I have a special place in my heart for albums which take no time at all to announce to the listener what they’re all about. As times goes by, I prefer an explosive, furious opening to a long build up, at least when it comes to album openers. Green Lung‘s Woodland Rites opens with just such an explosion, as “Initiation” first blasts on your speakers (or headphones, I don’t discriminate). This first track is chock full of solos, leads, and riffs, all rendered in exquisite fuzz for the listener’s enjoyment. Add in a sample about the death of witchcraft, obviously included in sarcasm by the otherwise druidic band, and the picture of the entire album becomes clear in just a few short minutes: Woodland Rites is a fun-filled, heavy exploration of stoner metal/rock that’s unapologetic and inclusive in the extreme.
Hold on, inclusive? What do we mean by that? Here’s the thing: many of the lyrics on this album include the listener or seem addressed to us or the track’s subject; Green Lung spend little time describing concepts, instead focusing on actions, often performed in community. The titular track for example invites us to partake in their music and their way of life, calling us to their rite of witchcraft. The following track, “Let the Devil In”, which we premiered on the blog, could spend its time describing the stifling puritanism of religion and the liberating proclivity of paganism but is instead another invitation, this time aimed at a hypothetical nun but obviously really addressed to anyone who might be listening to the track.
This trend continues throughout the album and creates a refreshing sort of atmosphere; stoner metal bands often enjoy the air of the occult as something distant, a thing which sets them apart from the listener, cultivating an air akin to that of an “elite” priesthood. Green Lung aren’t about that at all; they are about taking the listener on a journey alongside them (“Follow me to the ritual tree”, says the fourth track; we are inducted into the mysteries of the cult). Yeah, alright, the lyrics are cool and they create a great atmosphere but how’s the music, you might ask at this point? Well, imaginary interlocutor, the music is damn great. Keeping in step with the playful and inclusive tack of the lyrics, Green Lung revels in the chunky riff, the bristling, shimmering lead, and the pronounced drums.
All of these staples of the stoner metal genre are performed excellently and with passion, creating both raucous melodies focused on groove and slower, more nostalgic pieces. This latter timbre can be heard on tracks like the aforementioned fourth track, “The Ritual Tree”, perhaps one of the more accomplished and moving tracks on the albums. As the band go slower near its middle, bass and drums maintain the thick spine of the music while the guitar goes off exploring ambience. Everything coalesces back again into a monstrously satisfying solo, backed by the same bass/drum lines and a copious amount of Hammond-like synths. And don’t even get me started on “May Queen”, an incredibly powerful ballad which turns up the synths way high and afford the vocals the center stage for nearly all the duration of the track. Naturally, the last piece of the musical puzzle are the vocals and they play their part perfectly; infused with much of the playfulness of the lyrics, they complete the woodsy and folksy feeling of the album, tying a neat little bow on top of it. They can be boisterous or melancholic, as they are on “May Queen”, performing both roles to a tee.
Now at the end of our own rite, we stand neatly transformed! Woodland Rites is one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard recently and that transformation is the best indicator of that. Because it handles themes of belief, magic, and perspectives on life with such a light and inclusive hand, it sneaks up on you. You find yourself not only rocking to its excellent music but somehow inhaling its mood. A riff rings out and you can smell the oak’s needles; a vocal line rings and an image of a cowled figure flashes in your head, a lit candle in one hand. By not focusing on these images in a didactic manner like so much of stoner metal, but instead focusing on having a good time while singing about them, Green Lung accomplish making both a great musical album and a great lyrical journey into their imagination. Just take their hand and away you go.
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Woodland Rites was released on March 20th. I urge you to head on over to the Bandcamp above and purchase it. Support music!