When a band comes along comprised of former members of some of the UK’s most loved and respected bands expectations are always gonna be high. Typically, bands of this ilk either make a conscious decision to sound absolutely nothing like their former vehicles, or, they have a bit of a chip on their shoulders (it’s called The Mustaine Effect) and try their damnedest to beat the rest at their own game.
Godthyrmm fall into camp B – I can only imagine the first band meeting where someone floated the idea of them possibly trying to blend in some trip-hop influences and everyone looked at them in disgust. Godthrymm’s sound is almost immediately identifiable for anyone with a passing interest in UK metal; this is the sound of Yorkshire in the early nineties, and anyone who might have worn a My Dying Bride or more pointedly a Paradise Lost t-shirt will be thoroughly at home amongst the grooves (both on the vinyl and in the riffs) on Distortions.
The band have been relatively prolific in their short years together – Distortions is their second full-length (released to the world on the marvellous Profound Lore Records) and is said to be part two of a trilogy, the third part of which is already in the works.
The album kicks off with As Titans, which is driven initially by possibly the most Bride-like guitar work on the album. Then after two minutes, the track pushes forward with an altogether more propulsive riff that would 100% fit perfectly on Paradise Lost’s latter-day peak, The Plague Within. The vocals too – courtesy of Hamish Glencross, aren’t so far from Nick Holmes in clean-melodic form. At the five-minute mark we get a quiet interlude which introduces us to the vocals of Catherine Glencross for the first time – Godthyrmm (and of course the Glencross household) certainly have an embarrassment of riches in this department. As Titans is in keeping with its title – it sounds massive and is a very strong contender for doom epic of the year – all eleven and a half minutes of it.
Devils is in lyrical terms the title track, and it serves the album well. It’s one of the shorter songs at just less than seven minutes, and it dials back the complexity after the monster opener. The riffs remain just as strong and at this point it’s clear that the production and mix is consistent and worthy of a mention – heavy as the earth, but clean as a whistle. Sometimes such clarity can rob doom metal of its power, but not here – keep turning up the volume and it just sounds better.
The next track made me do something I’ve never consciously done before – I searched my digital music library (which probably only accounts for 25% of my collection) and found twenty-three tracks called Echoes – twenty-seven if you include the singular Echo! So, no prizes for the track title innovation, but accolades galore for the hulking riffs that lie within. This is the sludgiest that Godthyrmm get, and to my ears, it sounds fantastic. Oh, and the vocal harmonies (not something I’d usually expect from something sludgy!) are really effective here. The guitar solo towards the end again reminds me of The Plague Within, along with Obsidian, era Paradise Lost, it’s rare that something akin to that doesn’t get heavy rotation, and Distortions is no exception.
The momentum is maintained by Obsess And Regress. No mean feat as this takes the album past the thirty-minute mark by which time my YouTube-addled brain has normally checked-out for a metaphorical piss break at least twice. Catherine takes lead vocal here, with Hamish chiming in for the chorus. It’s another memorable track, and it strikes me that I wouldn’t be surprised with different listeners picking any of these first four tracks as their favourite on the album, such is the strength of the opening foursome.
It’s perhaps inevitable that the quality had to vary slightly at some point. Unseen Unheard is okay, but to my taste doesn’t seem to be as singular in its vision as the tracks that have gone before, with the occasional gallop riff being thrown in, in a way that still jars with me slightly even after repeated listens.
We then have what for many people will be the track that guarantees the money being put on the table – Follow Me features Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride. The tempo drops significantly for the first couple of minutes and varies between mid-pace and the traditional doom-lumber for the remainder of the nearly thirteen minutes. Unfortunately, this is where I lost concentration, and my right hand started a thumb war with the invisible man – the loser being subjected to sixteen tick-tock videos. From Stainthorpe’s spoken word element halfway through, the track never really caught my attention again, and sadly my affection for the track hasn’t grown over numerous airings.
The album closer, Pictures Remain, is really quite different in tone and feel. Catherine’s vocals are far more ethereal here, and the track as a whole is lighter. It’s also the shortest track on the album and in terms of structure it is certainly the most straightforward. I really like it – it works really well – but I’m just not convinced that it is the right song to bring the curtain down. Having said that, other listeners may be shouting and hailing my ignorance; firmly of the view that Pictures Remain is a bold way to link Distortions to the third Godthrymm album. Irrespective of what came before, the final guitar part is inarguably a great farewell.
Ultimately, Distortions is an album that I would score higher from a subjective perspective than I would if I were trying to be wholly objective. It’s clear from what I’ve written above that I’m far more enamoured with the opening four tracks than I am with the final three, and normally that would be enough to divorce me from any extensive revisits. However, with Distortions the highs are so lofty that I do keep going back to the album as a whole and let’s face it, this album came out months ago (you have my sincere apologies for my tardiness, dear reader) and it’s still playing regularly. Recommended.
Scribed by: David J McLaren