Green Lung – This Heathen Land Review

Green Lung’s last effort, 2021’s Black Harvest, was a strange record. It made quite an impact when it dropped; I 4.0ed it and have no regrets. It also made a few different EOY lists, including Steely D‘s, Huck‘s, and my own but I’ve not thought about, much less gone back to, it since. Nor I recall anyone really mentioning it. And yet, and yet, when I was informed there was new Green Lung on the way, I was immediately excited. There is something familiar and charming about what Green Lung do and do so well. Blending the likes of SabbathJethro TullBoston, and more, the band harks back to an earlier time and, on Black Harvest, managed to do that with their own voice. However, there are lots of other things I can reach to for comfort and familiarity, perhaps explaining why I haven’t reached for Black Harvest until thinking about this review. What staying power does This Heathen Land have?

An unashamed ode to the olde tales and mystical corners of this isle, when it was known as Albion, This Heathen Land picks up where Black Harvest left off. It is infested with tales piskies, fairies and witches, as is immediately apparent from the artwork and from opener, “Prologue.” Green Lung waste no time from there launching, into the anthemic “The Forest Church,” which recalls the fist-pumping epic-ness of Rainbow, as much as it does Sabbath. Big rolling trad doom riffs and proggy leads, huge groove-laden bass lines, a big Hammond organ solo and the pitchy, almost nasal, invocations of vocalist Tom Templar, what’s not to like?

This Heathen Land by GREEN LUNG

Across This Heathen Land, as scattered as the UK geographical references that pepper the lyrics, lie some absolute bangers, like “Mountain Throne,” “The Ancient Ways” and “Hunters in the Sky,” which are bursting with Boston-like energy, Matt Wiseman’s drums pushing them along, as Templar’s vocals, often double- or even triple-tracked, soar. Cuts like “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and closer “Oceans of Time” rely a little more on the synths and organ to add an extra dimension to Green Lung’s sound, while the deep, rumbling doom of “One for Sorrow” falls back into more Sabbathian tropes. Meanwhile, the ethereal semi-folk of “Song of the Stones,” sporting traditional instrumentation and percussion, Pink Floyd-esque guitar work and trailing off into a glimmering synth line, offers a completely different side to Green Lung, perhaps best capturing the eerie, otherworldliness of the lonely moorlands and deserted coastlines of the British Isles, which the band seeks to convey.

Throughout, Scott Black’s great work on guitar exudes that 70s sound we all love from the likes of Rainbow and Zeppelin, not only in his riffs and solos, but also in the actual tone and sound, which I assume was a deliberate choice. It works extremely well, as does the rest of the production. Sadly, the same cannot always be said for Temple’s vocals. I said in my review of Black Harvest that his performance was slightly more stylised than on the debut, Woodland Rites, but it worked. Although it is not a consistent problem across the record, in various places on This Heathen Land, Temple’s now overdone it, most notably “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and “One for Sorrow.” Unfortunately, those two songs are back-to-back and account for almost a quarter of the album, which really highlights the issue. It’s also fair to say—at least, I think it is and, for present purposes, that’s what matters—that “Oceans of Time” is the weakest song on the record, making it a poor note for Green Lung to close on. Already feeling overlong and like the band has run out of both ideas and energy, on my review copy, the track cuts out mid-riff and -vocal at 5:49; according to the listing on Metal Archives, the track should run for another minute. Frankly, I’m glad it doesn’t on my copy.

This brings us to the tricky question of scoring This Heathen Land. “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and “One for Sorrow” both grate on repeated listens, with lackluster songwriting and overblown vocals. At the same time, the album finishes on a whimper (allowing for the fact I haven’t heard its final minute). It lacks cohesion and doesn’t have the flow of Black Harvest. At the same time, its highs—particularly “The Forest Church,” “Mountain Throne,” and “Song of the Stones”—are great and at least equal to anything Green Lung has written before. When I revisit this album, I fear I may also need to revisit this score, but whether to up or downgrade it, only time will tell.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 3rd, 2023

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