Thursday, 22 February 2018

ALBUM PREMIERE & REVIEW: Phantom Winter, "Into Dark Science"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 02/03/2018
Label: Golden Antenna Records

From the opening chords of "The Initiation Of Darkness," Phantom Winter create an experience that grinds into you relentlessly and the results are truly phenomenal.  You'll be thankful for this experience, harrowing though it may be.

"Into Dark Science" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. The Initiation Of Darkness
2. Ripping Halos From Angels
3. Frostcoven
4. The Craft And The Power Of Black Magic Wielding
5. Into Dark Science
6. Godspeed! Voyager

The Review:

Following 2016's well-received "Sundown Pleasures," German sludge/doom crew Phantom Winter rejoin the living in 2018 on its latest. Its six-song "Into Dark Science" are hereby your reminder that doom and sludge, like cold brew coffee, are best served pure and without flourish.

The subtle beauty of Phantom Winter's music has always been its truth in vision. It stands out because it isn't preening with the idea of being something more exceptional that a doom group. They do not need to: the performance is so unique and powerful that its presence is all that is necessary. Such focus on craft is freeing. What's more the sheer quality of the musicianship virtually guarantees that the band does not require a hyphenate sort of marketing. Instead, Phantom Winter, from the opening chords of "The Initiation Of Darkness," creates an experience.

"Into Dark Science" is effective because of its claustrophobic soundscapes and baleful vocals. Storytelling is very much part of this mood; Phantom Winter shares its lyrics with fans, and its misanthropic vignettes are certain to sit with you for awhile. "No god can help you here, no sun will ever shine," goes "Frostcoven." "We are usurpers of the night… the ghosts who haunt us scream in pain." " The Initiation Of Darkness " crashes against your head in fits and starts, with words inspired by poet Sylvia Plath and activist Adrienne Rich. "Ripping Halos From Angels" throbs with Full of Hell-style abandon. "The Craft And The Power Of Black Magic Wielding" sets a mood and grinds it into you relentlessly. In all, these are seem disparate, but share common bonds, sonically and lyrically. The results are truly phenomenal.

As you come to the album's conclusion, Phantom Winter present more of that harsh edge of doom it presented earlier. Broken-glass vocals and a tumultuous guitar sequence will leave you spellbound. You'll be thankful for this experience, harrowing though it may be.

"Into Dark Science" is available to preorder/buy here

Band info: facebook

Friday, 16 February 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Harakiri for the Sky - "Arson"

By: Brandon Green

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 16/02/2018
Label: AOP Records

“Arson” is a massive achievement for Harakiri for the Sky. They took everything that was amazing about “III: Trauma”, and turned up the intensity even higher. If you’re a fan of post-black metal, atmospheric black metal, or introspective music in general, this album is perfect for you.

“Arson” CD//DD//2LP track listing:

1). “Fire, Walk With Me”
2). “The Graves We’ve Dug”
3). “You Are The Scars”
4). “Heroin Waltz”
5). “Tomb Omnia”
6). “Stillborn”
7). “Voidgazer”
8). “Manifesto” (Graveyard Lovers cover)

The Review:  

An impressive follow-up to “III: Trauma” back in 2016, “Arson” wastes very little time throwing the listener into an aggressive, melodic, and atmospheric black metal bliss. With most of the songs clocking in over 8 minutes, Harakiri for the Sky do a wonderful job creating soundscapes that take the listener from crushingly heavy melodic sections to shoegazey piano-laden clean parts that often stick in your head for days. This album is absolutely worth spending over an hour hiking in the woods with headphones on, or staring at the ceiling. Easily contender for album of the year for me and its only February.

“Fire Walk with Me” is the first glimpse of the album. It gives the listener a medley of what we can anticipate from 2018’s “Arson”, and includes some of the best moments of what the album offers.  The track begins with an airy, beautiful keyboard intro following immediately into driving guitars.  Throughout the song there are frequent changes and pauses, which are an opportunity for us to gaze into the musical craftsmanship HKFTS want us to see. The deliberate stops in the track give the listener an opportunity to really appreciate when all of the layers merge and we experience the masterful musicianship in its entirety. Energetic guitar leads meet with passionate harsh vocals which are more of a shout than the traditional black metal scream heard in other modern black metal acts.  The vocals really give this band an extremely memorable sound in what seems to be a flooded genre these days.

“You Are the Scars” starts with a beautiful intro reminiscent of early HIM / goth rock records. Big hitting drums and guitar chords with washy shoegaze-like melodies in the background break into a beautiful clean section mid-way through the track with a “holy shit” moment as the distortion kicks back in with soaring leads and vocals. As the song builds up to its conclusion, epic blast beats push us into even more emotionally intense moments making this track one of the more special ones on “Arson”.

“Heroin Waltz” was the single I first heard before this album dropped, and it got me beyond excited for this release. As track 4 on the album, it fits perfectly. Despite the 100 times I’ve already listened to it, I couldn’t help but crank the volume again in the albums context for the 101th listen. The gorgeous clean intro with ebow guitar leads slamming into punishing blast beat drums and amazing chord structures immediately had me hooked.  The fact this song feels like a waltz with the memorable guitar melodies and 3 / 4 time signatures make this not only tragically melodic, its beyond addicting to listen to. The clean middle section and guitar leads that develop are revisited throughout song and are still constantly stuck in my head. This track really shows off what the band can do as musicians and has me coming back for more. The drumming is absolutely insane on this one.

Tomb Omnia” was another extremely memorable track from “Arson”. As one of the shorter tracks on the album, this song does not disappoint with its heavy hitting melodic intro cutting into folky black metal blast beats and soaring screams. As another single released before the album, it’s a fantastic song placed well on the track listing. It almost feels like part 2 of “Heroin Waltz”, and this is a welcomed thing.

“Arson” is a massive achievement for Harakiri for the Sky. They took everything that was amazing about “III: Trauma”, and turned up the intensity even higher. If I were to nitpick, I would say the album does feel a little long at 1 hour and 11 minutes. Coming in around the 50-minute mark, I think “Arson” would be perfect.  Make no mistakes, the production is top notch, and the song crafting is masterful. This new release reminds me of all of the reasons I fell in love with Agalloch and Alcest separately, but combined into a powerfully emotional and personal experience. Their own interpretation of these styles fits almost too well, and they’ve invented their own sound with it that’s beyond satisfying to listen to. If you’re a fan of post-black metal, atmospheric black metal, or introspective music in general, this album is perfect for you.

“Arson” is available here

Band info: facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, "Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Full Length: Full length
Date Released: 26/01/ 2018
Label: Housecore Records |
Season of Mist

Songs like "Mixed Lunatic Results" and "Delinquent" are Anselmo at his best, holding court and being the wildman savant his fans adore. Say what you will about his persona, but Anselmo is as spellbinding as ever, and songs like "Photographic Taunts" show you how he's still got it.

"Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue" CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Little Fucking Heroes
2. Utopian
3. Choosing Mental Illness
4. The Ignorant Point
5. Individual
6. Delinquent
7. Photographic Taunts
8. Finger Me
9. Invalid Colubrine Frauds
10. Mixed Lunatic Results

The Review:

A friend once said he loved hip-hop legend Cam'ron because he was the king of ignorant rap. The former Killa Cam has made a 20-year career out of having wealth, screwing women, making trouble and slapping haters. It's just narcissistic music for the club that is blessed by an artist with a seductive flow who knows his lane is the Wraith and Hennessey, and not Black Lives Matter or introspection. He seems to like it that way, as do his fans, who have followed Cam'ron through the various Diplomats reunions, guest spots and feuds.

Metal's Cam'ron is almost certainly Phil Anselmo. No one in the last 20 years has been as polarizing or reliable/predictable as the former Pantera front man and lead for Superjoint and Down. Rage and seething are largely the emotional spectrum. Anselmo's continued stumblings into political commentary have earned him a reputation as a neo-Nazi, a label he has repeatedly rejected, unconvincingly. His excesses would have killed most of us. And, like Cam, Anselmo's worst enemy has been himself. Fans may point to stylistic growth. It's just not terribly convincing either.

On "Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue" Anselmo offers the first glimpses in some time at attempts to prove his haters wrong. Granted, it's done in that pretentious Anselmo way of not caring what you think, but it's evident nevertheless. When the album's title track was released in November, it featured vintage Anselmo alongside elements of his Down and Superjoint incarnations. Guitarist Marzi Montazeri is gone from this version of the Illegals. And Anselmo suggested this go-around was more collaborative, and intended to convey a story of facing mental health issues.

This renewed energy comes at the right time. As with Cam'ron, the music Anselmo once led has steadily been growing beyond him, and some switches were in order. Metal has since Black Sabbath been a convergence of commentary. Social media and growing political divides, however, have sparked more than a few heavy acts to blend critique into their music. For years, Anselmo has had a penchant for voicing his opinion in his music and elsewhere; unfocused, it can become a trainwreck, such as in his white supremacist flirtation. The topic of mental health herein is a loaded one. In mid-February, a 19-year-old man with an apparent mental illness killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. There's a worldwide opioid epidemic spurred by attempts to deal with psychiatric problems. How Anselmo contributes to the discourse feels interesting, to say the least.

On the first Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals album since its 2013 debut, there is plenty of red meat for Anselmo's hardcore base. He's still mad, still dropping that rumbling vocal and still backed by a bruising metal ensemble. The album's opener, "Little Fucking Heroes," delivers a white-hot blast of fury, driving rhythm section and raw riffs for the vocals to tear into. Anselmo, who turns 50 in June, is undoubtedly grown from the kid who fronted 1988's "Power Metal," though his passion is timeless. Unmoored by a band's larger identity, Anselmo feels freer than usual, roaring into the microphone with the muscle that made him famous. Songs like "Mixed Lunatic Results" and "Delinquent" are Anselmo at his best, holding court and being the wildman savant his fans adore. Say what you will about his persona, but Anselmo is as spellbinding as ever, and songs like "Photographic Taunts" show you how he's still got it.

However, don't hold your breath for Anselmo to go Kendrick Lamar on this album in regard to the mental health crisis. Rather than a slam on Congress, insurance companies, Big Pharma or state failures, the critique throughout "Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue" seems aimed at anyone who's not him. It's the wary eye generations of rockers have cast at politicians, liberal social justice warriors, media, institutions, parents and anyone else who just doesn't get it. The two types of people in the world, Anselmo says on "Invalid Colubrine Frauds" are those who just want to be left alone, and those who won't leave them alone. On "Individual," he declares, "I don't want to be part of your pack. Shut the fuck up, you don't even listen… I'll never be what you created." In these sentiments, Anselmo implicitly opens another conversation, most vividly illustrated in the Nikolas Cruz case: where does the right for someone who is seemingly unstable to be left alone end and the community's safety begin? Amidst the American debate over gun control, issues like institutionalization, mental health and the near-manic desire to be self-involved collide too. There are no easy answers.

"Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue" is available here

Band info: facebook

Thursday, 15 February 2018

TOP 16 ALBUMS: THE SOUR 16 (January 2018)

Hooded Menace
It has been hectic to say the least during the last 7 weeks or so of 2018, so forgive for the delay in our usually presentation of the 16 most popular album from January, but here it is your SOUR 16

You know the drill by now, each month you the reader are unwittingly compiling a list of the top 16 records of the month, covering all genres of metal.  Is it not a chart, in which reviewers or contributors extol their opinion about their favourite music.  To put it simply, THE SOUR 16 are the records that have been trending the most at SLUDGELORD HQ.

The results are compiled based on the amount of page views the reviews have received and are then calibrated into the list below.  All reviews can be viewed by clicking the artwork and we have included album streams wherever possible. (Total views are highlighted in the red)

16). Greber - “Cemetery Preston” (704)

Greber’s pursuit of intricate heavy music pays off immensely, creating a consuming sonic experience. “Cemetery Preston” will be one of the most unique and layered experiences of this year.

15). Corrosion of Conformity - "No Cross No Crown" (751)

Dissipated is the more prevalent punk and thrash of "IX" in favor of the sound that made CoC its name, but done in a contemporary way. As such, this is Corrosion of Conformity's finest work in many years.  "No Cross No Crown” is something Corrosion of Conformity fans can rejoice in.

14). Greyfell - "Horsepower" (786)


“Horsepower” is an interesting and accomplished album – a wonderful piece of doomy, gloomy, ritual rock – which should please fans of Greyfell’s previous work, and no doubt introduce many new listeners to the band.

13). Agrimonia - "Awaken" (805)

 'Awaken' is a tour-de-force of genre hopping doom. It should see the band gain ground on their contemporaries and even surpass them.

12). Haunt - "Luminous Eyes" [EP] (826)

 Fitting in squarely with the likes of Cauldron, this is heavy metal of the old school done correctly and with affection. If you want traditional sounds with a dark edge to the songs, this is most assuredly for you.

11). Possessor - "The Ripper" (872)

"The Ripper" is one of the most pleasing releases to wrap 2017 and open up 2018. Possessor's massive sound and brutal composition make it one of the more intimidating listens on the scene, and one you should get to know now, if you aren't already down.

10). Come to Grief / Fistula & Fistula / -(16)- [Splits] (946)

9). Druid Lord - "Grotesque Offerings" (956)

Fans of Hooded Menace, Serpentine Path and traditional Florida death metal like Obituary or Malevolent Creation can't go wrong here; this is a great example of the doom/death genre and surely one of the musically darkest albums you could pick to play out the winter.

8). Watain - "Trident Wolf Eclipse" (999)

“Trident Wolf Eclipse’ is an album that’s both diverse, but also does a better job of staying within the band’s established wheelhouse.  The album’s opening track is a perfect statement of intent: “Nuclear Alchemy” is the sort of thrashy, high-energy hellstorm that sets the stage for the rest of the album

7). King Buffalo - "Repeater" [EP] (1397)

 The band sounds confident as they play through the dreamy plucking of the guitars, the perfectly enunciated vocals, and that sweet meditative groove that drummer Scott Donaldson brings with him. The tunes are mellow, meditative, groovy, and best of all, heady. As a short release, “Repeater” does what it’s intended to do and offers the hungry fans just a taste of what the main course is going to bring. Bring on that sophomore release!

6). Black Label Society - "Grimmest Hits" (1665)

“Grimmest Hits” is a Sabbath-esque listen with bluesy inflections and is chock full of riffs and solos.

5). Wolftooth - "Wolftooth" (1723)

If you were disillusioned by The Sword after their first three albums, and if you loved Earth Witch then don't delay and get hold of this album as it is a riffing stoner metal delight.

4). Tribulation - "Down Below" (2074)

I’ll stop short of calling this Tribulation’s defining masterpiece, if only because the band seem to keep outdoing themselves. For that same reason, it’s hard to imagine the band won’t have even more to show us as the years go by, and that’s a thrilling prospect.

3). Somali Yacht Club - "The Sea" (2388)

Basking in sonic emersion and drawing from an Elder influence, Somali Yacht Club succeeds in taking the listener on that well-known ride of warm tones and meandering melodies. In the world of progressive psych-rock, confidence is key and these Ukranians hold that key and open every door with it that they can.

2). Witchcryer - "Cry Witch" (3676)

The riffs are infectious, the grooves hit you right in the gut and their well written songs are accentuated by climatic dynamics and impassioned performances by all members of the band. Witchcryer have created something really quite special on “Cry Witch”, a debut surely worthy of addition to the doom metal cannon.

1). Hooded Menace - "Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed" (5645)

Hooded Menace, is the quintessential death-doom metal band and this album is a crawling behemoth with so much gloom and doom that it feels like a slimy dense fog is pouring out of your speakers and into your unsuspecting lungs.

A big thank you as always to our amazing writers, your dedication knows no boundaries and for that I am truly grateful.  January 2018’s “SOUR 16” features reviews byRichard Maw, Andre Almaraz, Daniel Jackson, Ben Fitts, Ernesto Aguilar, Mark Tremblay &Victor Van Ommen

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Oryx - "Stolen Absolution"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/02/2018
Label: Midnite Collective |
Graven Earth Records

The escalating tension, heartfelt enthusiasm, and ripping tone coalesce to elevate Oryx’s sophomore record to an early contender for best sludge album of 2018. 

“Stolen Absolution” CS//CD//DD track listing

1. Intro
2. Blackened Earth
3. Born for Death
4. Abject
5. Interlude
6. Price of a Dollar
7. The World in Ruin
8. Stolen Absolution

The Review:
The two-piece metal group is a risky venture: for every stellar example that incorporates multiple registers, tones, and intimate dynamics (Bell Witch, NEST, Obsidian Tongue) there are a dozen that do not sound like anything except an inept demo tape (which I politely won’t call out here).  Thankfully Oryx, the Colorado by way of Santa Fe two-piece, fall solidly into the former group: a balanced collaboration that sounds like a symphony of savagery.  While “Stolen Absolution” is a sophomore release, this marks their first album as a two-piece – a sort of second debut, more distinct, assured, and unique than their prior effort,
The downtuned guitar takes center stage on this album, augmented by a layer of fuzz that’s thick but not impenetrable.  At the heart of the maelstrom there are riffs aplenty, gliding between gnarly sludge rhythm guitar and ethereal, high end leads.  Guitarist & vocalist Tommy infuses a lot of his playing with folksy twang, crafting a distinctly American take on blackened sludge.  But when he pulls back from the shimmering dulcimer-reminiscent elegies, the sour sludge pouring from the speakers is skin peeling filth.  Drummer Abbey serves as a propulsive force throughout the record – her feel for steady rhythm eschews flash without sounding simplistic.  The blast beats are fierce without falling into the weird idiosyncrasies of timing that befall lesser drummers, while the tribal might on tracks like “Abject” is as menacing as the drumbeat of an orc army.  In fact, the only thin moment on the record, the guitar-only Interlude, feels distinctly OK (rather than uniformly “excellent”) because of the absence of interesting drumwork.
Thankfully, the rest of the album more than compensates for this otherwise very fine bridge track.  “Blackened Earth” and “Born for Death” are sludgy little gems, and sound far more complex than many dual-guitar bands could hope for.  There’s a really effective contrast between low end murk and higher tones that Tommy manages to pull off on the record – I’m interested in seeing whether it plays as effectively in a live setting.  “Abject” is without a doubt the best track on the first half of the record – with the vocals altering between death growls and fried screams.  The agonizing intensity is remarkable.
The master suite of the record has to be the one-two punch of “The World in Ruin”, and the title track, “Stolen Absolution”.  On “The World in Ruin”, Tommy establishes a cinematic, poisonous spaghetti western track rife with menace and beauty in equal measure.  When Abbey’s drums slam in at the opening of “Stolen Absolution”, it’s a moment of genuine catharsis countered by immediate dread.  The prior themes on “The World…” sour and evolve, while Tommy’s unhinged vocal performance is flawless.  The escalating tension, heartfelt enthusiasm, and ripping tone coalesce to elevate Oryx’s sophomore record to an early contender for best sludge album of 2018.  “Stolen Absolution” would be an achievement for any band, and is even more impressive since it’s balanced on the shoulders of two savage metal masters.

“Stolen Absolution” is available here (CD) and here (Tape)

Band info: facebook || bandcamp

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Testament - "Live At The Fillmore", "Demonic", "The Gathering", "First Strike Still Deadly", "Live At Endhoven '87" (Reissues)

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Reissue
Date Released: 26/01/2018
Label: Nuclear Blast

When at their best, as on “The Gathering”, there are few thrash bands who are their equal.

"Live At The Fillmore" (1995), "Demonic" (1997), "The Gathering" (1999) (remastered by Andy Sneap) "First Strike Still Deadly" (2001), “Live At Eindhoven '87" (2009)

The Review:

Testament's career is generally viewed as being a little behind the pace of the Big Four, but not by too much. Cursed with a late start via their debut of “The Legacy”, they followed it up impressively with “The New Order”, got a little more catchy on “Practice What You Preach” and then... lost their way a little chasing Metallica and then Pantera's coat tails. The records they released in the first half of the 90's were thus a mixed bag- great moments, weaker moments, thrash, no thrash and so on.

These welcome reissues, then, remind us of what a potent force Testament returned as via a shot of more extreme metal and an iron will. These reissues cover a couple of live albums- from 1987 and 1995 and then their studio output from 1997 into the new millennium. Let's be clear, Testament at their lowest ebb were still one of the best metal bands around, and so if “Live at The Fillmore” catches them on tour after the release of the album “Low”, it cherry picks the best tracks from their career to that time. It's a solid and punchy listen- if maybe lacking the “lightning in a bottle” x-factor that, say, “No Sleep Til Hammersmith” has. It works as a fine live best of- most of the best album tracks are represented. 1987's “Live at Eindhoven catches the band at the very start of their international career and the performances are rough, ready, energetic and fiery. Both releases are really for fans only. For me John Dette being on drums makes “Live at The Fillmore” superior for me. He is one of the very best drummers in thrash. He played with Anthrax, filling in for the equally majestic Charlie Benante and he absolutely blew Paul Bostaph away- who must have been having an off night!

1997's “Demonic” is a superb and surprisingly extreme listen. Chuck Billy introduced some very extreme elements to his vocals to excellent effect and the overall impression is of a band revitalised and out-heavying the competition (Metallica and Megadeth were at career low points musically at this point, Anthrax were effectively inactive and Slayer were coming off the back of their worst studio album). Eric Peterson was firmly at the helm as usual, with Chuck ably upping his game and the mighty Gene Hoglan stepping in on drums. While Alex Skolnick was not present, Greg Alvelais proved a worthy replacement with Greg Ramirez rounding out the studio line up. The death metal influence is strong and the record finds the band doing what they want to do- trends be damned. Great performances all around and impressive writing; what a great come-back record! It also sounds great- tight and clear with lots of weight to the production.

However, with “The Gathering” in 1999, the band hit an all time high. Dave Lombardo delivers a masterclass in thrash metal drumming (thanks Aaron!) and all the material is top notch. From the massive opener “DNR” to “Hammer of The Gods”, this is a thrash tour de force from a time when no-one was releasing such records. There are some classic tunes on here- “Riding The Snake”, “3 Days in Darkness”, “Legions of The Dead”. Every track is prime Testament and is right up there with “The Legacy” and “The New Order”- with much better production. The fact that it is, in my view, Testament's best makes it one of the best thrash albums of all time. Chuck proves on this one that he is one of the best and most versatile vocalists in metal, while the chemistry between Peterson and Lombardo is sublime. Steve Digiorgio helping out on bass really helps the cause too- metal royalty! As a final boost, Andy Sneap's production is excellent.

“First Strike...Still Deadly” rounds out the studio releases and is one of my favourite Testament records. Whilst some fans may moan about the band re-recording their earlier classics and the clinical sound, I loved this at the time of release and still do. The sound is excellent, the performances are uniformly good (John Tempesta on drums this time around) and the song choices are stellar. Having Steve Zetro Souza come back for a couple of very early compositions is a nice bonus and overall I would recommend buying this over and above the first two studio albums! That may well not be a popular view, but there it is.

The verdict on this set of re-issues? Three essential releases and two live albums of good to great quality. Testament are usually mentioned in the same breath as Exodus and Overkill as being just outside the Big Four, but that is not to say that they don't knock all of Anthrax's work plus half of Slayer's, Megadeth's and Metallica's discography into a neatly cocked hat. When at their best, as on “The Gathering”, there are few thrash bands who are their equal. After an extended break while Chuck Billy dealt with cancer, Testament returned and to date have released three great studio records from 2008 onwards. A classic band.

Band info: facebook

REVIEW: Green Lung - "Free the Witch" [EP]

By: David Jupp

Album Type: EP
Date Released: 19/02/2018
Label: Deckhead Records

In a genre packed with bands that draw on decades-old tone and aesthetic, it takes a mature hand to re-appropriate bygone creativity without sounding forced. Luckily there is a confidence and craft present in Green Lung’s writing that belies their months.  If Green Lung can expand the template that has served them so well across these four superb songs then a truly exciting future awaits.

“Free the Witch” CS//DD track listing:

1). Lady Lucifer
2). Free the Witch
3). Living Fossil
4). Older than the Hills

The Review:

It’s been two hundred and fifty days or so since Green Lung announced themselves on the UK heavy-stage with their blistering demo ‘Green Man Rising.’ In the months that have passed since that promising release, the London quartet have refined their craft across a host of England’s underground stages. Now armed with a growing following and half-an-hour of new material, the question is can Green Lung transfer the heft and excitement of their live show to tape?

‘Free the Witch’ sparks with lead single ‘Lady Lucifer’ and a crescendo of crisp guitar hammer-on. As the tension builds and we reach the twenty-seventh second, Green Lung proceed to drop the hammer on what is sure to be one of 2018’s stand-out riffs. The groove on display here bangs with such an endearing audacity that you can only hope the record to follow will measure up. As guitarist Scott Masson whittles down the dirt, singer Tom Templar makes his entrance. Washed in reverb and folk-horror croon Templar transmutes the bands 70’s aesthetic, from cover to sound. ‘You smiled with lips incarnadine, whispered black magic, rites obscene.’ As the song climbs to its apex Masson cracks the reigns with an outrageous solo and “Free the Witch”’s opener sets a ridiculous standard.

Title track ‘Free the Witch’ is up next and is a much more direct affair. The lurch and swerve of ‘Evil Empire’ that crackled in the opener is now replaced with a full pelt nod to debut-era The Sword. Just as the record becomes in danger of reverting to type the arrangement peels back and Masson injects another well-judged solo. ‘Free the Witch’ lurches home on a bed of cultish chant and half-time stagger.

In making the jump to Bear Bites Studios (Vodun, Ghold) and employing Wayne Adams on production Green Lung have shed the compressed savagery of their live demo and allowed their stellar rhythm-section room to breathe. Track three ‘Living Fossil’ demonstrates this upgrade perfectly and the song is all Andrew Cave’s. The arrangement follows a similar pattern but before any unwanted familiarity encroaches, Cave’s bass swaggers in for an overdriven solo. The months spent on various stages refining these cuts is evident and Templar hauls the song home, ‘Living fossil, a blast from the past.’

Green Lung’s debut closes in sprawling fashion with ‘Older than the Hills.’ Not content to banish their live demo to audio-history there is a clever re-integration of the vocal hook from ‘Freak on a Peak’ but this time the extended track-length really allows the band to flex their muscles. Across its eight minutes each musician takes a moment in the spotlight, and as Masson’s guitar wails in the storm Cave and Wiseman’s rhythm section rumble home on an array of deft fills and charming girth.

In a genre packed with bands that draw on decades-old tone and aesthetic, it takes a mature hand to re-appropriate bygone creativity without sounding forced. Luckily there is a confidence and craft present in Green Lung’s writing that belies their months. This confidence is only emphasised by the fact that b-side ‘When the Axe Comes Down’ is left off their debut. When you are in a vein of writing so rich you can cast away such strong songs it can only be a good omen. And that is what ‘Free the Witch’ is, an impressive and rousing omen, of greater things to come. If Green Lung can expand the template that has served them so well across these four superb songs then a truly exciting future awaits.

“Free the Witch” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook