GREEN LUNG – Black Harvest (2021)REVIEW

As we descend the staircase beyond the old ways and count the strata of progress and ashes built upon in this cyclically patterned stumbling of man throughout the ages a taste for coloration and an ear for variance becomes a rabid thirst, a need to carry satiating artesian bloom in pace from drought to drought. The oaken and gnarled folk-horror cerebrum of London, England-based heavy metal/doom rock quintet Green Lung has the past, the present and maybe even a stray eyeball aimed toward the future in preparation of their gratefully bottled rite of ‘Black Harvest‘. This inspired sophomore full-length grants us beams of smoke-piercing sunlight through grisly, occult stained-glass coloration for the sake of fashioning their own roguish experience, quenching the arch-self and granting all some considerable relief from mundanity.

We can tangentially circle, scry and plot our way through the upper crust of early 70’s occult rock and the not-so swinging heavy psychedelic rock bands of thereabouts era in search of reference for the ease and open-armed grandiosity which Green Lung have always powered forth and there is no denying the next logical step unto cult NWOBHM that’d leaned towards Lizzy (Demon) and Sabbath (Witchfinder General) ain’t all that far behind when we get to the curvaceous bustle of their stoner/doom-swinging knack for riffs. But because this isn’t such a retro purposed experience there is little sense in being so stuffed-up the hide of the ancients when a solid shot of ’90 ’til ’95 stoner rock doom-fusion a la Trouble and a hint of the exuberance of Cathedral as they liberated themselves nearby with exaggerated Sabbath grooves to reach the right ride into the past on a slightly more modern lookin’ spaceship. If this is starting to sound like a later Magic Circle (R.I.P.) review we can temper any such expectations with a shot of early Witchcraft or even prime The Sword if that’ll uncross the eyes and relax the shoulders a bit.

Green Lung have always been about the smooth reveal, the quick and lovely process of peeling away a few layers of bluesy doom-rock dementia for a lucid, ripped moment that takes the listener outside of time and sets ’em within a flowing, oozing moment of rapture. Take a quick spin through any of their records and even the ‘Green Man Rising‘ (2017) demo offered a few hits of this dreamy-assed broom ride they’re known for. By no means is that an endorsement of their early 70’s Black Sabbath blubbered stoner metal songwriting prior to ‘Woodland Rites‘ (2019) on the totally fine, entirely slick and rumbling ‘Free the Witch‘ (2018) EP but it wasn’t until that debut full-length that Green Lung found their footing and starting making noise worth bracing yourself against. Where they were going on ‘Woodland Rites’ and are now fully set within ‘Black Harvest’ offers more than a gushing moment or two per song but now attempts arena-sized pagan doom rock sermons in depiction of terrarium worlds, narrated in unveil of pre-satanic panic intrigue and disorder. By boosting the shocking kitsch of 70’s occult rock and hand-drawing their own sigils in border of a mock-ministerial tone of revelation we don’t have to take a far hike from ye olde trusty Hammond organ slinging Cathedral-isms for security but as ‘Black Harvest’ slowly convinces us to let the devil in so do we begin to see their own name in lights just as big and warming as any major influences.

As we are beckoned up the hill for “The Harrowing” in promise of a night that’ll tear open the earth beneath our feet it is the run-on Ken Hensley-possessed organ grinding that precedes the kick into “Old Gods” that convinces attendance. The strike into the opening riffs of said song beyond that point is, for my own taste, all it takes to get me jumping on the table and chucking cash at the band, even if they are small bills at this point. The interplay between this simple yet beautifully round riff and the sky-shot drum and keyboard performances invokes a sort of Vincent Crane/John Du Cann in the pocket feel, or, if nothing else Green Lung‘s meeting of classic British heavy psych & occult rock/proto-metallic wiles and their successive insertion into the stoner/doom metal of the 1990’s is an elevation of deeply embedded musical tradition which fits their own personalized sense of presentation neatly. We step from sermon to anthem on “Leaders of the Blind” and eventually stumble upon a bonafide single-worthy piece on “Reaper’s Scythe” with its late 80’s ‘Run to the Light’ leads steaming up into a big, stomping sing-along inferno complete with monarchy-toppling arena rock drums and rousing organ melodies which accentuate the major verse melodies rather than plunk along under them. This is big stage, hot lights stuff from a band who’d been sorta rumbly and almost apologetically musical in the past — Here they’ve each got an eyebrow raised while making eeriest full eye contact.

“Graveyard Sun” is arguably peak resonance for the first wheel through ‘Black Harvest’ a sweetest groove that culminates with the sort of harmonized ooh‘s and ahh‘s that could’ve gone tragically late 90’s Pete Steele in anyone else’s hands, so, instead of giggling through this dramatic moment it manages to sweep us off into the cold distance. At this point Side A is officially over but without the customary pause needed to flip the LP Side B opener/title track “Black Harvest” reads as a jammed refrain and a melodic reprisal of “Graveyard Sun”, a bit of unfinished business which inspires all over again. Fealty earned on my part as the gist of the experience up to this point has successfully offered a different shade of big 70’s arena-sized performances which inform an energetic style of character-rich doom rock. No doubt this silvered thread simply dirges on as the second half of ‘Black Harvest’ gets to it and this’ll be where listeners will likely divide, either tuning out or beginning to paw at the pulpit for more of Green Lung‘s unique brand of salvation. On earlier runs I’d found “Upon the Altar” and “You Bear the Mask” a sort of faux-pas pairing which dealt too similar mountain-jogging rhythms and rock devotional performances but these songs simply reinforce what ‘Black Harvest’ is — A big heavy rock riff record roughly sixty percent of the time. It is worth noting that songs like “Upon the Altar” give us a glimpse of what Green Lung can manage when taking a heavier lean into traditional doom metal territory, there’ll be no complaint on my part about the band getting heavier as the album progresses. Eventually, “Born to a Dying World” spanks us out of our shells with a confessional amounting to the most anciently shimmering piece on the record, salvaging the punitive tail end of the full listen with a song that fits neatly into their larger modus and signals the end in a curiously nostalgic, nigh alien tone after the three axe-swingers before it.

This black-painted church of Green Lung promises all sorts of salvation with its initial mannerisms and exuberant declarations abound as the serotonin surge of worship kicks in and sustains yet, much like the tooth-grinding and wide-eyed cheer of an early 2000’s peyote-cut ecstasy trip, things get a bit crazed and surreal as a few redundant pieces slide by in closing. From my perspective this is a righteous aspect of traditional heavy rock music that allows for deep cuts to register later on as a full-length ages into mind. Sure, I would’ve preferred a campfire acapella moment a la Spell‘s last one or a wicked directional change instead of straight ragers through the end but either way none of this actually chafes on repeat. Though I’d been a fan of these fellowes back in 2019 upon introduction ‘Black Harvest’ is the one to insist upon my attention from across the room, tapping into all there is to love (and not just) like about heavy rock’s sun and smoke leathered skin and using that resonance to build an inspiring-yet-subversive sermon that can’t help but stick like tar. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Black Harvest
LABEL(S):Svart Records
RELEASE DATE:October 22nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Heavy Rock/Doom Metal,
Heavy Psychedelic Rock,
Occult/Doom Rock

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