Coming from Birmingham (that’s England, not Alabama), for many the spiritual birthplace of heavy metal as the city that spawned Black Sabbath, Alunah are a band that has a long and dark musical heritage to live up to. Now, whilst undoubtedly the band take influence from the slower, doom laden pieces of their legendary predecessors, lyrically Alunah have delved into neo-pagan mythology to produce this, their third full length album ‘Awakening the Forest’.
‘Bricket Wood Coven’ in true doom style opens with drawn out low end guitar distortion, merging with a fuzzy bass and crawling drum beat to form a wall of dark riffs. This sludgy wall of sound provides a dark counterpoint to Soph Day’s clear vocals of latter day magic and mysticism. ‘Heavy Bough’ follows with the lead guitar’s amp set firmly to Volume IV, but with Ms Day occasionally playing in the higher register of her range, lending a lighter note to a track that with gruff male vocals could easily lose any individuality when stacked up against other doom acts. Layering those same vocals gives title track ‘Awakening the Forest’ a near ethereal feeling, as does the sometimes lighter guitar work, dual guitar harmonies mixing with the pounding riffs during its near eight minute length.
‘The Mask of Herne’ plunders Celtic mythology for its lyrical theme, whilst musically there is more than a nod to Electric Wizard in the guitar distortion, whilst ‘Scourge And The Kiss’ has a bass line that rumbles with a powerful menace that builds up the atmosphere of dark ritual magic. The band then leave the best to last with ‘The Summerland’ a nine minute plus work that starts with light, almost prog pastoral playing before the gentle ethereal vocals join in, the whole track meandering almost blissfully along to its conclusion via guitar solos that owe as much to Snowy White’s ‘Bird of Paradise’ as to Tony Iommi’s ‘Iron Man.’
What sets Alunah apart from many other acts in the Stoner-Doom genre is without a doubt the strong vocals of Soph Day, her sometimes light, sometimes deep, but always clear delivery being a stark contrast to the sometimes guttural singing of many male vocalists in the genre, and knowing that, the band play to that, making sure it is never overpowered by their strong musicianship. After the high benchmark that Alunah set themselves with their 2012 release ‘White Hoarhound’, anything but a strong follow up would have disappointed the listener. ‘Awakening the Forest’ does not disappoint.