God Damn – Vultures (One Little Indian)
CD | LP | DL
Due Out 11th May 2015
9 / 10
Black Country fuzz driven doom and roll two-piece, God Damn, release debut album Vultures on May 11th. Louder Than War’s Josh Cooper reviews.
God Damn have come far since their formation in Wolverhampton almost five years ago, honing their alt-rock noise to perfection both in the studio and on the road, but this rise-through-the-ranks has been no walk in the park. Not only have they been battling away furiously at the UKs live music circuit, they’ve ticked-off an impressive list of tour mates including the likes of The Wytches, Slaves, Turbowolf and Funeral For A Friend, but they also suffered the loss of their third member, Dave Copson, to injuries sustained during a car crash in 2013. Refusing to replace their friend, singer / guitarist Thom Edward and drummer Ash Weaver continued on as a two-piece, and have been powering through ever since.
With an unparalleled live show and a reputation for volume that far surpassed their contemporaries, God Damn had been making waves across the country for some time, but it wasn’t until the release of their second EP ‘Heavy Money’ that heads started to turn. The previous EP and the lads first release, ‘I’m a Lazer, You’re a Radar’, showed a potential for big choruses and catchy melodies that shone through hardcore tendencies and lo-fi stoner rock, but ‘Heavy Money’ took this formula and stripped it right back. It was one of the most dynamic, intricate releases of the year, and certainly one of the heaviest. Tape format beautifully accompanied the grit and dirt in the songwriting and you won’t find a stronger guitar hook than ‘Red Checker’, nor a more spacious, emotive anthem as this recording of ‘Dangle Like Skeletons’. It impressed on every level, but more importantly it caught the attention of visceral independent label, One Little Indian.
Now, with their dues paid, the pair release their eagerly awaited debut album, ‘Vultures’, out May 11th.
A tinkering of bundled keys and twisted locks sound off before the single ‘When The Wind Blows’ comes clambering in with rolling drums and a singular, typically distorted, guitar riff. Once the verse hits though it becomes apparent that the recording sees the boys in a slightly different light, mainly in the many layered vocals that Thom has previously showcased, with an assortment of pedals, live. It’s their edge, and it’s been utilized here, brought up in the mix and taken to centre stage. And it’s a welcome surprise.
Metallica-esc vocal melodies are given life with Thoms vocal talents, ranging from a crooning purr during verses to a deathly scream in the choruses. A good start. And one that ‘Silver Spooned’ keeps up with nicely, more vocals echoed among the mix, with Eastern vibes chanted to a tribal, distorted beat that builds slowly before it’s louder-than-hell climax of an ending.
‘Maladie Melodie’ cashes in on The Jesus Lizard sound that they were so indebted to earlier in their career. Strong stoner riffs and weighty, solid drums. ‘Shoeprints’, previously released last year as a taster to ‘Vultures’ as ‘Shoe Prints in the Dust’ on 7″ vinyl, is a real treat here. Among album tracks it stands out as an obvious single, shredding classic guitar riffs collide head-on with pounding drums, a wall of feedback and fist-to-the-year vocal hooks.
It’s worth noting here that, live, you’ve really never seen anyone drum like Ash Weaver. There’s a chemistry there, an ability to strike every bit of his kit with total force that you’re sure the whole thing is about to crumble, and he musters all this strength whilst never losing the technical intricacies. War drums marching to a disco beat. And this is evident in the haunting ‘By The Wayside’ and chugging, quiet-loud ‘We Don’t Like You’. The latter of which, a live highlight for that very reason, has been done justice on this record.
The other single of ‘Vultures’, ‘Horus’, does a brilliant job with those duel vocals, giving it a gang-like, ominous feeling. Riot rock with a touch of Nirvana, while the albums song of the same name brings forward more of God Damns 90s influences.
‘Deadpan Riot’ brings the album down briefly, a slower, more pondering number with heavy, sludge guitar choruses and cinematic tones amid psychedelic break-downs that are placed perfectly before ‘Skeletons’, the aforementioned nine minute epic renamed but previously released on ‘Heavy Money’. This recording doesn’t match up to the original, but fits perfectly within in concept of ‘Vultures’. It’s clearer here, accentuates the quiet-loud dynamic more, and builds slightly slower. Some of that grit and passion is lost amongst the professional recordings, but it’s a welcome trip down memory lane, and deserves it’s place on the album.
Due to the nature of two-pieces in the mainstream over the past few years, it’d be easy to label God Damn as the next Royal Blood, but the truth is they’ve so much more going on. The multi-layered material, the sheer noise they create, could easily be that of a five-piece. Doom chords fall over psych feedback, even blues riffing likened to that of past gig mates and fellow duo Wet Nuns (who I was personally happy to see given a nod on their press release). Penultimate track ‘The Cut’ is a perfect instrumental example of all this and more, before album closer ‘Sullen Fun’ rides in on the back of freight train samples and pouring rain. A sombre, acoustic tune with an air of melancholy and rich tones, the vocal performance here is more stripped back, more personal. Even the echoed lyrics in the background are lonely, and with a soft whistle and the sound of smooth dramatic tides, ‘Vultures’ closes.
It’s an impressive offering, one that I’m positive will keep the righteous fans happy (good for God Damn) and it’s easily marketable during a rise of popularity of the stoner/psych genre amongst vinyl junkies (good for One Little Indian). It’s an epic to lose yourself in, layers and layers of noises that you’ll keep discovering combined with enough pop hooks to keep it interesting.
God Damn’s album launch is at The Shackelwell Arms with the excellent neo-rockabilly outfit Eighteen Nightmares at the Lux on May 6th. This may very well be one of the smaller venues to catch them in now the gospel they’ve been preaching for years has finally started being listened to. It’s no Buffalo Bar, but you’d be smart to catch them here before they’re whisked away from the dive-bar circuit. God knows they deserve it.
Order ‘Vultures’ here.
All words by Josh Cooper. You can find Josh’s author’s archive here.