I’ve heard nothing but good things about the UK’s Alunah since they emerged on the doom scene’s unsuspecting ears a few years back. Cries of Acrimony, mid-period Cathedral, Orange Goblin, and other hallowed examples of British steel echoed the air upon the release of their debut LP, Call of Avernus, but yours truly stayed on the sidelines until the promo for their 2nd slab of butchering blues and psychedelic witchery, White Hoarhound hit my digital box recently. After a handful of thorough listens, I’m a firm believer in the hype around this stoner/doom juggernaut! If you like the heyday of modern English, THC baked doom bands I mentioned earlier (I’d throw in Sloth as well), as well as the rumbling frequencies of Subrosa, Earthride, Turambar, Royal Thunder, and Acid King; Alunah should be an easy sell to your ears.
The band revs their engines on the brawny biker doom of opener, “Demeter’s Grief,” the granite tough rhythms of bassist Gaz Imber’s raunchy lows and drummer Jake Mason’s well-fortified, half-speed thuds buried by shovel loads of sedimentary, dual axed blues/doom riffage; guitarists Sophie Willett and David Day’s crossfire grooves locked into a midnight prowling menace. A smoldering, 70s inflected Iommi-honoring lead profoundly enhances the groove, giving the band a platform to launch into some up-tempo, solar powered swing that shoots for Jupiter in the song’s brain clouded, boogie buoyant second half. Guitarist Sophie Willett also provides the exquisite vocals that drive the doom dusted deviousness at her flank; her dusky, moon chasing croon treated with a generous helping of reverb, as she heaves Earthen melodic chunks from her vocal chords. The title track bashes out kaleidoscopic, brightly hued guitar leads and Acrimonious shroom doom riffs that nail that whole tripped-out, swimming through the colors behind your eyes style that the Welsh hammer made so effortless. Sweet little lead notes sprout from budding riffs, as Soph’s distinguished vocal melodies float and echo over the relaxed grooves and bottomed out rhythms. Listening to this song felt as if someone gave me the ol’ chloroform special. This tune literally hog ties you and repeatedly drugs you with a sadistic glee until the midsection gives way to a massive, Cathedral sized slow motion swing riff, war-torn tom drum rumbles, and wah-wah inflected, lead lactation that acts as the musical equivalent of mother’s milk; these elements working in tandem keep you suckling Alunah’s breast for the band’s next nutrient rich, groove offering.
“Belial’s Fjord” lets a pulsing rhythm split the Earth’s surface, usurping the English countryside with vacuous, tribal tom cycles and droning note buzz that eventually morphs into slovenly trance doom with a sweltering, hallucinogenic boogie that’s a dead ringer for Acid King’s lysergic hymnals. It’s hardly an upbeat number in terms of tempo and pacing, but the well-placed leads sizzle like this morning’s fresh bacon on the griddle, and the gargantuan brushstrokes of Sabbath/Acrimony fueled wah-riff goodness lend a pleasant, spatial bliss to the proceedings. There’s even a cool segment where the rhythm section of Imber and Mason get a chance to do their own thing solo, sparking off a soulful lead in the wake of their bluesy, half-time jamming. The pacing’s more driven on “The Offering” and its feral combination of brutish, biker riff crunch and tripped-out, stoner stargazing. While nothing going on here is anything you could mistake for “fast,” there’s still an up-tempo, iron boot to the ass thanks to the swaying wah riffs and the bullying shove of the rhythm section’s dialed in shenanigans. A shower of psychedelic FX opens up, “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade,” another standout piece that works a myriad of different movements into its oily, doom-y excretions; from hard groovin’, Cathedral tinged up-tempo stoner-overdrive to bleak but slightly grooved, doom lamentations. The two part masterpiece, “Oak Ritual” is by far the greatest and most ambitious cut on the record. “Part I” pairs twangin’ acoustic guitars (folksy, almost country-esque stuff) and Soph’s tender vocals with a haunting organ drone, setting up the bowel twisting, supremely superb riffs, saddening doom swagger, and organ outro of “Part II (the tune almost reminiscent of Celestial Season’s best stuff in a few instances…not to mention Acrimony).” There’s also a psychedelic break in “Part II’s” midsection, that’s just to die for…adjectives just bend and melt under the power of it, and the entire song in general. What a closing to this rock ‘em, sock ‘em record!
Fans of shroom-y, stoom-y doom should absolutely flip their wigs over White Hoarhound. Though I have no prior experience with Alunah’s sound other than this record, the band had no problem winning me over track to track. I went from knowing nothing about them, to becoming a big fan in an extremely short span of time. If you like this kind of hazy, mega-heavy smooth groove sound; you should consider this an essential purchase. Now time for this putz to go back and explore their previous releases!
- Jay Snyder