The main difference is in how the songs flow and the range of emotions that present themselves on the album. Now with such a stunning début all ready under their belts, trying to top it with a follow-up was never going to be easy but Alunah have almost done it. I say almost because I have a permanent musical hard-on for the début so all I could hope for was something just as good and I am excited to say, this is equally as great, note for note. The main talking point with Alunah is usually the vocals. Female vocals in doom and doom related bands always creates debates and 'White Hoarhound' is already meeting with mixed reactions over the vocals but personally, I feel Soph's vocals are amazingly smooth and sultry and a perfect fit for the catchy riffs and grooves. She always had something that was unique to her and her alone and this new releases shows she has really found her own identity and is now bursting with self-confidence.
Musically this is a more melodic Alunah and slightly more adventurous in the way they mix complex with the simple. The sound is now more layered and thicker than it was before and the great production courtesy of Greg Chandler highlights all the growth areas within the band. Alunah still have the sabbathain riffage but there are far more subtle variations within their new tunes. Opening tune'Demeter's Grief' charges out of the speakers with a sense of urgency even though it is still every much in the stoner/doom/psych vein. The song is based around a couple of indestructible guitar riffs, a couple of exciting mood and tempo changes and sweet, psychedelic-laced guitar solos. The bass lines weave in and out of the track creating a tasty, irresistible groove but there is so much more to soak up during its 7:37 minutes. Take note of the melodies which have more in common with a Wishbone Ash kind of band than any stoner-doom band.
The following title track follows a similar path supplying a great mix of sabbathian doom, psychedelia, stoner-metal and classic 70's rock. While it is a bit more lumbering than the opening track, this track showcases the bands arrival at a more melodic meeting point. Even the guitar leads are dripping with gorgeous melodies in the Thin Lizzy vein but of course done in Alunah's way. The band have never been one to just mindlessly plod along for too long in one direction and there are more twists and turns in the 47 minutes of this album than I think there is on their EP and début album combined. Another mini-epic in 'Belial's Fjord' comes up next which features punishing guitar work and the vocals yet again get another chance to shine. This is the albums most atmospheric track, made possible by some tribal drum work. The next track 'The Offering' has the band picking up the pace with a track full of swagger and energy but it is an awesome guitar solo halfway through the track which really seals the deal, 'The Offering' is pure brilliance.
'Chester Midsummer Watch Parade' is more of the psych-rock/stoner-blues mix that the band is known for and is another perfect track. The opening section produce one of the albums most psychedelic passages and you could be forgiven in thinking at this stage that the bass sound is getting heavier and heavier. They also throw the listener another curveball with a wah-wah solo and it is more proof of the bands ever-increasing sense of musical dynamics. The album ends on the two-part 'Oak Ritual' whose first part serves up acoustic passages with some of the most emotional vocals ever heard from the band. When the track gets into full gear with the second almost 11 minute part of the track, it confirms what most people know already......this band know how to write a damn fine tune. 'Oak Ritual Part 2' goes through a series of changes, each of them exciting and emotionally driven. One fuzz-laden riff after another bombard the ear-drums and that is all reinforced with some titanic drumming. The song comes to its real end with atmospheric keys being played over the top of thunderstorm samples after a passage of extended silence.
When it is all said and done, 'White Hoarhound' seems a little short or maybe it seems that way because the songs are so damn catchy. The album is challenging and complex in small does, simple and straight-forward at other times but always engaging and infectious. Every detail within the band is approaching some kind of peak and working at peak efficiency and there is not one member of this great band who hasn't improved in some way with this disc. Looking back at it now, the EP 'Fall To Earth' is really just a good demo on a CD, the début album 'Call Of Avernus' is an almost perfect representation of the band live, while 'White Hoarhound' is the band displaying their strengths as songwriters and studio musicians so you could say that within just three releases, they have successfully nailed the three most important steps in being a band's progression.
Along with the likes of Undersmile and a few other UK bands who have released some of the best albums of the year in 2012, Alunahare another band that are proving once again that the UK is the true home of doomy rock. However don't expect just another doom-plod fest with 'White Hoarhound' because Alunah are certainly not a doom act per-se but do expect a track-for-track, no-holds barred exceptionally catchy album. I can't come out with a tired old cliché like "they have arrived" or whathaveyou, I thought they arrived in a big way with 'Call Of Avernus' but 'White Hoarhound' shows a band maturing at a rate that most other bands can only dream of.....Out now on PsycheDOOMelic Records....9.5/10.