GREEN LUNG “Black Harvest”

By The Great Sun Jester

It’s too easy to label the U.K. five-piece GREEN LUNG as “retro”. The band makes no secret of their allegiance to the past but tagging acts with this knee-jerk label often has ulterior motives. Record company flacks and would-be tastemakers are always attempting to stuff music with an established popular style into boxes. It’s an attempt to clear the decks for flavors of the moment. They can try whatever they like but GREEN LUNG’s music defies labels.

It’s even more impressive when you consider the fidelity they show towards certain metal/hard rock tropes. The band’s subject matter isn’t any sort of obstacle towards appreciating their music. Their interest in the occult, the supernatural and English folk history is sincere. The transformative element in their presentation, however, is their ability to dramatize those interests in a gripping way.

“The Harrowing” opens their album “Black Harvest”. It’s a fanfare of sort for everything that follows, largely instrumental, and strikes a dizzying epic note. GREEN LUNG begins the song with atmospheric synthesizers accompanying incantatory vocals laden with echo. The explosive second half of this brief opener risks overwhelming some listeners but will invigorate others.

“Old Gods” is the album’s first full-length track. The bulldozer riff has a primitive yet memorable melody, but there’s a missed opportunity here. It’s an obvious “true” opener for the album and, as such, practically begs for a heavier bottom end sound. It’s a bit thin given the overall power of the band. “Leaders of the Blind” has a surprisingly commercial chorus with vocal harmonies and it’s an interesting juxtaposition.

It also highlights another potential roadblock for GREEN LUNG. Vocalist Tom Templar’s voice has a nasal quality stronger during some passages than others but metal fans who place a high priority on vocalists who sound like operatic gods will be disappointed by Templar’s singing. Open-minded listeners, however, will hear an attentive and commanding vocalist with clear phrasing skills. He’s a crucial part of GREEN LUNG’s sound.

Another compelling juxtaposition arrives with “Graveyard Sun”. The sensitive acoustic guitars are astonishingly effective weaving around the song’s synth lines. It’s one of the best examples, as well, of GREEN LUNG’s aforementioned talent dramatizing their passions. A song based off stories of England’s “Highgate Vampire” isn’t fodder for most songwriters. The band’s synth contributions add vibrant streaks of color through “Upon the Altar” and the gothic imagery of the band’s lyrics largely focus on details rather than fragmentary imagery.

The impassioned finale “Born to a Dying World” hints at the band’s future. It’s an ambitious song that doesn’t cross the six minute mark yet reaches far beyond any of its predecessors. It presents a bleak vision of the world and its future but it isn’t a gimmick. Their sincerity is evident here and throughout the entirety of “Black Harvest”. It’s a fascinating release, not without a few flaws, but nonetheless one of the most intelligent releases of 2021.