Monday, 11 November 2019
ALUNAH ~ VIOLET HOUR ..... review
After a run of outstanding occult tinted doom albums Birmingham's Alunah's upward trajectory almost came to a shuddering halt when founding member vocalist/guitarist Sophie Day announced her retirement from the band, Day was the bands main lyricist and with her distinctive voice she was very much the focal point of the bands live shows. Replacing Day was going to be a big ask but thankfully the band found the perfect replacement in, former Bear Legs, vocalist/guitarist Sian Greenaway, not only did Greenaway possess similar vocal tones to Day she had just as strong a stage prescence. The band soon got down to writing for their new line up and soon discovered that Greenaway was not only a powerful vocalist but she was also an accomplished lyricist, the new member was proving to be quite the asset. After testing the waters on the live circuit Alunah decamped to the studio to record "Amber & Gold" a four song EP that included three new songs and a stunning cover of Chris Issak's "Wicked Game", the EP garnered good reviews from all the right quarters and things were looking promising for the Birmingham combo. This year, and quite out of the blue, Alunah announced that founding guitarist David Day was leaving to pursue a life outside of music, for any other band losing another founding member would be a disaster but the band hardly missed a stride and the news that he was leaving was almost immediately followed by the news that Dean Ashton, who had previously been plying his trade with metal legends Diamond Head, was his replacement. Fast forward a few months and the revised line up of the band who had been working on new songs, headed into the studio to record their new album "Violet Hour".Will the loss of two original members have had a huge impact on Alunah's core sound, we'll let you make your own minds up.
Things get off to promising start with opening track " Trapped and Bound", old fans will be pleased to hear that Alunah's hallmark sound of huge resounding refrains driven by thunderous rhythms are all still in place but may be intrigued by the slightly more commercial feel of Greenaway's vocal melodies. For some older fans this ever so slight shift towards a more mainstream sound maybe the straw that breaks the camels back however we at Desert Psychlist find the fact that there are still bands out there writing songs that are satisfyingly heavy and intense yet still pleasingly hummable to be quite refreshing. "Dance of Deceit" follows in much the same vein as its predecessor, Ashton's heavily distorted and fuzzed guitar crunching out thrumming powerchords and dark swirling solo's over and around a backdrop of growling bass and crushing percussion, expertly supplied by Dan Burchmore (bass) and Jake Mason (drums).It is Greenaway's vocals however that will stay the longest in the listeners memory, her vocal range,slightly wider than her predecessors, possess enough tonal similarities to Day's to ensure that Alunah's core sound. which is the reason why we all came here, has not been compromised. "Hunt" follows and jams a slightly more atmospheric and brooding groove, Greenaway's vocal, occasionally backed by Ashton, sounds huge here and combined with the songs dark menacing refrains and pulsating rhythmic groove gives the song an epic almost grandiose feel. "Hypnotized" finds Greenaway employing a clipped, almost Germanic inflection to her vocal totally suited to the songs throbbing groove while title track "Violet Hour" is built around an encapsulating stop start refrain that splutters and stutters beneath clean clear vocal melodies."Unholy Disease" is up next and mixes old school doomics with new school occult melody to create a delightful blend of both dynamics.Things get a little ethereal on " Velvet" Greenaway's vocals taking on waifish tones, her vocal a little higher and a little sweeter sounding while beneath her the band lay down an intriguing mix of heavy doomic nastiness and chilled bluesy swagger. "Lake of Fire" brings the album to a close with a wonderful blend of lilting melody and atmospheric heaviness, Greenaway's note perfect soaring vocals drifting gracefully over thick swathes of dark, dank prog tinted bluesiness, Ashton ripping brief but tasteful solos from his guitar superbly supported by Burchmore's deep liquid bass lines and Mason's solid and on point percussion.
Like we said in our intro we will let you decide if the new line up of Alunah meets your high expectations however we will say that for us, at Desert Psychlist, this latest version of Alunah have, with "Violet Hour", upheld the legacy of the original Alunah and have gone some way in enhancing that legacy. Long live Alunah!
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© 2019 Frazer Jones