The silvering light of the twice slipped moon laid the mist-shrouded valleys bare and cold. The pine stumps on the harvest valley showing black against the slight frost, the watchers’ breath visible against the dark mass of the forest edge. The mists half obscured the vain thrashings of the captives lashed to each stump, their individual keening and pleadings muffled into a single continuous, contiguous wailing. It’s of no moment. Up above them those officiating ready the threshers, the wheels of the Goddess, ready to harvest her red ichorous due. The mightily spiked rollers terrible in their unfathomable weight and single purpose, seem to strain against their holding chains as though thirsting for their quarry. Behind each cylinder, ready to ride the hurtling downhill are the Sons of the Goddess, jittery and twitching on their sacred mushroom brew, their spittle stringing unnoticed on the dark green of their robes, impatient for the off, despite their likelihood of death.
Then there is a silence as the four approach the dais at the apex of the valley, the green druids; even the sacrifices seem to sense the gravitas of their situation and cease their hopeless wailing for long moments. The nearest figure reaches out and pats Jãœnnøvull (‘Hellroller’ in the new tongue) oldest and most productive of the reaping wheels, the rusted spikes crusted with sharp decay and the dried blood of the unfortunates’ gift.
The four reach the plinth and turn, faces turned downwards, their arms above their heads. All who see it feel the presence of the Goddess, her terrible indifference, the blank joy of the sacrifice as the watchers both crave and fear her presence. Then, to the accompaniment of the lamentations of the doomed, the druids bring their arms down swiftly, the chains are slipped and the reaping commences; slow, slow at first and then the hurtling descent begins, spraying the divine red into the heavens only to soak down into the cold loam.
Green Druid Ashen Blood. This is by far my favourite and heaviest rock release of 2018 to date. I harvested it from the mighty Probe Records one lunchtime, lured by some quite frankly outstanding stickering:
What I got for my money took me a few good shifts at the turntable to appreciate but praise be to the Goddess I certainly do now. This Denver quartet give played a blinder on this double platter.
Side long opener ‘Pale Blood Sky’ serves us up the intense crushing weight that conjured up the inspiration behind my ‘holy roller’ fantasy above* ‘goaded ever onwards by the obnoxious priests of strange death’ I wrote in my listening notes. There is a rawness about Green Druid that I really respond to. Chuck in some interesting ambiance and some demonic growling-a-gogo and I was easily seduced.
Another key track on Ashen Blood is ‘Agoraphobia’** which starts its’ nigh-on 14 minutes gently, easing us so far into the dungeon that by the time we realise our peril it is far too late to flee. The lighter touch evinced on this track definitely gives lie to any idea that Green Druid may be one trick stoner doom ponies.
The heaviest thing on offer here^ is ‘Cursed Blood’ an epoch-spanning 18:34 long. It sounds like clocking in at a vast infer-nace for your late night shift in hell, molten metal scarring your boots. There is some great twin guitar action going on, some interesting minor chords and fret runs happening all over the place and then some VAST riffing. Something unhealthy seems to have awoken in the forgotten under realms halfway through this beast’s progress; it almost nears Sunn O))) levels of heaviness at times. Next time I get married I will have to have it as my first dance.
Stir in ‘Dead Tree’ with its’ ancient bad-shit-happening-in-the-woods vibe and you get the picture of how great Ashen Blood is. There is a great guitar solo on this one, presumably from Graham Zander, single notes played just so. It is also the beneficiary of a brilliant coda.
Look, Ashen Blood is all damnably good. Green Druid operate at the limits of my heavy tolerances and I really love this album for it. The playing is never less than excellent, never flashy but always right on the mark just the way I like it – take a big druidic bow Chris Mclaughlin, Graham Zander, Ryan Skates and particularly Ryan Sims on drums.
You can colour this stoner, you can colour this doom, you can colour this metal, or a handy portmanteau concoction of all three if you like. It’s an irrelevance. What counts here is that this is a great, crushingly heavy LP with far more jagged edges than most of the current (ahem) heavyweights in the game and a few surprises up/between its’ sleeves that keep it ahead of the slowly lumbering pack.
Colour me impressed, colour me green.
Gazing down at the carrion birds feasting on the smeared remains of the dead, the Goddess shrugs.
*that and some chamomile tea. Yup, I live like I was touring with Sabbath in 1974 every single day of the working week.
**isn’t that the fear of a certain type of wool? or is that ‘Angoraphobia’?
^and possibly in the 1537.