FAMYNE “II: The Ground Below”

By The Great Sun Jester

The UK’s prog doom rockers FAMYNE first formed in 2014 and burst on the scene with twin blasts – the first is their 2015 EP followed by a reputation-making performance at Bloodstock Open Air 2016. They returned in 2018 with a full-length self-titled release that moved the goalposts for the band’s possibilities but their new release, “II: The Ground Below”, should catapult the Canterbury-based band to a higher level than ever before.

It is a mixed affair, in some respects. FAMYNE opens the album with two outright rockers, “Defeated” and “Solid Earth” respectively, but the effect is diffuse. The opener “Defeated” has plenty of muscle and skill but doesn’t seem to lead listeners anywhere. There’s no singular “payoff” moment when you widen your eyebrows, raise an eyebrow, and nod. Lead singer Tom Vane’s voice is compelling, you can’t help but focus on his near-bluesy wail, but “Defeated” may hit some listeners as a lot of sound of fury signifying something.

“Solid Earth” is better. The central riff is much stronger, and the song’s structure delivers a potent “old-school” vibe without ever sounding imitative. The pulverizing drag they achieve for this track drags listeners along for the ride, but some may wish they worked more dynamics into the arrangement. A shift begins with the third track. “Game” excels at nuance and doesn’t introduce heavy guitars until nearly three minutes in.

It’s the album’s first look at FAMYNE in all their doomy glory. The careful build of this track should work just as well on stage and the guitar team of Martin Emmons and Tom Ross enjoy their finest moment yet on the release. “A Submarine” goes even further. It’s the album’s longest track, its centerpiece by implication, and the quality justifies its length. Emmons and Ross’ playing blows away virtually anything we hear in the song’s predecessor and Vane’s mesmerizing vocals reach new heights.

“Babylon” is the story of two songs as the track’s heavier passages complement its lighter sections, but the overall heart of the performance lies during the latter. The harder riffing doesn’t compare well. Vane’s singing, as it often does, redeems the weaker musical ingredients though he does tend to wail a little longer than some may appreciate. “Once More” has an interesting arrangement that pushes against the boundaries of the form and the riskiness rewards listeners. There are “new” textures introduced in the guitar work that should catch some listeners by surprise.

The finale “For My Sins” is arguably the album’s best moment and the band’s released a fine music video for the track as well. The rhythm section opens this track in another surprising move and sets a definite tone for all that follows. Ross and Emmons’ frequently explosive guitar contributions are a key reason why this closer succeeds, but Tom Vane pushes his voice harder than before. FAMYNE ends “II: The Ground Below” with a wallop that any doom fan will enjoy.