Since their inception in 2017, London-based heavy metal quintet Green Lung have grown from a tiny underground band to a cult favorite and recent signee with one of the genre’s most beloved labels, Nuclear Blast Records. Through their journey, they have gained some serious love from the heavy metal community, and that trend looks to continue with their third full-length release, This Heathen Land. Green Lung is likely to land on a lot of black t-shirt wearers’ “Best of 2023” lists with their winning formula of tight, massive composition, excellent production, and their unique take on heavy metal’s lyrical conventions.
A metal band using pagan religious imagery in their lyrics is not new, but it’s the specific themes Green Lung draws inspiration from that make their writing so interesting. Almost all their songs deal with druids, mischievous fae creatures, or other British and European folklore and mythology. They also focus heavily on how magic and religion tie into nature. It all comes together to give this darkly enchanting feel, like you’re wandering through a gloomy forest and come across an enormous celebration with mysterious people in robes dancing around a bonfire… but they’re also ripping sick guitar solos and drum fills.
Musically, Green Lung sounds like a mashup of all your cool uncle’s favorite bands. On their slower, doomier tracks, they come across as an elevation of Saint Vitus or Master of Reality-era Black Sabbath, but when the tempo picks up, they take on a strong new wave of British heavy metal influence. Judas Priest especially comes to mind, due to vocalist Tom Templar’s powerful, searing pipes.
Unlike many of their forebears, though, Green Lung’s music boasts some truly immaculate mixing and mastering. All the instruments have adequate space to breathe, and everything sounds crisp and appropriately weighty without sacrificing the vital feeling of grittiness that makes or breaks truly excellent metal production.
Sympathy for the Druids
This Heathen Land covers a lot of the same bases as Green Lung’s prior albums, Woodland Rites and Black Harvest: enormous, thick riffs, thundering grooves, using words like “widdershins” and “augury,” and singing about ancient magical summoning circles.
However, there’s a greater emotional range to this record than their past projects; alongside the more bombastic tracks that one might expect, there are slower, more personal moments as well.
“One For Sorrow,” for example, is an out-and-out doom metal track with a plodding beat cloaked in a somber, grinding riff and accented by foreboding bells mimicking a death knell. Listening to it feels like walking down a long, empty road under a grey sky with a heavy load on your back. The lyrics describe the increasingly relatable emotion of inexplicable, impending doom, as the track’s narrator describes a symbolic “bird of omen” tormenting him with its presence.
Another standout track is “Oceans of Time,” a darkly sweet love long that gains a layer of horror when you realize that the track’s narrator is a vampire singing about turning his one true love into another vampire. The hints start subtly, such as referencing Whitby, the English city whose abbey served as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Then they get increasingly less subtle (“And now I will make you mine/drinking you up like wine”) and then much less subtle (“Let me give you the gift of life eternal,” “You’ve seen your last sunrise”).
All this wonderfully arch gothic romance is underpinned by a sweet, crunchy groove reminiscent of Type O Negative, as well as one of the better guitar solos on the entire album.
Here for a Good Time
Other tracks on This Heathen Land are a lot less dour, but the peerless quality remains. There’s just so much fun to be had on this record, like with “Maxine (Witch Queen),” a muscular barn-burner named after Maxine Sanders, the godmother of modern Wicca, and it delights in all manner of 1970s B-movie-esque spooky imagery, right down to the charmingly cheesy synth lines.
Meanwhile, “Hunters in The Sky” is a head-banging retelling of the mythical Wild Hunt. Its galloping beat complements lyrics about spectral riders tearing across the sky on ghostly horses. “The Ancient Ways” wants only to shred your face with a scorching guitar intro and one of the record’s heaviest grooves.
It’s refreshing to hear a metal record that sounds so righteously heavy without leaning too much on self-seriousness or one-dimensional edge.
This Heathen Land serves as a prime example of musical creativity in the genre of heavy metal. Whether you’re a longtime metalhead, or someone who’s new to the genre, this album is absolutely worth your time and you should go listen to it right now; side effects may include your hands involuntarily forming the sign of the horns.
Keep up with Green Lung:
Are you enjoying MendoWerks Magazine? Receive updates each week directly in your inbox. Sign up for the newsletter here.