“To Jumbo, My Study, The House I Live In, Dundee”. Apologies reader, but I thought I’d better start this review by addressing the massive elephant in the room (dear editor, I’m sorry!). Alunah is a band that I’ve invested a lot to time and regard into over the years, indeed previously naming ‘Solennial’ as my album of the year on the very website you are now perusing. As such, I was in two minds as to whether I should review the new release with a new singer and a new guitarist, and the undoubted changes such a musical upheaval would lead to. Well, having got my personal feelings out of the way, it’s time to put on my reviewing hat, a back to front and rather tatty Jagermeister baseball cap that keeps my hair away from the keyboard if you’re interested, and crack on with the task in hand.
‘Trapped and Bound’ rocks out of the gate with a neck grabbing riff care of Dean Ashton, whilst Messrs Burchmore and Mason bring their own tight brand of thunder to the proceedings, all before Sian Greenaway’s vocals cut in clear and strong, with hints of the Gothic running through the surprisingly upbeat delivery. Indeed, for a band that has such a strong rooting in Doom, there is an unexpected light tone, right down to a solo that for all the fuzz is upbeat and uplifting. Worry not though doomanauts, the heavy soon returns in the slower ‘Dance of Deceit’ for you to get your gloom on to, the theme of longing and loss guaranteed to recharge your batteries of darkness. Ms Greenaway then goes on to explore the lower register of her siren voice in ‘Hunt’ over the opening fuzzy bars of the song, a number that ebbs and flows in intensity, gentle verses counterpointing massive pounding choruses.
After the multi-toned ‘Hypnotised’, the title track ‘Violet Hour’ practically swaggers out of the speakers with an unashamed confidence, invoking a dark romance set to the waning of the sun, a bizarre and unlikely, yet highly successful combination of being able to put a smile the face of an old rocker like me, whilst having more than enough darkness for the children of the night to wrap themselves in, although such wearers of black and purple will more than likely be enchanted with the sound and title of follow up ‘Unholy Disease’ and the mournful refrain of the lyrics. The whole album is then rounded out by ‘Velvet’, complete with riffs that the very DNA of Birmingham’s metal heritage runs through, and the slow burning ‘Lake of Fire’, which with the addition of a Hammond organ and trippy beats travels back through time and the aether to a bygone era of early psychedelic rock, but mixed with the modern tempered edge of doom metal.
To conclude, ‘Violet Hour’ is a pretty damn good album, albeit it has a distinctly rockier and less ethereal and mystical feel than prior Alunah releases, but frankly, that is both to be expected, and is needed. It would be just wrong if there was not a change; the simple aping of old stuff is the job of tribute acts, not bands that are wanting to evolve and remain relevant. Furthermore, I caught their set recently at HRH Stoner vs Doom, where naturally enough they concentrated on the new material, and it is well worth catching. If you’re an established fan, don’t be a stick in the mud, and give ‘Violent Hour’ a punt; if you’re new, well, give yourself a treat, and then feel free to explore their back catalogue. Me, well, I’ve already bought tickets and booked leave for when they play Glasgow next year, so you can well guess my feelings.