Ahhh Canterbury. The region is perhaps best known for its scenic beauty, literature and ancient cathedrals. Musically, it is perhaps known for the Canterbury scene, a gentler pastoral branch of British progressive rock of the 1960’s and 70’s. But Famyne? They could not be more different. Howling and primal, this five-piece delivers a truly obliterating doom metal variant that draws upon the heavier side of grunge just as it does with more recent stylings in sludge and stoner, and I’m definitely going to keeping a closer eye (and tinnitus-stricken ear) on their career. This, their second full-length album, shows some considerable improvement from their Self-Titled debut from 2018.
We get the flaming magma ball rolling with the opener, Defeated. Strong vocals, thick granite slab riffs, and minimalist double bass drumming with a subdued-yet-evident sense of melody ring through the track. The heavy grunge element is perhaps best realized though vocalist Tom Vane, whose vocals will almost certainly remind people of the late Alice In Chains frontman Layne Staley. Staley’s unique style of wailing indeed had an impact on heavy music, and Famyne displays this well. It’s a bit of a breath of fresh air if you’re a bit worn out from an over emphasis on gruff or guttural vocals in this particular genre.
The Alice In Chains-isms rear their head again on the following track Solid Earth, particularly in the mid-section when a ferocious chugging Jerry Cantrell-esque riff comes into play which gives way to a percussion-and-lead-guitar-drenched cacophony. Gone is a mournful number, slightly reminiscent of Opeth (the band named themselves after an Opeth track) or Earthtone9. It simmers with a build-up to a simple yet satisfying riff. It’s a good example of a ‘less is more’ approach.
If you want the required level of seismic riffing with soul-wrenching vocals, I can wholeheartedly state that II: The Ground Below delivers…
We arrive at sunnier and more psychedelic shores with the seven-minute A Submarine. This song displays some of Vane’s best crooning skills coupled with pulsating melodies that build to a shimmering crescendo, only to head to a placid sea as the song closes. It’s such a plus having a powerful singer who can truly act as the guiding light. But the other members are no slouches. Rhythm guitarist Martin Emmons gets your attention while his lead player counterpart Tom Ross colors the bombast with some expressive guitar solos. Bassist Chris Travers and drummer Michael Ross round out the monster’s foundation.
Even the weaker tracks on this album are damn good. Babylon and Once More aren’t quite as interesting as the previous tracks, but there’s nothing really wrong with them. The Ai brings us vaguely into Mastodon-territory without going too deep down the prog metal rabbit hole. The closer For My Sins brings us back to Alice In Chains, sounding quite literally like a track that didn’t make it to the final cut of Facelift. I mean that in the best way possible.
Overall, I was very satisfied with Famyne’s second foray. They have a nice formula, effectively blending the heavier sides of bands like Alice In Chains and Gruntruck with a touch of the melodic sensibilities of contemporary metal. If you want the required level of seismic riffing with soul-wrenching vocals, I can wholeheartedly state that II: The Ground Below delivers. I am watching with vested interest as to where these five Canterbury gents go from here.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh