Green Lung - This Heathen Land review
|Album:||This Heathen Land|
|Release date:||November 2023|
02. The Forest Church
03. Mountain Throne
04. Maxine (Witch Queen)
05. One For Sorrow
06. Song Of The Stones
07. The Ancient Ways
08. Hunters In The Sky
09. Oceans Of Time
On This Heathen Land, Green Lung slowly transition from their wild, fun, energetic style to a calmer approach featuring psychedelic atmosphere and mournful ballads.
I first discovered Green Lung at the end of July of last year when I listened to their debut album Woodland Rites and instantly fell in love with their fun, groovy energy and catchy singalong melodies. Stoner metal typically takes cues from doom metal, focusing on the fuzzy guitar sound and the lumbering, patient riffs. Green Lung’s approach, however, always seemed more light-hearted and vibrant than most stoner bands, sounding like a revival of ‘70s classic rock, yet staying firmly rooted in the occult themes of early doom metal.
Their second album, Black Harvest, followed a similar formula to the debut, and even won the Metal Storm Award for best stoner album of 2021. But, despite its immensely catchy melodies, I don't believe it lived up to the same standards as Woodland Rites. It's clear that the debut had set the bar too high, making it hard to imagine a sequel that could surpass its unique, magical quality. In such a predicament, one possible path is to start off in a new direction altogether. As a band, to reinvent your style. But, in order not to lose your established fan base, you need to pull off a smooth transition from the old to the new style. This is what I imagine Green Lung decided on when releasing their third album This Heathen Land.
This Heathen Land still preserves many familiar traits such as retaining the lyrical themes of pagan worship, witchcraft, and, well, woodland rites. Speaking of which, the cover art also marks the reappearance of the animal caricatures that featured on their debut album. Also, some songs such as “The Forest Church”, “Mountain Throne”, and “The Ancient Ways” follow the fun, groovy, energetic style established by their previous albums. Yet, almost all of the songs also contain softer, calmer moments. Now, slow psychedelic songs are nothing new for Green Lung (see “May Queen” and “Into The Wild” from their debut album and “Born to a Dying World” on Black Harvest). Still, on This Heathen Land one notices a clear shift in emphasis from the high-energy hymns to more tranquil, hypnotic ballads. A great example is the track “Song of the Stones”, which is dominated by acoustic guitar, quiet drums, flutes, synths, and a brief electric guitar solo reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Other songs such as “Maxine (Witch Queen)” use a hard rock approach extremely reminiscent of Ghost.
So, are Green Lung simply becoming softer? Well, that statement wouldn't encapsulate their experimentation completely. For instance, despite “One For Sorrow” being mostly a slow, psychedelic ballad, at the four-minute mark, it features the heaviest doom riff that Green Lung have ever played. But, yes, overall, the band have downshifted on This Heathen Land, taking a softer, psych-rock route, veering further away from the riff-centered stoner doom genre.
This isn't necessarily a bad evolution. Green Lung are definitely still a very talented band, capable of performing entertaining guitar melodies and solos, while also crafting quite atmospheric passages. In fact, “Song of the Stones” might be my favorite track on the album, with its well-executed, patient, mesmerizing ambience of tribal drums and elegant acoustic guitar playing. Yet, not all songs get my seal of approval. “Oceans of Time”, despite some really nice guitar solos, sounds very messy in terms of songwriting. The progression of the track is hard to follow and meanders about in a sort of random way, while the vocals sound strangely annoying to my ears. Furthermore, on “Hunters in the Sky”, the vocalist attempts some high-pitched vocals à la King Diamond, which end up being quite painful to listen to.
In the end, despite a bizarre decline in quality on the last two tracks, This Heathen Land is a good transitional album in Green Lung’s career. It's not a landmark in the genre, and it's not the best stoner album of the year. But, it's 42 minutes of enjoyable stoner rock that experiments in both heavier and softer directions. Calling back on past energy, while also creating hypnotic, atmospheric ballads, Green Lung have produced a solid next step in their musical evolution. And, while part of me misses the seemingly effortless catchy melodies of Woodland Rites, I look forward to whatever direction the band decide to settle on for future releases.
||Written on 19.11.2023 by The sign of good music is the ability to both convey and trigger emotion.|
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