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 Post subject: Alunah - White Hoarhound
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:13 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:18 am
Posts: 8
Big thanks to The Obelisk for this review.
Cd available from http://www.alunah.bigcartel.com/product ... g-03-09-12
Digitally available from http://alunah.bandcamp.com/

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Alunah’s rise has been marked and impressive these last several years. The four-piece hail from Birmingham – a pretty good place to be from if you’re into the heavy – and their latest offering is White Hoarhound. The album is their debut for new label PsycheDOOMelic and their second full-length overall behind 2010’s impressive Call of Avernus debut (review here), a split with Queen Elephantine (review here) in 2009 and 2008’s preceding Fall to Earth EP, and the central difference between it and everything the band has done to this point is a clarity of mindset. With White Hoarhound’s seven tracks/47 minutes, what’s most apparent in listening is that Alunah have a much clearer idea than they’ve ever had before of who and what they are as a band. The guitars of Sophie Day and Dave Day are thick, viscous and forward in the mix alongside Gaz Imber’s bass, and Jake Mason’s drums beat out straightforward motion in line with the riffs. They are rarely showy as a band, but these songs deliver quality heaviness, a few standout choruses, and a solidified aesthetic rooted in pagan-style nature-worshiping lyrics. Sophie’s vocals are a defining element, and where in the past I’ve likened her voice to Lori S., that’s never been less true than it is on White Hoarhound. Some similarities remain, but as Sophie begins to come into her own as a singer, she necessarily leaves that and other such influences behind her. One still gets the sense in listening to their second album that Alunah are continuing to develop as a unit, but there are plenty of instances throughout the sophomore LP that show that potential beginning to pay off, both in terms of songwriting, as on the title-cut, and in terms of performance, as on the harmonized acoustic guitar/organ penultimate track, “Oak Ritual I.” The production of Greg Chandler (who also helmed Call of Avernus) and a mixing/mastering job from the increasingly ubiquitous Tony Reed finds the album moody but crisp, and with a darker atmosphere around them than last time out, the doom in Alunah’s sound has never come across better than it does here.

As on the debut, that doom comes tempered with a fuzz rock mentality that ties these tracks closely to the riffs on which they’re founded. Alunah would hardly be the first band to be driven by the progressions of their guitars, but it sets up a singularity of approach that plays out across much of White Hoarhound. I don’t necessarily think it’s a detriment to the album, however, since the mood is varied along the way and the unit don’t tie themselves to just one structure. That is, not every verse sounds the same, not every riff sounds the same, not every song winds up in the same place. So while it’s the riffs being followed, the destination changes. They touch on psychedelia here and there, as in the very intro of the album on opener “Demeter’s Grief,” but on the whole, it’s a doomier kind of sound than last time out, thicker, with Gaz’s bass right up front playing off Sophie and Dave’s guitars. No complaints there. The grooves are weighted but not drudging, and “Demeter’s Grief” does a solid job in setting up the listener for what’s to come throughout the album, shifting smoothly between a slower verse and more upbeat chorus, catchy and memorable with semi-mystical lyrics that serve as a distinguishing factor throughout the whole of White Hoarhound, including on the title-track, which follows and features the best of the album’s choruses. Sophie layers and backs herself on vocals, and the song’s musical bounce and vocal cadence comes across not unlike that of Mars Red Sky’s “Strong Reflection,” the heft in the guitars and bass once more not weighing the song down in the slightest. Alunah move into an effective start-stop groove in the second half, playing up the swagger for a brief break before cutting to a section of noise and skillfully bringing back the verse with a gong hit and revitalized purpose. Rightly, they end with the chorus, and shift directly into Mason’s drum intro for “Belial’s Fjord,” which at 8:03 is the longest track on the album, closer “Oak Ritual II” having a longer runtime but ending earlier.

The album’s midsection – “Belial’s Fjord,” “The Offering” and “The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” – accounts for much of its substance, and by the time the solo kicks in three minutes into the first of those cuts, Alunah are well at home in a low end groove, Imber riding out the rhythm with Mason in anticipation of the song picking back up, which, of course, it does. Somewhat less immediate than either “White Hoarhound” or “Demeter’s Grief,” “Belial’s Fjord” nonetheless confirms the atmosphere of those tracks and the album as a while – Sophie introduces us to the fjord itself, repeating the line “Please let me drown” in the process. The only thing Ms. Day is in danger of drowning in is her own guitar tone, and fortunately, it doesn’t come to that. “Belial’s Fjord” builds to a spacious apex in an almost devious manner, the chorus being secondary until the last time through when you realize you know it by heart already, and the leadwork throughout – as prevalent here as anywhere on White Hoarhound – satisfies without ever delving into self-indulgent shred. For its first minute, “The Offering” seems to follow a similar course of ethereal doom, but the intro soon dissolves into a quirkier, off-time riff that Mason backs well, nestling into a smooth and straightforward half-time stomp. A more adventurous drummer might have tried to keep pace with the guitars as they moved through, but Alunah aren’t about flash any way you cut it, so Mason plays it right in his ethic. At the same time, “The Offering” shows how Alunah are still growing as a unit. Not for anything in their performance, exactly, but just in how the track is constructed and how it stops and starts again after the intro, the former hardly a memory by the time they move into the chorus, fuller-toned – Imber’s fills are especially potent – and once again catchy in unrepentant fashion. Mason leads a bridge topped by a wah-heavy solo and they springboard back into the chorus, capping that and the song as a whole with more fuzzy soloing. Sneakily keeping the same reliance on a pop structure, “The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” opens with creepy ambience and an even creepier bass and drum rhythm from Imber and Mason that highlights just how essential the two are to making this material work.

Doomed and sleepier in its verse, “The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” veers into some psychedelics in its pre-chorus, which echoes into an oblivion created by its own tonal largesse before the chorus hook arrives to once again highlight the balance in Alunah’s sound between one side and the other. To call it stoner doom might give an impression undercutting some of the intricacies in the vocals and the guitars, but I still don’t think it would be wrong. There’s a burst of life in the solo and bridge of “The Chester Midsummer Watch Parade,” but the vibe overall is by far more languid than on “The Offering,” the band doing well to set the one next to the other and highlight the dynamic at play on White Hoarhound. The flourish of Hammond — a guest contribution from Reed — in “Oak Ritual I” does a lot to both enhance the acoustics and fill out the proceedings, the only other element of which is Sophie’s singing, capably harmonized. That proves to be plenty as the 2:32 intro/interlude cut gives way to closer “Oak Ritual II,” which uses at least some of the same lyrics but repurposes them over a heavier progression – the fuzz revived – that nonetheless has hints of melodic complexity under the dense weight of its riffage. Listening, I wish the vocal harmonies bled over from one track to the next, but Sophie strips her approach back down to where it rested for the vast majority of White Hoarhound, following the guitar with some variations of melody and tentative-seeming excursions of range. If they’re unassuming or humble, however, that only makes them consistent with the rest of what goes into Alunah’s tracks, which wind up a righteous play on genre as the quieter lead section of “Oak Ritual II” starts the build at 5:31 that will provide the final push of the record. They end with the apex, cutting to a bit of a ringout that feeds back and is gone by 7:10, and after the nine-minute mark, the organ returns for a ghostly minute-plus of atmosphere accompanied by echoing noise and sampled thunderstorm. As with Call of Avernus, Alunah chose a title-track (or perhaps it chose them; did I just blow your mind?) that features some of the album’s highlight moments, but there’s plenty in the rest of White Hoarhound that lives up to the promise the earlier cuts drive toward. Accordingly, the album itself succeeds because of how well the songs, “White Hoarhound” included, interact with each other and set up an overarching flow, no less fluid than any groove that emerges within them. Alunah remain a bright spot in the up and coming British heavy underground, and the growth prevalent here confirms they’re on the right course for developing their sound and style. Unpretentious heavy is always welcome by me.


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 Post subject: Re: Alunah - White Hoarhound
PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:55 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:18 am
Posts: 8
Cheers to H.P. Taskmaster for chatting about the album ...........

It comes and goes from the ether of the mental jukebox, but the chorus of the title-track to Alunah‘s White Hoarhound is never far off. Its resonant melody, rich tones and ethereal subject matter stand the band’s PsycheDOOMelic label debut — second album overall behind 2010′s Call of Avernus — in line with rich traditions within British rock, from late ’60s psychedelic pop to thunderous modern doom and massively fuzzed riffing. White Hoarhound (review here) and Call of Avernus (review here) are both strikingly cohesive outings from a still relatively nascent four-piece, but the newer record sets itself apart in an atmosphere and thematic geared toward pre-Christian nature-worship and particularly the rich pagan history of the British Isles.

Songs like “The Offering,” “Belial’s Fjord,” and “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade” hone in on these ideas — as, I suppose, do the title-cut, opener “Demeter’s Grief” and the closing duo of “Oak Ritual I” and “Oak Ritual II” — but more to the point in terms of listening to the album, they do so with a clear-headed musicality, subtle psychedelic essence and gorgeous songwriting. Guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day (more often shortened just to Soph), fellow guitarist Dave Day, bassist Gaz Imber and drummer Jake Mason execute a tonal thickness that’s second to few whose entire schtick isn’t tonal thickness, but do so without sacrificing choruses that are memorable for more than just being heavy. As much as the riff of “Demeter’s Grief” launches the album in lumbering form, and as much as Imber‘s bass earns high marks across the board, it’s the songs themselves that stand out. Even the acoustic-led “Oak Ritual I” — on which Tony Reed, who mixed and mastered the Greg Chandler production, donates guest organ — leaves a lasting impression.

As Soph says herself on “Oak Ritual II,” “The connection to the earth feels electric this time.” Alunah have set themselves a path with White Hoarhound, and should they choose to walk it and develop their sound from what they present on these seven tracks, there’s little to limit whatever their contribution might become. It’s a special moment for the band, and given that, I wanted to hit the band up to get some idea of what went into making the songs and the album, their origins and plans going forward.

Soph was kind enough to accommodate. For those in the UK, Alunah are playing Nov. 10 at The Gas Works in Bradford and Nov. 16 in Birmingham at Asylum Birmingham with Gentlemen's Pistols. More info on that at the links below. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

1. Tell me about writing White Hoarhound. How and when did the songs start to come together? What was the first song you wrote for the album and how did it come about?

We gigged and toured Call of Avernus for quite a while, and all of our practices were taken up with us playing the songs off Avernus so we were itching to start coming up with new ideas. We probably started seriously thinking about the second album around the beginning of 2011. The first song we wrote was “Chester Midsummer Watch Parade,” we had a strong idea of how we wanted the album to sound and “CMWP” embodied that perfectly. Dave wrote the riff for it and it was just perfectly dark and moody whilst at the same time being uplifting and groovy. We’re not a dark, depressing band by any means but we do have that side to us, and “CMWP” captures that side to us whilst at the same time celebrating the Midsummer in typical Alunah style. As soon as we wrote it we started playing it live — the rest of the songs didn’t get a live airing until the middle of 2012.

2. In terms of putting the record together and structuring the songs one into the next, was “Oak Ritual II” always going to be the album closer? Did that song come first or the acoustic part before it?

Once we finished the songs it was a toss-up between “Belial’s Fjord” or “Oak Ritual II” for the album closer and I think we made a good choice. “Oak Ritual” originally sounded quite different, and we only titled it in the studio. We moved the structure of the song around quite a lot, Dave and I had a jam at home and came up with the idea for “Oak Ritual I.” We went to rehearsal and played it to Gaz and Jake, from there we based the final “Oak Ritual II” on it so they kind of fed off each other in terms of which came first. The final “Oak Ritual I” wasn’t developed until we recorded it — the most of what you hear on the recording is Dave jamming on the acoustic. Same with all the backing vocals, they were last- minute studio additions, I’m so glad we did them too.

3. What is your lyric-writing process like? The lyrics on White Hoarhound seem to be coming from a quiet kind of place — they’re not really angry, sometimes sad, but still really thoughtful. Are there any rituals you have for writing the lyrics to get in the right mindset?

That’s a really nice summary of what I also feel about the lyrics. I don’t get into a ritual at all, with Avernus I remember sitting down and thinking “right, I’m going to write some lyrics,” but with Hoarhound I didn’t. The only song I really remember sitting down and writing was “Demeter’s Grief.” I’d been reading about the harvest, and the mythology attached to them, it fascinated me so I wrote that song. The rest of the songs kind of found me. I know that sounds pretentious but they did. I can’t remember ever sitting down and preparing myself to write them. I’m lucky to live amongst beautiful countryside, and I’m never short of inspiration. “White Hoarhound” was written from random thoughts which came into my head on a Welsh headland at a time when I found out my dad had lung cancer. “White Hoarhound” (normally spelt “horehound”) is actually a root the monks used to treat lung conditions with, and the headland I was standing on was where it was grown. I won’t go into massive detail on the others as I like listeners to attach their own meanings to them. I will say that this year has been a difficult one for my family, and the songs were born from a very sad and thoughtful period — they were my means of escaping into a different world. On a lighter note, I did watch a programme about flamingos and wrote a song about them… unfortunately for everyone, the rest of the band rejected it — that could have been a cracking song hahahaha!

4. Did you actually get to see the Chester Midsummer Watch? I caught some of it on YouTube and it seemed pretty psychedelic in that medieval kind of way — perfect for Alunah. That song seems to be in a tradition of British rock songwriting. Reminds me of a late ‘60s or early ‘70s psych record. Was there something in particular about the parade that inspired it?

I’m actually planning on going to see it next year — they also have a Winter Watch Parade which is smaller but has some of the characters from the Midsummer Watch Parade. The parade didn’t actually inspire the song, I’m not sure what did if I’m honest — we were just jamming and the riff came out of that. The lyrics, like the parade are celebrating the midsummer and I’m definitely interested in England’s medieval and also pagan culture. The song had a different name originally but when I read about the parade I changed the name in tribute. The parade was actually started in the 1100s and was banned for a period as it had dancing naked young boys as part of the parade — inappropriate even back then! It only recently came back to Chester and I think it’s just a beautiful, lively celebration of the Midsummer, complete with giants, jesters, dragons, devils and beasts. Thousands of people visit Chester to watch it, I’m not sure they all understand what it’s about but they all join in with the celebrations and it looks amazing, I can’t wait to visit next year.

5. How long were you in the studio recording? Did you do the album all in one shot or space it out? The tones are very warm and natural in the guitar and bass. Was there something specific about recording for White Hoarhound that you wanted to do differently from Call of Avernus?

We were in the studio recording for just five days, spaced out over weekends. We really wanted to capture the live tones on this record, we were close with Avernus but I think Greg (Chandler – who recorded it) nailed it with Hoarhound. We recorded AND mixed Avernus in four days. This time we spent more time recording and could work with our amps more to get the right sound. The other thing we did differently was to have someone else mix the record, Greg recorded and mixed Avernus, James Plotkin mastered it. This time Greg recorded, and Tony Reed mixed and mastered. Like us, Tony thrives on that ‘70s sound, so it was cool to have that meeting of different styles. He brought out the tones superbly, and we were especially pleased with the bass sound — so heavy!

6. You’re playing in November with Gentlemans Pistols and Desert Storm. Any other shows coming up, plans for the New Year you want to mention or closing words?

Yeah that’ll be an awesome gig on the 16th, we’re also in Bradford in November on the 10th with our mates Gods of Hellfire, Arkham Witch and Arke. We’ve got some big plans for 2013 which are being talked about at the moment — at least one big tour, possibly another and some other cool news which we’re discussing. Hahaha sorry to be so annoyingly vague but until they’re firm plans we don’t want to jinx things. Keep checking www.alunah.co.uk or www.facebook.com/alunah.doom for updates and thanks so much for everyone’s support in 2012.


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 Post subject: Re: Alunah - White Hoarhound
PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:51 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:18 am
Posts: 8
Now available from www.allthatisheavy.com


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 Post subject: Re: Alunah - White Hoarhound
PostPosted: Sun Jun 30, 2013 12:13 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 26, 2012 11:18 am
Posts: 8
Both albums on cd in the "sale" section on allthatisheavy.com

http://www.allthatisheavy.com/search.as ... erm=alunah


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