Moonburn by BattalionsRelease date: August 5, 2017
The self-released Moonburn from Hull’s Battalions is a step up into a bigger league of finely crafted music with a full, heavy sound. Produced by Chris Fielding of Conan, the band have achieved something special with this, their second album. The heavy, Sabbath-influenced riff formula takes a nod from the music and vocal sound of sludge legends Eyehategod and Iron Monkey, adds a massive dose of the backwoods grit and groove of Scissorfight, and mixes it up with a headbanging love of AC/DC and Clutch. The result is half an hour of riff-fuelled bounce and groove that wears its heart on its sleeve but which never feels in any way derivative. “Pure Humber sludge” as vocalist Phil Wilkinson told me in a recent interview. This could be the name of a new genre – the sound of Battalions! These boys are out for a good time, adding a hefty dose of cathartic release to their music that makes this package an exhilarating proposition.
‘Skinjob’ starts as it means to go on, with a classic dirty riff that draws on St Vitus and adds a great hook too. It’s a slow-paced stomp at first, but these guys are good at building texture and tempo changes into their songs, and this track, like several others, changes pace midway, keeping the interest to the end. ‘Lotion Basket’ has a fabulous heavy bluesy hook and turnaround that keeps the swinging rhythm going. The screamed vocals add to the groove, too, matching the pattern of the music really well.
Title track ‘Moonburn’ is a perfect song in many ways – immediate, with a blues hook that grabs you and draws you in. It rolls along, sounding like maybe Clutch would do if they did metal. This, and all the songs on the album, are very well crafted – with texture, plus hooks, groove and melody that never stay the same for very long, all held up by a reassuring heaviness that keeps the head nodding with the music. The next track starts with an absolutely pounding riff that is added to shortly by a classic rock hook and a rumbling, almost funky bassline that’s very high in the mix, which I love.
‘Betrayal & Delusion’ lets the heavy riff do the talking from the off. But when the vocal kicks in it’s with a new, harsh edge. All the vocals on this album are harsh, but mostly they fit the bounce and swagger of the music. Here, the cathartic aspect of making such heavy and sometimes extreme music is very evident, with Phil screaming “Betrayal, it’s what I do”. His voice is raw by the end, and sounds close to breaking. It appears much more personal that anything else on Moonburn.
‘Amazonian Woman’ ups the pace again with rolling, pounding riff and guest vocals by Sam Orr. The final track ‘Another Name for Death’ breaks the mould a little by starting with clean bluesy guitar that made me think of Scissorfight, who often combine their music with more traditional instruments like the banjo. According to Phil this track grew organically and the blues motif used throughout works really well, intertwined with the doomy, heavy riffing. The acoustic outro comes far too soon.
At 26 minutes this album feels a little short. I like short albums. Hell, Reign in Blood is only 29 minutes long and that’s an enduring classic. I don’t like losing interest before the end and many albums are overlong. But I could have done with a couple more tracks and with music of this vibrancy and calibre there’s no chance of boredom. Still, I’ll have to wait for the next release. All in all, I really enjoyed this album, which is perfectly executed. I hope the future holds bigger things for Battalions.