Birmingham UK’s Alunah have followed a slow and steady ascension to the vanguard of the UK doom scene since their debut Call Of Avernusback in 2010. Alunha have since built a steady fanbase over the course of five albums, featuring heavy, doomy riffs, a solid low end, and, since their inception, they’ve featured female vocals, first co-founder Sophie Day, and since 2018 her replacement Siân Greenaway, something not very prevalent in the stoner/doom universe. I had heard of, and about Alunah for a few years, and they were a band that has been on my never-ending, always-expanding ‘list’ of bands/records I need to listen to, so, when the promo became available for their new record Strange Machine, I took the opportunity to finally check them out.
From the opening title track Stange Machine a few things are evident: these guys sound like veterans of this genre, and Siân Greenaway’s epic, soaring vocals are going to take center stage, I mean the woman can SING. Strange Machine rolls along with a heavy, yet catchy riff, courtesy of new guitarist Matt Noble and a rock-steady tempo, from founding drummer, and last original member Jake Mason. A hint of classic rock can be heard as well, but it’s Greenaway whose presence is most felt, as she immediately shows off her vocal dynamics and range, displaying it all through the verse and the ascending chorus. Stange Machine is a great album opener and serves as an emphatic mission statement for the record.
Greenaway‘s range and dynamics are displayed all over Stange Machine, with the charge and thrust of riff-rockers Over The Hills and Silver as both illustrate her powerful delivery, able to more than hold her own over Noble’s riffery along with Mason and bassist Dan Burchmore low end. As well, the doomy, chugging The Earth Spins, she’s able to effortlessly float back and forth between her forceful delivery in the verse and the more ethereal chorus. Burchmore’s rumbling bass and Noble’s bluesy guitar licks introduce the slow build of Teaching Carnal Sins, a fist-pumping, back-of-the-album rocker that Greenaway belts out with authority, while the band drop into some fairly crushing riffery before rolling back around to the catchy, bouncy verses.
But it’s the two slower, trippy-er songs Fade Into Fantasy and Psychedelic Expressway that are the album highlights for me, with Fade Into Fantasy being my favorite song on the album. The band lock into a slow, trippy groove as Greenaway floats above them, her voice intertwining perfectly with the band. By the time the song builds to its climax Greenaway moans and wails over the band displaying her massive range, as the song rolls to its epic conclusion.
a well-executed heavy, mildly psychedelic record featuring a band of rock-solid musicians, and a vocalist with some extremely impressive pipes…
Meanwhile, Psychedelic Expressway features some cool 60s-style, garage rock strumming from Noble, a trippy chorus from Greenaway, and a fucking flute. I’ve encountered this before; in fact, this is now my third Sleeping Shaman review that I unknowingly stumbled into an album featuring a flute. As I said before, if a band has the stones to pull out the flute, more power to them, but I’m sort of hoping this doesn’t become a trend in the genre. I’d personally leave the flutes to Ian Anderson. Nonetheless, my eye-roll at another record featuring a flute doesn’t diminish the fact this is a great, psychedelic song, and the flute only accentuates it.
Stange Machine closes with the riffy stomper Dead Woman Walking, giving the listener another chance to hear Greenaway do her thing with her band in full rock mode behind her. Stange Machine sounds good as well. It’s a well-produced, big, clear-sounding record, that highlights the skills of the individual band members, to say nothing of Greenaway’s voice.
I enjoyed Stange Machine, it’s a well-executed heavy, mildly psychedelic record featuring a band of rock-solid musicians, and a vocalist with some extremely impressive pipes, capable of carrying any of these songs, as well as accenting them with the variations in her delivery, going from full-on rock to ghost-like ethereal cry effortlessly. Alunah show they are worthy, modern successors to the genre-creating legends that came before them in their hometown of Birmingham, and you thought I’d make it through this review without mentioning Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest!
Scribed by: Martin Williams