One of the most pleasing things about reviewing music is when an album/EP, from a band you've never heard of, comes hurtling out of the big nowhere and proceeds to blow you away. This recently happened with an EP, released out of the blue, by a band going by the name Alabama Church Fire, a band from Chattanooga, Tennessee who really ticked all Desert Psychlist's boxes with three tracks of swaggering southern metal and alt.country doom flying under the collective banner of "Forever Homely and High".
A sample of lay preacher like narrative opens first track "Mountain View" underscored by pounding percussion, grumbling bass and glistening guitar arpeggios before suddenly erupting into heavy and atmospheric, slow but not sedate southern metal groove. Given the heavy nature of the preceding grooves the listener may be fooled into expecting the obligatory growled and throat shredding vocals that are often the norm these days when listening to anything southern and metallic, however Alabama Church Fire are not a band wanting to follow trends and so we are treated to the clean, superbly weary and slightly cracked tones of one W.F. Lamb his voice and phrasing giving the song an almost alt.country vibe not unlike that executed by Drive By Truckers on their earlier albums. "Smokevision" follows with drummer Eric Waller beating out an insistent tattoo while the guitars of Lamb, Jake Kinard and Jeff Chastain lay down a grinding maelstrom of crunching riffage and harmonised refrains with bassist Bryce Simpson anchoring the groove with deep, growling bottom end. Once again Lamb gives a superb vocal performance, the fragility of his vocals against the tsunami of metallic mayhem behind them is a contrast that shouldn't work but ultimately just does. Alabama Church Fire leave the best to last though with the sprawling "East Valley Ramble" an epic thirteen minutes plus tome brimming over with mood and atmosphere that sees Lamb swapping his vocal weariness for vitriol, frustration and anger, his vocals superbly backed up by the rest of the band with each member contributing to the whole yet each bringing something of their own to the table.
If there is one criticism Desert Psychlist could level at "Forever Homely and High" it is that there are only three tracks, music this good, this vital, this interesting needs to grace a full album and SOON!
Check it out ….
© 2018 Frazer Jones