Striking while the iron’s hot, hear the results of two years’ worth of experimentation and growth on the new album by Sabbath City’s Alunah.
Release Date: 15th April 2022
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Format: digital / CD / vinyl
We’ve had so much variety on the At The Barrier pages of late, it’s quite a relief to have some good old, straightforward, no-nonsense Heavy Rock to nod your head at. The band from what’s now seemingly termed Sabbath City – presumably that hotbed of Heavy Metal, Birmingham – has emerged from the doldrums with a spirited, life-affirming, smile-inducing and pant-swinging set of Heavy Psych Rock party tunes.
Hang on a minute though – there’s more to Strange Machine than the Hard Rock that pulses through the veins of Alunah and the opening pair of tracks that haul you in. Be assured that there’s plenty of beef from the quartet and a tonic for the troops in the assured vocals from Siân Greenaway who provides the focal (as well as vocal) point. However, add to that some detuned passages of sludgey doom, thick and syrupy dense riffs, and soaring sonic vistas that transport us off into the galaxy.
The mid song freak out on Broken Stone that punctuates the leaden tread – the more listens reveals ever more heavy psych vibes – hints at an improvised work out that some bands back in the glory days, may have taken into a half hour indulgence with all sorts of electronic wizardry being employed. Not so here; bite sized chunks and a lack of indulgence are essential ingredients in the brew.
A friendly retro vibe – it could be the flute/wind sounds – has a strong hold hold over Psychedelic Expressway – West Coast cool that would have the dancers grooving in an old school but cutting edge technology of the time swirly patter effect on Top Of The Pops as we skirt the boundaries of psychedelica. That’s despite the Nirvana-ish lo fi guitar jangle and drum roll in the opening. It could well emerge as the personal favourite track or a contender at the very least as we take break from the fizz and the fire that pumps from what must surely be classic valve amps – possibly a battered and road worn Marshall rather than an orange box that recreates the sound with the press of a button.
The band reference their roots with a hearts on the sleeve and barely disguised Sabbath style biggie on The Earth Spins. One that you could easily hear the Dio version of the Sabs delivering with aplomb and Ronnie himself duetting with Siân as they flash their malocchios. A track that features guitars from Crowbar’s Shane Wesley, the track stomps and swaggers like a proud giant, pausing for a gentlely picked break mid tune.
Teaching Carnal Sins sees a Slash channelled solo and the evocative “all the chatter in the room/whispers in the corner, say that she’s evil” lines – hooks or earworms, that chorus is certainly a sticky. Pinnned to the brain and just a hint of sleaze with the lazy riff that leads the chorus. The album closer. Dead Woman Walking. is a real heavy groove filled snaker of an arrangement. A call and response number in the best traditions of the old Black Dog that contributes a suitably muscular finale.
Strange Machineultimately offers the single of excitement you may recall fromthe feeling of touching a battery terminal with your tongue when you were little; but with a big, a really big battery – don’t try this at home obviously…how often does an album review have to be risk assessed? What we have with Strange Machine though is a band not reinventing the wheel or trying to be too clever; simply upholding the finest traditions and modelling how there’s a lot to be said for stepping back though the mists of time and revisiting rock’s finest hours.
Here’s Psychedelic Expressway: