ALUNAH - Solennial

Alunah - Solennial

8 songs
43:48 minutes
***** ****


Doom metal has come a long way since its inception by Black Sabbath in the Seventies and its early offspring Saint Vitus and Pentagram a few years later. Nowadays we have bands that stretch the genre into new dimensions of incredibility by performing hour long dirges, and then bands that stick more to the early ideals of the genre. British doom quartet Alunah rather belong to the latter category, and yet it would be too easy to call them just another doom metal band, because over the years Alunah have matured like a fine wine into their very own subgenre.

First of all it does not happen so often that a doom metal is fronted by a female vocalist. In the case of Sophie Day, we get one of the most hypnotic voices in metal. She definitely does not have the range of all these symphonic metal sirens, but instead she knows how to use her voice for maximum effect. Whereas on the predecessor Awakening The Forest from 2014 her vocals were good but nothing too special, this time she has worked really hard to achieve a more unique delivery that reminds maybe a little of the world-weariness of Nico, although maybe in a less suicidal way.

When it comes to the music, Alunah also go their own way. The instrumentation is most of the time very typical doom, with down-tuned guitars and a crawling rhythm section. Occasional guitar melodies and Sophie’s spectacular vocal performance counter this in a way that the songs slowly unfurl into fascinating constructs that may take some listening to get into, but once there you won’t come back so easily. Some people apparently hear a gothic touch, but I’d rather label this doom metal with an exception capacity for catchiness.

The songs are mostly about five minutes long, which is not that much in the doom metal genre. The sublime Feast Of Torches makes it to seven minutes, and the varied Lugh’s Assembly even to nearly eight minutes. When one dismisses the short yet beautiful intro The Dying Soil and the concluding A Forest, a rather original doom take on the early Eighties classic from The Cure, we are only left with six new regular songs that make it to thirty-five minutes. After three years of waiting, there could have been one or two more tracks, but in the end I still feel very much satisfied with Solennial, a doom metal album that shows that the genre can still be original without having to become ever more extreme. Alunah found their salvation in a more melodic approach. And while this was not a risk-free endeavour, they definitely managed to pull it off perfectly.

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