Things are moving very quickly for Hull four piece band Battalions, what with their slot on the New Blood stage at the forthcoming Bloodstock festival and of equal importance, the release of their second self released album Moonburn. Formed in 2009 and now with a steady line up, Battalions have been getting a name for themselves in the underground scene with their brand of sludge, stoner and heavy metal that has won them headlining slots of festivals and a UK tour towards the end of the year. After interviewing the band for their Bloodstock slot and finding out that, despite their appearance(!), they really are nice guys; I was particularly looking forward to getting something different than the normal death metal that I review.
The first thing I hear and notice is that death metal can be heavy but Battalions are heavy and focus their attention on the power of the riff. When opener “Skinjob” blasts my speakers into oblivion, I hear heavy St Vitus, Clutch and Black Sabbath riffage of the highest order smothered in Phil’s vocal screams which stand out and fit the tone of the songs perfectly. They reminded me of early Iron Monkey in places but Phil’s vocals are more coherent and more powerful. Backed up by some tremendously powerful guitars from Peter, you cannot help but put your horns in the air and bang your head. This was a great start to this album which made me just want to keep playing it over and over again.
“Lotion Basket” starts off with some groove laden riffs from Peter and backed up by drummer Matt and bassist Matt (a different Matt!). It sets the tone for more and gets this head nodding in appreciation of the class musicianship on show here. Some nice melodies from Peter in this song, keeping things moving nicely before it slows down and brings in the heavy doom laden riffs and mixed with those vocals it’s a perfect match. This is top quality sludge/stoner metal of the highest order.
Title track “Moonburn” starts with a rocky and heavy metal riff of yesteryear and is definitely the lighter of the three tracks on show so far. The sound and mix of the album is excellent and every instrument is heard perfectly. This song will appeal to the older metalheads due to their homage to Black Sabbath with, you guessed it, only Phil’s vocals letting you know in no uncertain terms that this is Battalions. This is a worthy track to name the album after.
“Gods Cuntry” is next and reminds me of something Zakk Wylde would play before it thunders into the chorus where things become a lot more, well, violent before settling down into the cool rhythmic riff. Battalions have shown a variety of styles over the course of the album so far, but each and every one of them has been done masterfully and this song is no different. I would say that although this is still a heavy track, it is the lightest of the album so far.
“Betrayal and Delusion” again starts off with a rockier riff before the bass and drums kick up the heaviness a notch. As the vocals kick in, I feel that it offers the best riff from the album so far and got this head banging the keys off this keyboard – it was that catchy. Phil’s vocals are on top form again and are so suited to this music. Towards the end of the song we have that “Riff of the Album” with an infectious groove.
“Amazonian Woman” is next and the riffs are faster and seem to be more of a dirty rock song rather than sludge/stoner, which is not a criticism at all. I feel it stands out a bit from the rest of the album but it is still a very good song. Album closer and the longest song, “Another Name for Death” starts off with a melody before unleashing the Battalions sound of harsh vocals and even harsher riffs. This song is slower again and may be one for the crowd to stand and appreciate the sheer musicianship on show here, and ends with the same melody again.
This brings this album to a close and I was gobsmacked at the amount of talent on show here. This is their second self released album and going by the quality of the songs, they are sure to be noticed by somebody and soon. Their show at Bloodstock may be the start of something big for this band and they’re one that I will definitely be keeping an eye on in the near future.
Moonburn is out now