I’ve always had a real soft spot for Birmingham’s Alunah. Right from the early days it’s been clear that the band have an interesting take on the doom genre. Maybe it’s the Sabbathian legacy of the area they hail from but they’ve always had a knack of writing top quality songs with enough depth and variation to keep them interesting. This is due in no small part to Dave Day’s ability to craft simplistic but effective and above all catchy riffs and Sophie Day’s beguiling vocals and sense of melody.
Alunah’s first album, “Call Of Avernus” was a very strong debut and “White Hoarhound” is very much the natural follow up. Not much has changed in the band’s core sound but pound for pound this new album has far greater depth and maturity in every respect. The songs themselves are more fluid and natural, the effect of which gives them far greater emotional depth. Particularly on the title track which features the most complex yet inherently catchy chorus the band have written thus far.
Special mention must be made of Sophie’s vocals here. It is apparent from the off that the years of playing live and the experience and confidence that come with this have finally paid off and her vocals sound richer and fuller than they have on previous releases, despite the fact that she is less reliant on a mountain of effects now. Comparison’s can be made to Lori of Acid King but Soph has plenty of her own identity to stand out in her own right.
Alunah have obviously allowed themselves some time to develop the production side of things in the studio this time round as well. The sound generally is thicker and more layered. Guitarist Dave in particular is able to experiment with a more textured approach in parts beyond his usual big riffs and fat chords. There are even hints of harmony lead playing which, though subtle add so much to the sonic weight of this album. Soph also throws in her pitch with some tasty backing vocals and harmonies and it’s these touches that show how the band are taking their progression and growth at a natural yet effective pace. Whereas “Call Of Avernus” was far more representative of the band’s live sound, “White Hoarhound” is the sound of a band allowing the studio to work in their favour.
Alunah have often described themselves as “psych blues doom” in the past. Although the doom element of their sound has always been evident they have frequently flirted with stoner in a heavy way. Here however they are fully embracing their own identity as a doom band. The term applies more through pacing and atmosphere than sacrificing themselves to sheer heaviness. Both the title track and “Belial’s Fjord” are slow and ponderous but make effective use of dynamics…they know when to throw their weight around but they also know when to ease back and pull you in with seductive waves of melancholy. This opening out of their sound is what has made it possible for the band to explore greater levels of harmony and melody throughout. All seven tracks here are of consistently high quality and showcase the fact that Alunah are very much a song driven band as opposed to just an exercise in out heavying or out dooming their peers.
It seems that 2012 is indeed a good year for British doom with exemplary albums already from Black Magician and Undersmile and now “White Hoarhound” can easily be added to that list. In fact I think it’s fair to say that between these three bands and Serpent Venom the UK is developing a scene within the genre that is hard to beat and can hold its own on a world stage. All hail British doom (after all we invented it) and all hail Alunah for producing an album that gives it a serious shot in the arm!!!