17 Jun 2021 - Knut
Doom Metal/Death Metal | Eat Lead and Die Music | Release date: 16 Jun 2021
A concept album about the imminent danger of a Lovecraftian man-made decline of civilization. Doom metal and death metal are sufficient music genres when one wants to create a dystopian soundscape as the background for the theme on an album like this release.
When the pandemic hit, Jon Higgs had to put his bands Monsterworks and Bull Elephant on hold. He started creating new music and got the collective collaboration of James Knoerl (drums, Gargoyl), Hugo Wilkinson (bass, Monsterworks) and Karl Sanders (guitar, Nile). The last one venturing into a musical soundscape he is not commonly associated with, but of course does magnificent musical work together with the others.
So yes, this is a doom-ladden album, both in concept and in music. The bass guitar rolls heavy at the bottom of it all with the drums adding to the dark dynamic made by the heavily distorted, dense guitars. In the mix are growling dark vocals, but also guitar solos that make you want to reach through a thick smog for the sunlight. As this is an offspring of Bull Elephant, it reflects the Lovecraftian view of the world. This release is mirroring the near future and not WW2 as Bull Elephant does. A future where destruction and pollution make it difficult to live and breathe. This release is part one of a saga with three more parts to come.
The descent into dystopia begins with a song by the same name as the album and the band, ”Thūn”. The name might stem from a creature in the books by Raymond E. Feist, or it might be a nod to Thunberg. It begins with the heavy distorted guitar and the dark solo guitar playing a melody in the background. The dark growling vocals begin the tale and the vocals echoing after a bit, disappearing and the music softening into a reflective mode for a little while. The vocals roar back to continue the tale, ”Beyond the price of weakness, above reproach”. The tempo shifts with fast drums, bass and guitars towards another tempo change, the solo guitar leading the others. The music staggers on, the tempo faster and faster until it slows down and a powerful guitar floats slowly in the background, steering the song towards the end.
”Cage within a Cage” kicks off fast with blast drums, vocals growling ”Obsessed with conspiracies to feed your psychosis/while ignoring the real threats to existence”. This song has many tempo shifts, hammering in the message. It does not float as easily and effortlessly as the first one. The elevated and masterly played solo guitar runs slalom between the drums, guitar, bass and growling voice before it all fades away in wah-wah mode.
The next track ”Unity” is played with acoustic guitars and hands softly hitting the drums, letting one relax and reflect that there might be light and hope in the darkness of the first two songs.
The next song, ”Intertwined Collective Fate”, starts with the solo guitar playing a melody before the growling voice comes in. We are soon in for a tempo shift where the band plays heavy, fast and tight, the growling vocals, ”Destruction for destructions´ sake/No longer with the excuse of justified sustenance”. It ends on the edge of a vast, almost airy musical landscape before the tempo changes to a fast chugging pace with the solo guitar swirling over it. This is a good example of how cinematic the music is on parts of the album, and also of Sanders´ guitar expertise.
”Righteous Violence” might be the doomiest song on the album, the bass in a leading role in parts of the song. It trudges away, the vocal more screaming than growling in the middle. The solo guitar screeching fast before a tempi change lets some air in, but not for long. In the end the growling voice meets its own echo, ”…if not you die!”
”Momentary Truce” comes as a relief of blue sky with a beautiful melody played by piano and accompanied by soft drums and acoustic guitar.
There should be no doubt what the last song, ”Gaiacide” is about. As a doom/death metal protest or awareness song, this reaches back to the early albums by Black Sabbath, mirroring them fifty years later. It is an expressively varied song, very energetic. Layers upon layers of solo guitars, wah-wah effects, heavy drumming and bass. The vocals vary between growling, screaming and clean singing. It all builds up to a crescendo where the solo guitar leads the other instruments faster and faster, accompanied by screams from the vocals after it has stated ”Once it is prevented, the end of all gaiacide”.
This is a collective effort, an album made during the pandemic when the musicians could not meet, but recorded their own work in separate places of the world. And when Higgs mixed it, it sounds as tight as any album recorded in a studio with all musicians in place. In line with the underlying message of this album, it is only digitally released. Not to be missed if you are in for very well played traditional thought provoking classic heavy metal in the veins of the giants of the 70s.