Alunah – Call Of Avernus

Merging elements of Stoner, Doom & Psychedelic grooves with lyrics about the Earth and mother-nature, female vocals and DIY ethics, Alunah arose from a West Midlands rehearsal room in 2006. The band have played hundreds of gigs nationwide including dates with the likes of Paradise Lost, Trouble, Orange Goblin, Roadsaw, Witchcraft, Nebula, Doomraiser, Witchcraft, Grifter, Taint and more. Alunah signed with England’s Catacomb Records and Germany’s Nasoni Records and released the “Fall to Earth” EP and the vinyl single “Song of the Sun” respectively. Their debut album “Call of Avernus” was recorded in April 2010 by Greg Chandler (SerpentCult, Esoteric, Moss) and mastered by James Plotkin (Earth, Isis, Khanate). The album is due for release on December 6th but they were kind enough to send me the album for a review and I am thrilled to say, it went way beyond my expectations. It has been a pure joy watching this band develop over the last couple of years and they have really mastered their craft with this début full-length album. The band has a unique appeal for us Stoner / Psychedelic rock fans and that is the vocals of Sophie Willett.

While female vocals in Psychedelic Rock are nothing new, her laid-back vocal style can only be described as “sweet” as she gives the band a character all of its own. One of the immediate elements to grab with this album is the production, while the Fall To Earth” EP was a tad top-heavy in the fuzz department there is no such problems with this recording. Everything is beautifully mixed with all the instruments perfectly given just the right amount of crunch and power while Sophie’s voice is placed dead center with just the right amount of volume and clarity. Also noticeable is Alunah now sounds more concise with their song-writing and much more up-beat overall than earlier recordings, in other words this album kicks some serious ass while remaining incredibly catchy. “Living Fast In An Ancient Land” kicks off the album with an enormous amount of high-octane crunch and Stoner, Psychedelic fury and thus Alunah have never sounded so alive as they do on this wonderful tune. It begins with a warm and rich throbbing bass before a monster riff of doom takes hold, fasten your seat-belts however as Alunah put the metal-to-the-pedal as this song soon becomes a mass of swirling, mid to fast tempo burning riffs. Musically it is about as infectious as you can get in Stoner Rock but Sophie’s vocals seals the deal with her sweet mesmerizing voice. Her phrasing is beautifully executed and sounds natural and completely un-forced. The earthy lyrical content goes against the grain from what you usually hear in this kind of band, there is no cheesy occult vibe here and that gives the band a quality of originality.

Along with the fuzzy riffing, you also get treated to some wonderful soaring lead work from Dave Day although Sophie Willett also plays guitar so I am not sure who is handling the lead here, whoever it is, is doing a killer job though. “Call Of Avernus,” the title track is up next and it begins with a thumping doom-laden riff before heading off into Alunah’s” almost patented Psychedelic sound. The band get full points for infectious melody on this tune, it is not just Sophie’s angelic vocals, it is also the flawless guitar playing and Jake Mason’s powerful and energetic drumming that pushes the band beyond the usual Stoner Rock fodder you often hear these days. “Song Of The Sun” which has also been released as a single is the next tune up and it another great driving song with a cool riff. Nice ascending and descending riff-lines keep the groove going and Alunah don’t waste a nano-second on their songs. There is no extended lead-breaks or droning guitar-riffs, they keep the energy level at a high by keeping the song moving at all costs. “Song Of The Sun” is very much deserving as a choice for a 7″ as it is a perfect example of how concise Alunah has now become with their songwriting, wonderful tune.

“Magick Lantyrn” takes the mood down to a hypnotic, Psychedelic kind of ethereal vibe. The song is almost too short, stopping just as you begin to feel yourself floating away to its cosmic energy. It is mellow and surprisingly gentle for Alunah to do a song like this but it is a pleasant surprise and a nice interlude four tracks into the “Call Of Avernus” album. “Aversus is the ancient name for a crater near Cumae, Italy and some belive it is the entrance to the underworld because according to tradition all birds flying over the lake were destined to fall dead. The next song”Eternal Sea” brings back the fuzz and “Alunah’s swinging groove, sounding like a mix of Nebula and Orange Goblin but with Alunah’s trademark infectious vocal melodies. The song stomps along till the halfway mark when it is brought down to another ethereal moment with melodic guitar lead played with a ton of feeling. It slowly climbs in heaviness in its second half becoming very atmospheric and very doom-laden especially in the last 2 minutes of what is the longest track on the album. Leaving you guessing what will they do next, “Dance Of Dionysus” starts off with a kind of punky groove but it soon becomes another mid-tempo Psyche Metal stomper with late 60’s sounding acid-rock leads. There is also some fine bass/drum interplay in its last section producing yet another irresistibly catchy tune.

“Circle Of Stone” is another one of the longer, more ambitious tracks and much like “Eternal Sea,”it has a lot of light and shade, ethereal moments and stomping, fuzz-laden groove. There is a big emphasis on the lead-work on this album, much more than there ever was before in Alunah songs and “Circle Of Stone” has some of the best lead-breaks on the album. They are swirling pieces of Psychedelicism but very melodic and never self-indulgent and this mostly instrumental track kicks like a mule once it gets going. “Higher” is another song where it is all about the groove especially when the band hits top-gear after its doom-laden intro section. The energy is always at a premium as most of this album is mid-tempo and “Higher” does indeed keep the head-nodding with its crash, band, wallop approach. The last track on this very consistent album is “Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn.” Hermetic I think has something to do with the magical and religious movement stemming from the teachings attributed to “Hermes Trismegistus,” who is the representation of the conflation of the Egyptian god “Thoth.” Wether this inspired the lyrics though is another story. This tune is a great heavy closing track for the album, a mesmerizing riff and the equally hypnotic vocals from Sophie perfectly chugs along bringing the album to its ending. What makes this album so amazing apart its great riffs, vocals and the general tightness of the band is its completeness.

“Call Of Avernus” is a very well-rounded album and is very consistent from start to finish. Alunah have arrived now in a big way with this album, a very well-executed recording from a band that is equally all about catchiness than it is heaviness and grooves. It is certainly one of the albums of 2010 especially from the perspective of Stoner, Psychedelic Metal but forget about “tags,” this is just a damn catchy rock album. Please support Alunah and check out this album, especially if you are a fan of female-fronted rock bands as I think Alunah are now right at the top of that pile of bands now. Out very soon on Catacombs Records.

Catacombs Records
Reviewer: Ed

Nov 17, 2010

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Alunah – Call Of Avernus

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1. Living Fast In A Ancient Land
2. Call Of Aversus
3. Song Of The Sun
4. Magick Lantyrn
5. Eternal Sea
6. Dance Of Dionyus
7. Circle Of Stone
8. Higher
9. Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn

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