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Alunah – Strange Machine Award winner

Alunah
Strange Machine
by Gary Hernandez at 03 April 2022, 3:34 PM

Okay, let’s establish a baseline here. I'm a long time ALUNAH fan. I was devastated when Sophia Day left the band; I was elated when Siân Greenaway joined the band. After two EPs and six full-length albums, including their latest, this Birmingham Stoner/Doom outfit has never disappointed. So maybe you can imagine my reaction when I read through the promo material for their latest album—“Strange Machine” (April 15, 2022 - Heavy Psych Sounds Records)—and came upon the following statement: “‘Strange Machine’ shows ALUNAH in their most diverse yet focused light.” For those not familiar with label speak, this means the band has been experimenting with their sound and fans should hold on tight because shit is going to change.

Let’s start right from the top. The album title will recall the lead track from THE GATHERING’s seminal album “Mandylion.” I’m not saying this was intentional at all. In fact, it probably wasn’t. Regardless, most Stoner/Doom fans will make this connection and it’s a positive one because the only commonality ALUNAH’s “Strange Machine” shares with THE GATHERING’s “Strange Machine” is the fact that it is utterly fantastic. Bands and labels are usually very particular about selecting the first track for an album, and it is very clear why the title track leads this album—and also why it is the title track. Onward . . .

Second track, “Over the Hills” also cranks. So far so good. I’m thinking, “If this is the extent of the experimentation, then we are in good shape.” And then “Fade to Fantasy” cues up. Ah-ha. Experimentation has swaggered up and made itself known. I’ll just say it right out, there’s not a lot I liked about this track or it’s cousin “Psychedelic Expressway.” I mean, it’s clearly Psych infused with Doom but it’s a campy, peppy Psych which for me just doesn’t do it. Thankfully, however, the balance of the tracks—that’s seven if you are counting—are firmly anchored in ALUNAH’s Doom roots. Of course, the world being as it is, I have seen several reviews that cite these two tracks as the best, so it just goes to show there is no accounting for taste. And that’s how it goes at the rock ‘n’ roll show, everyone has different views.

Now back to those other seven tracks . . . If I had to pick favorites, I would start with, of course, “Strange Machine.” Then it would be “Teaching Carnal Sins” which is classic ALUNAH—an unrelenting bassline; a stalking lead; a core riff that is Stoner as the wildest desert; Siân at her best and layered on with even more Siân; and a chorus that will worm into your brain, but in that good way. I should mention that Siân totally lays it out there on this track. Just incredible. Next up would be “Silver,” which to my ears is the heaviest track on the album. My final pick would be “Dead Woman Walking” with its killer bass and drum opening and motif – again, signature ALUNAH.

And the jury strolls in and pronounces “Strange Machine” as another incredible offering from ALUNAH. While their more experimental tracks didn’t quite land with me, I am likely the minority in this regard and a lot of you out there will love them. Also, hell yes to innovation, so kudos there. For fans with that deep-seated ALUNAH craving that only thundering bass lines coupled with tidal percussion, killer infectious riffs, and earthy but angelic vocals can reach, “Strange Machine” definitely satisfies.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1.  Strange Machine
2.  Over the Hills
3.  Fade into Fantasy
4.  Broken Stone
5.  Psychedelic Expressway
6.  The Earth Spins
7.  Silver
8.  Teaching Carnal Sins
9.  Dead Woman Walking
Lineup:
Siân Greenaway – Vocals
Matt Noble – Guitar
Daniel Burchmore – Bass
Jake Mason – Drums
Record Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
     


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