the more spacious verse and build back up around the vocals of Kiki GaNun (also synth) and Kelly Schilling (also bass, keys and more synth). Emotional resonance plays at least as much of a role throughout as the tonal weight intermittently wrought by JP Damron and Mark Chronister‘s guitars, and with Joshua Quinones on drums giving structure and movement to the meditations of “Where I’m Disease” before leaving the subsequent “Let Go” to its progression through piano, drone and a sit-in from a string quartet that leads directly into “Weeping Willow,” the spaces feel big and open but never let the listener get any more lost in them than is intended. This is the first LP from the five-piece incarnation of BleakHeart, which came together in 2022, and the balance of lushness and intensity as “Weeping Willow” hits its culmination and recedes into the subdued outset of “Falling Softly” and the doomed payoff that follows bodes well, but don’t take that as undercutting what’s already being accomplished here.

BleakHeart on Facebook

Seeing Red Records website

Pryne, Gargantuan

PRYNE Gargantuan

Austria’s Pryne — also stylized all-caps: PRYNE — threaten to derail their first album before it’s even really started with the angular midsection breakdown of “Can-‘Ka No Rey,” but that the opener holds its course and even brings that mosher riff back at the end is indicative of the boldness with which they bring together the progressive ends of metal and heavy rock throughout the 10-song/46-minute offering, soaring in the solo ahead of the slowdown in “Ramification,” giving the audience 49 seconds to catch its breath after that initial salvo with “Hollow Sea” before “Abordan” resumes the varied onslaught with due punch, shove and twist, building tension in the verse and releasing in the melodic chorus in a way that feels informed by turn-of-the-century metal but seeming to nod at Type O Negative in the first half bridge of “Cymboshia” and refusing flat-out to do any one thing for too long. Plotted and complex even as “The Terrible End of the Yogi” slams out its crescendo before the Baronessy verse of “Plaguebearer” moves toward a stately gang shout and squibbly guitar tremolo, they roll out “Enola” as a more straight-ahead realignment before the drone interlude “Shapeless Forms” bursts into the double-kick-underscored thrash of closer “Elder Things,” riding its massive groove to an expectedly driving end. You never quite know what’s coming next within the songs, but the overarching sense of movement becomes a uniting factor that serves the material well regardless of the aggression level in any given stretch.

Pryne on Facebook

Pryne on Bandcamp

Avi C. Engel, Too Many Souls

avi c engel too many souls

Backed by looped percussive ticks and pops and the cello-esque melody of the gudok, Toronto experimental singer-songwriter Avi C. Engel is poised as they ask in the lyrics of “Breadcrumb Dance,” “How many gods used to run this place/Threw up their hands, went into real estate” near the center of the seven-song Too Many Souls LP. Never let it be said there wasn’t room for humor in melancholy. Engel isn’t new to exploring folkish intimacy in various contexts, and Too Many Souls feels all the more personal even in “Wooly Mammoth” or second cut “Ladybird, What’s Wrong?” which gets underway on its casual semi-ramble with the line, “One by one I watch them piss into the sun,” for the grounded perspective at root. An ongoing thread of introspection and Engel‘s voice at the center draw the songs together as these stories are told in metaphor — birds return in the album’s second half with “The Oven Bird’s Song” but there’s enough heart poured in that it doesn’t need to be leaned into as a theme — and before it moves into its dreamstate drone still with the acoustic guitar beneath, “Without Any Eyes” brings through its own kind of apex in Engel‘s layered delivery. Topped with a part-backmasked take on the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” that’s unfortunately left as an instrumental, Too Many Souls finds Engel continuing their journey of craft with its own songs as companions for each other and the artist behind them.

Avi C. Engel on Facebook

Somnimage website

Aktopasa, Ultrawest

aktopasa ultrawest

The 13-minute single “Ultrawest” follows behind Aktopasa‘s late-2022 Argonauta Records debut, Journey to the Pink Planet (review here), and was reportedly composed to feature in a documentary of the same name about the reshaping of post-industrial towns in Colorado. It is duly spacious in its slow, linear, instrumentalist progression. The Venice, Italy, three-piece of guitarist Lorenzo Barutta, bassist Silvio Tozzato and drummer Marco Sebastiano Alessi are fluid as they maintain the spirit of the jam that likely birthed the song’s floating atmospherics, but there’s a plan at work as well as they bring the piece to fruition, with Alessi subtly growing more urgent around 10 minutes in to mark the shift into an ending that never quite bursts out and isn’t trying to, but feels like resolution just the same. A quick, hypnotic showcase of the heavy psychedelic promise the debut held, “Ultrawest” makes it easy to look forward to whatever might come next for them.

Aktopasa on Facebook

Aktopasa on Bandcamp

Guenna, Peak of Jin’Arrah

Guenna Peak of Jin Arrah

Right onto the list of 2024’s best debuts goes Guenna‘s Peak of Jin’Arrah, specifically for the nuance and range the young Swedish foursome bring to their center in heavy progressive fuzz riffing. One might look at a title like “Bongsai” or “Weedwacker” (video premiered here) and imagine played-to-genre stoner fare, but Guenna‘s take is more ambitious, as emphasized in the flute brought to “Bongsai” at the outset and the proclivity toward three-part harmonies that’s unveiled more in the nine-minute “Dimension X,” which follows. The folk influence toward which that flute hints comes forward on the mostly-acoustic closer “Guenna’s Lullaby,” which takes hold after the skronk-accompanied, full-bore push that caps “Wizery,” but by that point the context for such shifts has been smoothly laid out as being part of an encompassing and thoughtful songwriting process that in less capable hands would leave “Ordric Major” disjointed and likely overly aggressive. Even as they make room for the guest lead vocals of Elin Pålsson on “Dark Descent,” Guenna walk these balances smoothly and confidently, and if you don’t believe there’s a generational shift happening right now — at this very moment — in Scandinavia, Peak of Jin’Arrah stands ready to convince you otherwise. There’s a lot of work between here and there, but Guenna hold the potential to be a significant voice in that next-gen emergence.

Guenna on Facebook

The Sign Records website

Slow Green Thing, Wetterwarte / Waltherstrasse

Slow Green Thing Wetterwarte Waltherstrasse

The interplay of stoner-metal tonal density and languid vocal melody in “I Thought I Would Not” sets an atmospheric mood for Slow Green Thing on their fourth LP, Wetterwarte / Waltherstrasse, which the Dresden-based four-piece seem to have recorded in two sessions between 2020 and 2022. That span of time might account for some of the scope between the songs as “Thousand Deaths” holds out a hand into the void staring back at it and the subsequent “Whispering Voices” answers the proggy wash and fuzzed soloing of “Tombstones in My Eyes” with roll and meditative float alike, but I honestly don’t know what was recorded when and there’s no real lack of cohesion within the aural mists being conjured or the heft residing within it, so take that as you will. It’s perhaps less of a challenge to put temporal considerations aside since Slow Green Thing seem so at home in the flow that plays out across Wetterwarte / Waltherstrasse‘s six songs and 44 minutes, remaining in control despite veering into more aggressive passages and basing so much of what they do on entrancing and otherworldly vibe. And while the general superficialities of thickened tones and soundscaping, ‘gaze-type singing and nod will be familiar, the use made of them by Slow Green Thing offers a richer and deeper experience revealed and affirmed on repeat listens.

Slow Green Thing on Facebook

Slow Green Thing on Bandcamp

Ten Ton Slug, Colossal Oppressor


Don’t expect a lot of trickery in Ten Ton Slug‘s awaited first full-length record, Colossal Oppressor, which delivers its metallic sludge pummel with due transparency of purpose. That is to say, the Galway, Ireland, trio aren’t fucking around. Enough so that Bolt Thrower‘s Karl Willetts shows up on a couple of songs. Varied but largely growled or screamed vocals answer the furious chug and thud of “Balor,” and while “Ghosts of the Ooze” later on answers back to the brief acoustic parts bookending opener “The Ooze” ahead of “Mallacht an tSloda” arriving like a sledgehammer only to unfold its darkened thrash and nine-plus-minute closer “Mogore the Unkind” making good on its initial threat with the mosh-ready riffing in its second half, there’s no pretense in those or any of the other turns Colossal Oppressor makes, and there doesn’t need to be when the songs are so refreshingly crushing. These guys have been around for over a decade already, so it’s not a surprise necessarily to find them so committed to this punishing mission, but the cathartic bloodletting resonates regardless. Not for everyone, very much for some on the more extreme end of heavy.

Ten Ton Slug on Facebook

Ten Ton Slug on Bandcamp

Magic Fig, Magic Fig

magic fig magic fig

Don’t let the outward Beatles-bouncing pop-psych friendly-acid traditionalism of “Goodbye Suzy” lull you into thinking San Francisco psych rockers Magic Fig‘s self-titled debut is solely concerned with vintage aesthetics. While accessible even in the organ-and-synth prog flourish of “PS1” — the keyboards alone seeming to span generations — and the more foreboding current of low end under the shuffle and soft vocals of “Obliteration,” the six-song/28-minute LP is no less effective in the rising cosmic expanse that builds into “Labyrinth” than the circa-’67 orange-sun lysergic folk-rock that rolls out from there — that darker edge comes back around, briefly, in a stop around the two-minute mark; it’s hard to know which side is imagining the other, but “Labyrinth” is no less fun for that — and “Distant Dream,” which follows, is duly transcendent and fluid. Given additional character via the Mellotron and birdsong-inclusive meditation that ends it and the album as a whole, “Departure” nonetheless feels intentional in its subtly synthy acoustic-and-voice folkish strum, and its intricacy highlights a reach one hopes Magic Fig will continue to nurture.

Magic Fig on Facebook

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Scorched Oak, Perception

Perception by Scorched Oak

If you followed along with Dortmund, Germany’s Scorched Oak on their 2020 debut, Withering Earth (review here), as that album dug into classic heavy rock as a means of longer-form explorations, some of what they present in the 39 minutes of Perception might make more sense. There was plenty of dynamic then too in terms of shifts in rhythm and atmosphere, and certainly second-LP pieces like “Mirrors” and “Relief” come at least in part from a similar foundation — I’d say the same of the crescendo verse of “Oracle” near the finish — but the reportedly-recorded-live newer offering finds the band making a striking delve into harder and more metallic impacts on the whole. An interplay of gruff — gurgling, almost — and soulful melodic vocals is laid out as opener/longest track (immediate points) “Delusion” resolves the brooding toms of its verse with post-metal surges. Perhaps it’s obvious enough that it doesn’t need to be said, but Scorched Oak aren’t residing in a single feel or progression throughout, and the intensity and urgency of “Reflection” land with a directness that the closing “Oracle” complements in its outward spread. The element of surprise makes Perception feel somewhat like a second debut, but that they pull off such an impression is in itself a noteworthy achievement, never mind how much less predictable it makes them or the significant magnitude of these songs.

Scorched Oak on Facebook

Scorched Oak on Bandcamp

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Pallbearer to Release Mind Burns Alive May 17; “Where the Light Fades” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

PALLBEARER (photo by Dan Almasy)

No real getting around Pallbearer‘s fifth LP, Mind Burns Alive — announced today with a May 17 release date as their second album for Nuclear Blast behind 2020’s Forgotten Days (review here) — as one of the biggest doom releases of the year. The Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece now in their 16th year have done more to modernize the emotive doom melancholia fostered by the likes of AnathemaMoonspell, maybe even on some level their now-labelmates My Dying Bride — for whose new album Mind Burns Alive should make a fitting complement — for the subsequent generation, and as the first single and lead track “Where the Light Fades” shows, their own maturity as a group has only brought more poise and soul to their approach. Plus they tour. Hard. Regularly.

They’ll do so again for Mind Burns Alive, of course, and after co-headlining a Euro run with Elder in 2022, Pallbearer have lined up support from REZN, The KeeningRwake and Inter Arma — not everybody all at once; calm down — for back-t0-back stints on the East and West Coasts. Dates, preorders, more about the record, the cover art, the tour poster, the ticket link for when they go on sale and of course the “Where the Light Fades” video all follow here, and I celebrate the PR wire for doing so much heavy lifting. If and when you start the clip, give it some time to build up. They get there, and the melodic path being explored is part of the point. Not the first time in Pallbearer‘s arc that they’ve rewarded the patience of their audience, by any means.

Have at it:

pallbearer mind burns alive


PRE-ORDERS AVAILABLE NOW: https://pallbearer.bfan.link/mind-burns-alive.ema



Pallbearer, indisputable masters of emotionally insightful and stirring heavy music, return with their most raw and heartfelt album to date: Mind Burns Alive (May 17, Nuclear Blast Records).

“These songs are a deeper exploration of dynamics and sonic color than anything we have done up to this point,” vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell explains, shedding light on the band’s decision to strip everything back on the forthcoming nearly hour-long album. “I’m of the belief that true heaviness comes from emotional weight, and sometimes sheer bludgeoning isn’t the right approach to getting a feeling across.”

A preview of Mind Burns Alive arrives today with the release of “Where The Light Fades” and its Dan Almasy-directed video. Lyrically, the song eludes to what are the overall themes on the six-song album, as Campbell describes the tracks as “vignettes that tell the stories of people who deal with myriad sicknesses of the spirit… illnesses communicated by the world we live in, and the subjects are the symptoms of the disease.”

Five years in the making, with recording initially slated for 2020, and thwarted yet again in 2022, it was 2023 that saw the band members living locally to one another in Little Rock for the first time in nine years. As a group, they self-produced the album in their own, newly constructed studio (Idlewild Audio) and at Fellowship Hall Sound. Reflecting on this, bassist/vocalist Joseph D. Rowland remarked, “It’s ironic given that the album is largely centered around isolation, but it felt like it summoned us into being back together again in one town, after so long apart.”

Album pre-orders, which include limited-edition vinyl, CD and digital, are available now: https://pallbearer.bfan.link/mind-burns-alive.ema.

The band has simultaneously announced their most extensive North American tour since 2018, dubbed the “Temporary Spaces North American Tour,” the six-week trek launches on June 6. Tickets are on-sale this Friday at 10 am local time. Openers include Rwake (June 6 to 9; 29), REZN (June 11 to 29), Inter Arma (July 11 to August 3), with The Keening opening on all dates. Visit Pallbearerdoom.com for ticket links.

Pallbearer headlines the opening night of Stumpfest X on April 11 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Ore.. The band has also confirmed two special European performances: The Copenhell Metal Cruise (Copenhagen to Oslo) from Oct. 25 to 27, and Nov. 16 at Helldorado in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). More European dates will be announced soon.

Mind Burns Alive tracklist:
1. Where The Light Fades
2. Mind Burns Alive
3. Signals
4. Endless Place
5. Daybreak
6. With Disease

pallbearer tour“Temporary Spaces North American Tour”:
June 6 Memphis, TN Growlers *
June 7 Murfreesboro, TN Hop Springs *
June 8 Birmingham, AL Zydeco *
June 9 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade *
June 11 Durham, NC The Fruit #
June 12 Asheville, NC Euology at Burial Beer Co. #
June 14 Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery #
June 15 Lancaster, PA Tellus360 #
June 16 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts #
June 18 Hamden, CT Space Ballroom #
June 20 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg #
June 21 Boston, MA The Sinclair #
June 22 Montreal, QC Theatre Fairmount #
June 23 Toronto, ON Velvet Underground #
June 25 Milwaukee, WI Vivarium #
June 26 Chicago, IL Thalia Hall #
June 27 St. Paul, MN Turf Club #
June 28 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck #
June 29 Little Rock, AR The Hall &
July 11 St. Louis, MO Off Broadway ^
July 13 Denver, CO Gothic Theatre ^
July 15 Calgary, AB Dickens ^
July 16 Edmonton, AB The Starlite Room ^
July 18 Vancouver, BC Rickshaw Theatre ^
July 19 Seattle, WA Substation ^
July 23 Sacramento, CA The Starlet Room ^
July 24 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall ^
July 26 Santa Cruz, CA The Catalyst ^
July 27 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick ^
July 28 Los Angeles, CA Teragram Ballroom ^
July 29 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom ^
July 30 Albuquerque, NM Sister Bar ^
August 1 Dallas, TX Trees ^
August 2 Austin, TX Parish ^
August 3 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall ^
*-w/Rwake & The Keening
# – w/REZN & The Keening
& – w/Rwake, REZN & The Keening
^ – w/Inter Arma & The Keening

Pallbearer is Brett Campbell (vocals/electric guitar/synthesizer), Devin Holt (electric and acoustic guitar/vocals), Mark Lierly (drums/percussion) and Joseph D. Rowland (vocals/bass guitar/synthesizer).



Pallbearer, “Where the Light Fades” official video

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My Dying Bride to Release A Mortal Binding April 19; Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

My Dying Bride

Headed toward their 35th anniversary next year, UK death-doom progenitors My Dying Bride have announced their new album, A Mortal Binding, will be released on April 19 in continued cooperation with Nuclear Blast. I actually went and counted before reading it two seconds ago in the press release, but yes, this will be the band’s 15th LP, and it arrives some four years after 2020’s The Ghost of Orion (review here), which was about as righteous a beginning to their post-Peaceville era as one could’ve hoped to get. A Mortal Binding greets public eyes and ears with the video for the first single “Thornwyck Hymn,” and I guess if there’s a visual theme you want to say it’s based around, it’d probably be ‘writhing.’ So, fair enough.

The song dogwhistles metal to longtime fans craving elements like the violin that’s made its way back into their sound or harsher vocals, but no one track is going to tell you everything you’re going to hear on a My Dying Bride record, whatever welcome reassurances it might otherwise provide. After 14 records, I don’t think anyone is expecting My Dying Bride to come along and completely revamp a very-much-not-broken-thus-not-needing-fixing approach, but they always show some level of refinement or progression in their sound — at this point the band has grown with them as people — and, well, I know I’m fuckin’ miserable, so bring it on. Please.

Preorders, etc., from the PR wire:

My Dying Bride A Mortal Binding




British death-doom legends, My Dying Bride, are proud to announce their 15th studio album, A Mortal Binding, set to be released on 19th April via Nuclear Blast Records. Today’s news is accompanied by the release of tempestuous, heart-wrenching new single ‘Thornwyck Hymn’. The track comes with a stunning video directed by Daniel Gray, depicting a maritime story of unfolding desire and tragedy.

My Dying Bride’s Aaron Stainthorpe commented, “Set upon the rugged coast of Yorkshire, Thornwyck village has spent an eternity being haunted by the chill waters that wash its shore – and the hidden folk who dwell in the salty depths.
Woe betide anyone who fares into the briny sea, or even steels to close to its edge for they may never set foot back on mother earth.”

You can pre-order A Mortal Binding here: https://mydyingbride.bfan.link/a-mortal-binding
Listen to ‘Thornwyck Hymn’ here: https://mydyingbride.bfan.link/thornwyck-hymn

A Mortal Binding, the much-anticipated follow-up to The Ghost of Orion (2020) finds the Yorkshire-based quintet delighting in anxiety, loss, and toil to resplendent effect. From the raw distress of ‘Her Dominion’ and twisted horror of ‘Thornwyck Hymn’ to the funerary violins of the 11-minute monolith ‘The Apocalyptist’ and the classic-feeling ‘The 2nd of Three Bells’, A Mortal Binding is pinnacle My Dying Bride. If Songs of Darkness, Words of Light (2004) elevated the band to new heights and A Map of All Our Failures (2012) expanded upon the group’s mid-tens grandeur, then A Mortal Binding stages My Dying Bride’s next exultant phase of elegiac misery.

A Mortal Binding tracklisting:
01. Her Dominion
02. Thornwyck Hymn
03. The Second of Three Bells
04. Unthroned Creed
05. The Apocalyptist
06. A Starving Heart
07. Crushed Embers

A Mortal Binding formats:
CD jewelcase
Vinyl 2LP gatefold – green
Vinyl 2LP gatefold – red w/ black smoke
Vinyl 2LP gatefold – clear w/ black smoke

My Dying Bride hired The Ghost of Orion studio wizard Mark Mynett to produce, mix, and master A Mortal Binding. The group holed up at Mynett’s Mynetaur Productions (Paradise Lost, Rotting Christ) in Manchester, UK, where they tracked the album consecutively from July to September 2023.

For over three decades, My Dying Bride from West Yorkshire have been the voice of the hopeless and broken, combining haunting sounds with crushing misery and melancholy. With their signature sound they’ve shaped the doom metal scene like barely any other act and integrated both soft violin melodies and violent death metal growls into their music, whilst always staying strictly loyal to themselves. And since the early Nineties, the band’s masterminds and founding members Andrew Craighan and Aaron Stainthorpe forged beautiful grief into studio albums with songs of epic length. As My Dying Bride edge past their 33rd year, they’re aging gracefully, remaining as vital and heart-wrenching as ever. The flower withers once more on My Dying Bride’s upcoming new record A Mortal Binding, due out on 19th April 2024.

My Dying Bride are:
Aaron Stainthorpe | vocals
Andrew Craighan | guitars
Lena Abé | bass
Shaun MacGowan | keyboards / violin
Neil Blanchett | guitars
Dan Mullins | drums



My Dying Bride, “Thornwyck Hymn” official video

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Enslaved Announce Deluxe Edition of Heimdal w/ Extra Tracks

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I’ll not waste your time recounting the various glories of Enslaved‘s early-2023 outing, Heimdal (review here), because holy crap, we’ve arrived at the next stage of the covering-Enslaved-on-The-Obelisk running gag, wherein although I never really get much response when I write about the band — I assume because they’re not Electric Wizard, which is a standard that few bands will ever meet; just one comes to mind — I now assume you’re actually as huge a fan as I am. Sweet, right? I know!

As such, a deluxe edition of Heimdal from the Bergen, Norway-based progenitors of progressive black metal, which includes their ‘The Otherworldly Big Band Experience’ live recording, the new track “Gangandi” that you can see the visualizer for — it’s got more scope in its first three minutes than some bands have in their career, but you know that — at the bottom of this post, and a couple alternate versions of songs from teh record with Jo Quail on cello. Mark it a win for fans like you and I.

The release is out March 1, which puts it in time for the band’s upcoming European and UK tour, though I don’t know how you sell digital releases at the merch table. I’m sure there’s a way. It’s the future. You can always spend money here.

From the PR wire:

enslaved heimdal deluxe edition

ENSLAVED | announce ‘Heimdal (Deluxe)’ digital album + release single/visualizer ‘Gangandi’

One year ago, Norway’s trailblazing cosmic voyagers, Enslaved, released their latest avant-garde creation titled Heimdal. To commemorate the studio album’s first year of existence, the band are proud to announce the Heimdal (Deluxe) digital album, set to be released on March 1st 2024 via Nuclear Blast Records.

Heimdal (Deluxe) will include the studio album in full, as well as bonus track ‘Gangandi’, alternative versions of two album tracks ‘Congelia’ and ‘Forest Dweller’, both featuring sublime performances from renowned cellist Jo Quail, plus the entirety of ‘The Otherworldly Big Band Experience’ – Enslaved’s stunning 2022 streaming event featuring fellow psychedelic Norwegian prog band Shaman Elephant.

Today, the band have released their deeply mesmerising track ‘Gangandi’ as a preview to the deluxe digital album, which is accompanied by a visualizer.

Vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson commented,

“Gangandi was the last song we made before the recording sessions for Heimdal took place. I remember Ivar driving down to my place from Bergen on a Friday night to play a demo for a new song for me, and I went like, “Daaaaamn, this is something else!” I absolutely loved it, but at the same time, I sensed that it was a little bit to the left of the rest of the material. When I started to figure out what to sing over it, I ended up writing a poem in cross rhyme in archaic western Norwegian, which even separated the whole effort even further away from the rest of the material.

So, ultimately, we ended up not including it on the album, other than as a bonus track on the most “exclusive” and limited vinyl versions.

That said, that doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy the song! Quite the contrary! We love this odd little hybrid of folk rock, early Mayhem, and King Crimson! It just ended up being the weird cousin of the rest of the songs. Kind of like Enslaved itself as a matter of fact.”

PRE-SAVE HEIMDAL (DELUXE): https://enslaved.bfan.link/heimdal-deluxe.ema
LISTEN TO TRACK ‘GANGANDI’: https://enslaved.bfan.link/gangandi.ema

Enslaved’s latest studio album Heimdal (released March 2023) is both a departure and a communion with roots forged over three decades ago in the turbulent birth throes of Norway’s black metal scene. It’s a record that points towards new beginnings, and a dawn that’s on the other side of the apex of the land. A psychedelic journey through arcane Norse folklore, connecting with one’s ancient ancestors and our future selves.

‘The Otherworldly Big Band Experience’ was an Enslaved show like none other, their biggest, boldest project to date – a colossal, kaleidoscopic stage show featuring a stellar setlist covering their career, both past and present. Including some tracks never previously performed live.

Enslaved will be touring the UK and Europe in March 2024. The 16-date run will take the band across 10 different countries, with support coming from British post-hardcore quartet Svalbard and US metallers Wayfarer.

Tickets are on-sale now from https://enslaved.no/

w/ Svalbard + Wayfarer
06/03 – UK London, Islington Assembly Hall
07/03 – UK Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
08/03 – UK Manchester, Club Academy
09/03 – UK Glasgow, Slay
10/03 – IE Dublin, Opium
12/03 – NL Helmond, Cacaofabriek
13/03 – FR Paris, La Machine
14/03 – CH Geneva, PTR/l’Usine
15/03 – FR Montpellier, Victoire 2
16/03 – IT Milan, Legend
18/03 – CZ Prague, Futurum
19/03 – AT Vienna, Szene
21/03 – DE Cologne, Club Volta
22/03 – DE Leipzig, Taubchenthal
23/03 – DE Berlin, Hole44
24/03 – PL Warsaw, Proxima

Enslaved have also been announced for some festivals in 2024:

31/07-03/08 NO Beyond The Gates, Bergen
11/08 UK Bloodstock Festival, Derby
14/08-17/08 DE Summer Breeze, Dinkelsbühl
16/11-17/11 MX Mexico Metal Fest, Mexico City

Enslaved are:
Ivar Bjørnson | guitars
Grutle Kjellson | vocals
Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal | guitar
Håkon Vinje | keyboards, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy | drums



Enslaved, “Gangandi” official visualizer

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Enslaved Announce 2024 UK & European Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Move along, people! Business as usual here. Just Enslaved touring with Svalbard and Wayfarer, supporting early-2023’s Heimdal (review here) at club shows probably ahead of another summer of festivals and more traveling as they complete the touring cycle for their 16th album, having built a catalog unparalleled in its commitment to sonic progression either in or out of black metal. Yeah, they’re not the only ones who’ve been around that long, but who else has had the kind of trajectory Enslaved have had, incorporating sounds and styles from prog and krautrock while maintaining their ability to conjure tempests of tremolo seemingly at will.

I guess Opeth would be the big analog, but Opeth ‘went prog’ from a beginning in death metal. They started as one thing and became another. Enslaved have done that without dropping their original intention toward extremity. They changed the sound to suit them, rather than themselves to suit the sound.

This concludes today’s lecture on why you don’t listen to enough Enslaved. Put on Below the Lights twice today after you watch the video for “Congelia” at the bottom of this post and we’ll talk about this again tomorrow. No, probably not really.

From the PR wire. Or was it socials. Oh who cares:

Enslaved tour


In March next it is happening; we are going to tour Europe + UK! Enslaved will be hitting the road, together with Wayfarer and Svalbard. We will visit 10 different countries and play in 16 different venues. Ticket sales will kick off tomorrow, so make sure you find yours!

Due to events and circumstances beyond everybody’s control, our first European club tour since 2018 as a matter of fact! No less!

The blare of the great horn shall resound once again, and Heimdal will guide you through pain and anxiety and to victory!

Looking forward to see you all again.

Alu Alu Laukar!!

At which of these shows can we expect to see you?

06/03/2024 – Islington Assembly Hall – London (UK)
07/03/2024 – Brudenell Social Club – Leeds (UK)
08/03/2024 – Club Academy – Manchester (UK)
09/03/2024 – Slay – Glasgow (UK)
10/03/2024 – Opium – Dublin (IE)
12/03/2024 – Cacaofabriek – Helmond (NL)
13/03/2024 – La Machine – Paris (FR)
14/03/2024 – Geneva PTR/l’ Usine – Geneva (CH)
15/03/2024 – Victoire 2 – Montpellier (FR)
16/03/2024 – Legend – Milan (IT)
18/03/2024 – Futurum – Prague (CZ)
19/03/2024 – Szene – Vienna (AT)
21/03/2024 – Club Volta – Cologne (DE)
22/03/2024 – Taubchenthal – Leipzig (DE)
23/03/2024 – Hole44 – Berlin (DE)
24/03/2024 – Proxima – Warsaw (PL)

Enslaved are:
Ivar Bjørnson | guitars
Grutle Kjellson | vocals
Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal | guitar
Håkon Vinje | keyboards, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy | drums



Enslaved, “Congelia” official video

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Green Lung Announce 2024 European Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Green Lung spent some time in continental Europe last month ahead of releasing their third full-length and Nuclear Blast label debut, This Heathen Land (review here). They’ve got shows across England and into Scotland coming up in a few weeks, and with the list of dates below, they’re starting to reveal a bit about their Spring plans as well.

They’ve left a good amount of time here for Spring fests if they’re going to be around Europe at that point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they showed up on more metal-focused lineups as well, the album having significant crossover potential. But obviously this is all a ways off — not the UK shows this month, but the rest — and there’s time for these shows to take shape and for plenty of others to be sorted. Green Lung are going pro, and might be about to embark on a touring cycle broader than any they’ve done before — I’m holding out that this is the record that brings them to the US — so yes. More to come.

Till then, this from social media:

Green Lung tour

Now that you’ve heard the new songs, it’s time for us to get out there and play them for you! We’re excited to announce that we’ll be back in Europe in March, April and May next year – we’ll be playing our first club shows in Greece, conquering Germany, Denmark, Austria and Switzerland with the mighty Spirit Adrift, and finally making it to Ireland with the mesmerising Lowen. Tickets will be on sale 9am this Wednesday morning (#128121#) (#128652#)

22.03 Thessaloniki GR
23.03 Athens GR
30.03 Köln DE
01.04 Copenhagen DK
02.04 Hannover DE
03.04 Leipzig DE
04.04 Munich DE
05.04 Vienna AT
06.04 Zurich CH
07.04 Aschaffenburg DE
30.04 Colchester UK
15.05 Liverpool UK
16.05 Belfast UK
17.05 Limerick IE
18.05 Dublin IE
19.05 Leeds UK

GREEN LUNG on tour:

22 Nov. Glasgow, UK Cathouse
23 Nov. Manchester, UK Gorilla
24 Nov. Nottingham, UK Rescue Rooms
25 Nov. Sheffield, UK Corporation Sheffield
26 Nov. Bristol, UK Thekla
30 Nov. Wolverhampton, UK KK’s Steel Mill
1 Dec. Norwich, UK Norwich Arts Centre
2 Dec. Southampton, UK The Joiners
10 Dec. London, UK Scala

Green Lung is:
Tom Templar – Vocals
Scott Black – Guitar
Joseph Ghast – Bass
John Wright – Organ
Matt Wiseman – Drums



Green Lung, “Maxine (Witch Queen)” official video

Green Lung, This Heathen Land (2023)

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Album Review: Green Lung, This Heathen Land

Posted in Reviews on November 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

green lung this heathen land

The ascent of Green Lung to the forefront of the heavy underground has been swift and uncoincidental. Over the last half-decade, the London-based, organ-inclusive nature-cult five-piece have developed a sound both familiar and distinct as their own, driven by brazen, big-swing hooks unabashedly pop in form and melody, doom and heavy rock riff-led groove and an emergent touring pattern further speaking to the we-want-to-do-this-full-time intention on the part of the band itself. This Heathen Land is the third Green Lung full-length and feels duly like a culmination of the time since they released their preliminary single “Green Man Rising” (review here) in 2017 ahead of their first EP, Free the Witch (review here), the next year, as well as a crucial step into the next phase of their career and a new level of distribution as their label-debut for Nuclear Blast. It is clearly not a moment they’re treating lightly, nor should they.

Now labelmates to the likes of Lucifer and Hangmans Chair (along with scores of others including GraveyardEnslaved, etc.), Green Lung flirt with forest-goth kitsch on This Heathen Land in a manner that refuses not to be both heavy and (mostly) fun. Their sound is immediately identifiable as the spoken intro “Prologue” sets the stage with a description of “a country of lonely tors and desolate moors, of forgotten woods and mysterious standing stones” backed by vintage-ish budget-horror creeper synth before Matt Wiseman‘s drums spring to life with the feedback from Scott Black‘s guitar at the outset of “The Forest Church,” but there are some differences between what Green Lung bring to This Heathen Land and where they were even two years ago on 2021’s Svart-issued Black Harvest (review here) in craft and performance alike, and these are brought all the more into relief by the fact that the new nine-track/42-minute outing was recorded mostly by esteemed and returning producer Wayne Adams (also of Petbrick, JAAW, and others, with a list of albums helmed that has room for both Black Helium and Possessor) at Bear Bites Horse Studios, with mixing by Tom Dalgety and mastering by Robin Schmidt. There is a clear intention toward balancing largesse and the organic aesthetic underpinnings of Green Lung, the elements they derive from classic heavy rock, with the largesse of a modern release on arguably the world’s biggest heavy metal imprint.

This Heathen Land accomplishes this outright, and with the consuming, sweeping momentum built across “The Forest Church,” “Mountain Throne” and “Maxine (Witch Queen),” frontloaded longest-to-shortest after “Prologue” puts you in the place of the record being a BBC documentary on paganism from 1974 as vocalist Tom Templar begins a session of lyrical storytelling corresponding in its has-read-books-of-English-folklore framing to the ambitiousness of both the album’s theme and the breadth of its arrangements, which are dynamic even as Green Lung are undeniably more metal in their presentation than they’ve ever been.

Templar, in “The Forest Church,” the penultimate “Hunters in the Sky,” and elsewhere, can be heard pushing his voice into upper registers and that’s part of it in a classic-metal sense, but in Black‘s gleaming-sword lead tone shredding solos throughout, the punch in Joseph Ghast‘s basslines and the sound and placement of Wiseman‘s drums (Sam Grant is credited with additional drum engineering,), there is a sharpness to Green Lung‘s attack that, while offset by the late-afternoon folk fusion of “Songs of the Stones” — which does bring in an electric guitar later for Black‘s solo — feels very much like the band purposefully stepping up their game to reach as many ears as possible. This has been their modus all along from one release to the next, and they’ve always been songwriters, but in its front-to-back flow and the memorability of the pieces that comprise it, This Heathen Land is a richer manifestation of who they are than they’ve yet had.

green lung

Part of why is because, in both the lumbering breakdown chug of centerpiece “One for Sorrow” and the cheeky keyboard of “Maxine (Witch Queen)” that harnesses a bit of the ethic of Type O Negative‘s “My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” — minus the sleaze, plus a witch — they’re simply doing more. Neither Black Harvest nor 2019’s Woodland Rites (review here) wanted for complexity in their arrangements, but This Heathen Land shows characteristic progression in the dynamic interplay between Black‘s guitar and Wright‘s organ, as well as in Templar‘s vocal layering and the placement of backing vocals. It’s somehow completely over-the-top — and never more so than in the finale “Oceans of Time,” in which Templar dons the mantle of Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula to deliver the chorus lyric lifted from the movie with a suitably grandiose sweep, call and response, and so on — and just what it needs to be.

And the procession followed by the songs, from “Prologue” into the push through “The Forest Church,” “Mountain Throne” and “Maxine (Witch Queen)” with the ’60s garage bounce of the latter giving over to the anthemic and boldly heavy “One for Sorrow” — chorus singalongs coming soon to any number of UK festivals, surely; I only hope they go into “Hunters in the Sky” immediately after, and that someone gets it on video — followed by the righteous rug-pull shift to acoustics with “Songs of the Stones” and the regrounding of “The Ancient Ways” before “Hunters in the Sky” unveils a speedier gallop they’ve been holding in reserve and “Oceans of Time” slows from that but spreads itself over a vast expanse in its still-relatively-compact six minutes to cap with a veer into the epic that answers the definitive hook in “One for Sorrow” and delves into gothic romance in a way far more celebratory than ironic.

The last lines as they push into the fadeout, snare popping to mark the steps of the run, guitar shredding wildly, vocals calling and responding, are, “I know you feel it, Vina/I feel it too/You’re part of me now, Vina/I’m part of you,” and the point being underscored is that Green Lung are all-in. Other than that Dracula took place partly in London, there isn’t a lot of connection between “Oceans of Time” and This Heathen Land‘s stated themes around British paganism, but the closer works where it is simply because they make it fit. Confidence and songwriting can go a long way.

Some more grainy synth at the outset ties to “Prologue” and other flourishes throughout, and much as they did with “One for Sorrow” at the end of side A, they execute “Oceans of Time” seemingly with the stage in mind. They’re speaking to their audience, the invitation outright at the beginning, “Come. It’s time to explore This Heathen Land,” and everything that follows, one way or another, unites around that idea even as each song serves its own function in adding to and not detracting from the entirety of the album, demonstrating a mastery of their approach that codifies their earlier work, uses the space in its production to offer new ideas and perspectives, and leaves none of its goals unaccomplished. It is a landmark for Green Lung, and will only bring more converts to their leaf-covered altar.

Green Lung, “One for Sorrow” official video

Green Lung, “Maxine (Witch Queen)” official video

Green Lung, This Heathen Land (2023)

Green Lung on Facebook

Green Lung on Instagram

Green Lung website

Green Lung on Bandcamp

Nuclear Blast on Facebook

Nuclear Blast on Instagram

Nuclear Blast website

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