Alunah have always split opinion right down the middle. Like Marmite people either seem to love or hate these Midlands based fuzz monsters. Personally I’ve always loved their knack for writing catchy yet heavy tunes and admire their incredible work ethic which sees them hitting the road at every available opportunity. So far Alunah have played the long game with a few teaser releases in the form of a demo, an EP and a split with Queen Elephantine but now they’ve put their money where their mouths are and released their debut album on their own Catacomb Records imprint.
So has the wait been worth it? I’d say that is a resounding hell yeah!!! Alunah don’t really offer anything new in terms of their song writing output…on that front things are very much business as usual…and do reprise “Song Of The Sun” from the split 7″ and “Higher” from the “Crystal Ships” demo. The quality of the song writing remains as high as ever though. One area where I’m not sure that Alunah do themselves many favours is referring to themselves as a doom band. Sure there are elements of doom in their sound such as the monolithic riff that opens the album, yet there is a lot more here than a bunch of down tuned plodding rhythms. Opening track, “Living Fast In An Ancient Land” takes a quick snort of espresso and blasts ahead at a pace that would leave most doom bands in their beds fast asleep. The title track is one pf the finest tunes they’ve written to date with and epic yet bouncing riff.
Throughout the album Alunah show that they have two secret weapons. Firstly guitarist David Day proves he has a way with a riff that is simplistic yet highly effective. He doesn’t feel compelled to show of his shredding skills preferring to opt for insistent and memorable sequences of fat as fuck chord work and wailing, old school pentatonic style solos. The other ace in the hole are the vocals of Soph Willett. Whereas previously Soph’s vocals have been buried under an avalanche of effects, here they are a lot more confident and naked. Over the course of the last few releases Soph’s voice has grown increasingly strong to the point where she is able to pull the songs along from the front as opposed to sitting in the background. The fact that she has a canny ear for a strong melody is a huge bonus that gives the band it edge and character. Musically I would argue that this album has less to do with conventional doom and more in common with the first wave of UK stoner bands such as early Orange Goblin and Acrimony, particularly when they head off into more pastoral psychedelic territory.
Production wise the band have also stepped things up a gear. Previously Alunah’s recordings have tended to sound a little murky but here Gregg Chandler (Serpent Cult, Moss…etc) has succeeded in retaining the weight in their sound but adding a crisp bite that jumps right out of the speaker cones into your lap.
This is a fine album, and the natural progression that the band were bound to make. Whether it will contend in the long run with many of the big hitters on the scene remains to be seen but in their own way Alunah are playing the long game and making all the right moves forward. They have the sound, they have the songs and they have the work ethic and drive…all they need now are the people…so roll up and hear the call.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall