Green Lung came into being in London, in 2017, as a band with firm roots in the occult, with an aesthetic that brings to mind cult horror movies, Sabbath-like soundscapes and 70s psychedelia. Their debut EP “Free the Witch” (2018) and first full-length “Woodland Rites” (2019) conjured up an early bluesy Sabbatian style, whereas their sophomore effort “Black Harvest” (2021) revealed a more Queen-based grandeur. Now, their third record, out on November 03 via Nuclear Blast, “This Heathen Land”, as the band themselves say, might be the defining Green Lung album, their “The Number Of The Beast”, in a reference to the album that established Iron Maiden’s sound. Inspired by the work of producer Martin Birch, who worked with the likes of Rainbow and Black Sabbath, this album also brings a certain level of expressive freedom and experimentalism.
“This Heathen Land” opens with an invitation by an old-school narrator to “embark on a journey into occult Albion” and explore “this heathen land”. “The Forest Church” then kicks in with a strong guitar riff by Scott Black, only to give way to mysterious moody vocals by Tom Templar, as it builds into the organ-filled chorus. The virtuosic guitar harmonies are followed by an organ solo, which helps set the mood for this sonic incursion into occult Britain.
“Mountain Throne” is an anthem to the victims of the Pendle witch trials, which led to many deaths by hanging of both women and men from two local families of healers, headed by two elderly women, Demdike and Chattox. Here, the pace of the music picks up, in an animated conversation of intricate guitar parts and catchy vocals. “Maxine (Witch Queen)” is an homage to the modern icon of British contemporary witchcraft, Maxine Sanders; it’s a very danceable organ-based song that evokes an atmosphere of the psychedelia so characteristic of the 60s, the time when Maxine herself practised her witchcraft from Notting Hill Gate.
“One for Sorrow” features doom metal riffage and soaring vocals, a heavy ballad that is surprisingly progressive in its tonal nature and melodic variance. “Song of the Stones” follows, a proper-sounding British folk song, with echoes of a time past. Lyrically based on Grant Allen’s 1892 ghost story “Pallinghurst Barrow”, the chanting evokes stone circles, and features a hauntingly beautiful guitar solo by Black, as well as peaceful vocal harmonies and ancient-sounding percussion.
“The Ancient Ways” speaks of the joy of hiking and summons earlier Green Lung with its vocal melodies and heavy, groovy riffs. Next is the political song on the album, “Hunters in the Sky”, which speaks of the right to roam, following a recent court ruling in Dartmoor that allowed a landowner to remove campers from his lands, in a violation of the right of the British people to move freely across the landscape. Another of the fast-paced songs on the album, it features an organ solo that gives way to a guitar frenzy, and some of the highest notes sung by Templar, as well as heavy war-like percussion.
“Oceans of Time” closes the album. The most 80s sounding song here, it almost brings a Journey or Europe AOR feel to mind. It is the “different” song on the album, with a chorus that adds a grandeur to the track, and speaks of the long-lost love of Dracula.
The artwork for “This Heathen Land” is closer to that of the old-style early-modern prints that was featured on both “Free the Witch” and “Woodland Rites”, and it represents standing stones and mythical pagan creatures riding the clouds, in a pleasant-looking, yet intricate woodcut-style illustration.
A celebration of Nature, of times gone by, of a communion between mankind and the Earth, “This Heathen Land” goes beyond its music. It speaks of a sacred dimension that has been long lost in contemporary society, an album necessary in these times of divisiveness and turmoil. The record evokes an atmosphere where the fantastic seems possible, where witches and mythical creatures exist in the backlands of civilisation, all through a soundscape that recreates the extraordinary world of old school cult movies. Great guitar work, intricate bass lines, excellent drumming, moody organs and soaring vocals come together to build a magical sound, perhaps– only time will tell – the definite Green Lung album. “This Heathen Land” is definitely worthy of figuring in the list of the best releases of the year.
“This Heathen Land” track listing: