November 1, 2023

…in This Heathen Land Green Lung have grown out of their Sabbath-influenced roots to create a surprisingly varied and accessible album, full of classic riffs, big choruses, and fascinating lyrics.

A cynic might ask: is there anything more to Green Lung than slavishly trying to create the sound of Black Sabbath? Listen to the first two Green Lung albums and you can’t really fault someone asking the question. After all, Scott Black’s guitar riffs do have a distinct similarity to Tony Iommi’s style, Tom Templar’s nasal vocals could easily be construed as an Ozzy imitation, and the lyrics are steeped in the occult. To be fair, Green Lung have tried to cut their own path of modern doom metal, but that Sabbath legacy has been a little too close for comfort so far. That, however, is about to change with this, their third album, a much more mature and varied release, that combined with a recording contract with Nuclear Blast Records, is likely to raise the profile of the group considerably.

The book that inspired the album

The album is subtitled A Journey Into Occult Albion and the one-minute spoken introduction sets the scene, concluding with the line ‘You are about to embark on a journey into occult Albion. Come, it’s time to explore this heathen land’. Templar states that he was inspired by childhood reading of the classic Reader’s Digest book Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, adding that he wanted ‘to conjure the experience of reading that book in sonic form – to take listeners on a journey into the weird world of British folklore, into the woods and over the mountains and onto the moors, and to inspire them to see the magic that’s still out there, if you use a little imagination.’ And those are not just words to hide the all-too-frequent trite lyrics you can find these days, especially in the doom/occult arena. In this journey, Templar demonstrates an impressive knowledge of cinema, literature and history. There’s even time for current affairs, with one track (Hunters in the Sky) inspired by the current fight for the ‘right to roam’ on Dartmoor. Green Lung are definitely a cut above their peers in creating intelligent lyrics.  

The first proper song is The Forest Church, and it demonstrates in the first twenty seconds one of the strengths of the band: being able to write a damn good riff! It is still a Sabbath-style mid-paced riff but the main song is anything but Sabbath. The verses are devoid of guitar as John Wright’s organ gives a menacing undercurrent to proceedings before explosive guitar chords introduce the very melodic chorus. It’s a brilliantly constructed song and I got the feeling that the group had picked up some lessons from the AOR/melodic rock end of the spectrum: clear lines, good melody, and a catchy guitar hook line. Some of this may be the influence of producer Wayne Adams who apparently was charged with creating a sound like the classic albums that Martin Birch oversaw in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Lyrically, the song may appear generic but it’s about a very specific church that was the scene for Satanic rituals in the 1971 film, Blood on Satan’s Claw.

The Forest Church is one of the highlights of the album, and it’s in good company with Mountain Throne and Maxine. The three of them represent a quite superb opening thirteen minutes of music. Mountain Throne ups the pace as it gallops along with another foot-tapping riff, but it’s Maxine that really hits the accelerator, rushing along at a breathless pace and driven by an irresistible keyboard theme that sounds like it is being played on an organ fair.

Maxine is a hard song to follow but the band pull of the trick by doing something completely different with One For Sorrow that occupies a more traditional doom sound world. In other words, it’s snail-paced and full of crushing guitar riffs. The first part is excellent but that’s just the precursor for the powerful growing crescendo of the second part, a rewording of the One For Sorrow Two For Joy nursey rhyme in which the number seven is no longer ‘for a secret never to be told’ but ‘the devil; the devil himself’. That might not appear scary but listen to the way Templar spits out that last phrase and you’ll be quaking in fear!

The second half of the album is even more varied and adventurous, but also a little less consistently good. Song Of The Stones has a dreamy vocal and some nice acoustic guitar and synth work. It would have made an excellent two-minute interlude but the addition of a Floydian guitar solo and a long outro meant it slightly outstayed its welcome to these ears. Hunters In The Sky is possibly the heaviest piece on the album is fast and exciting but here the experimentation of Queen-style harmonies jars a little with the tone of the song.  Perhaps the most ambitious track is the seven-minute Oceans Of Time that closes the album. The lonely synth that opens the piece is apparently meant to resemble the chill winds blowing across the Carpathian Mountains because the topic of the song is Dracula (film buffs will know where the song title comes from!). It’s a surprisingly progressive piece of music and a fine theatrical performance from Templar, although the chorus is one of the least interesting ones melodically.

In a recent interview, Templar talked about how everything came together for Iron Maiden in their third album, Number Of The Beast, and how he felt the same might be happening here for Green Lung. To some degree that’s a fair observation because in This Heathen Land Green Lung have grown out of their Sabbath-influenced roots to create a surprisingly varied and accessible album, full of classic riffs, big choruses, and fascinating lyrics. Their Number Of The Beast? No, to these ears, there is too much variety on this album and hence there’s no clearly identifiable Green Lung sound yet, but This Heathen Land remains a big and positive step forward for the band.