Album review: Godthrymm – Distortions


That guitarist/vocalist Hamish Glencross wrote Distortions (the last release of Halifax-based epic doom metal group Godthrymm, released via Profound Lore Records on August 18) during COVID lockdown should surprise no one who settles down with this record. Written as the second part to a planned trilogy of albums (starting with the band’s 2020 debut Reflections), Glencross’ lyrical interests in exploring grief, regret, love, and determination are easy to imagine being borne out of pandemic-imposed isolation. 

With the seven tracks of Distortions being spread out over a 60-minute run time, it should also be clear that the music Glencross and co. play is a slow burn (probably the tag “Epic Doom Metal” already gives that signal). Talk doom, and thoughts of Black Sabbath are never too far away (in fact bassist “Sasquatch” Bob Crolla also moonlights as Geezer Butler in Sabbath tribute band Ozzbest). There’s certainly a significant touch of Sabbath in the bones of Godthrymm, and the doom roots of Glencross and drummer Shaun “Winter” Taylor-Steels run deep having previously spent 15 years together in My Dying Bride. With Glencross’s mournful vocal lines having an air of Ozzy about them that Sabbath feel has a few connective roots, but in fact (talking of the vocals specifically) Alice in Chains (and primarily Jerry Cantrell) might stand out as the strongest association.  

Funny how associations often gravitate towards the U.S. There are plenty of hard rock and metal acts (from Sabbath and Judas Priest to Def Leppard) who’ve been absorbed into U.S.-dominated musical consciousness while actually being British. Anyone with a Scottish connection should recognize that Dundee-born Hamish Hamilton Glencross sounds about as Scottish as they come (in name if not necessarily vocal style). While Halifax (just West of Leeds) is also home to My Dying Bride. Of course there should be no regional monopoly on existential torment. 

“As Titans” opens the album in powerful, commanding fashion. The sound is massive, the doom slow and crushing, the mood black as a crow and the overall sound somewhere between Paradise Lost and Crowbar (at their most sombre). As is the case elsewhere the vocals and keys of Catherine Glencross (wife of Hamish) add a welcome extra dimension to the music. A mid-track post-rock feel to the guitars is something that will re-emerge later and signal of the band’s willingness to go beyond might be expected of their roots. It’s over 11 minutes but doesn’t feel it. A bird with iron wings wrapped around it perched on the branch of an ancient oak tree in winter.

With the following track “Devils” offering a change of pace, carried by dual guitar and vocal lines, before slowing to the doom crawl, it seems that Godthrymm and Distortions will have enough sides to their prism of gloom to hold the listener under their spell. It doesn’t quite pan out that way, however, with the Doom formula getting somewhat repetitive from here on in. 

There are still a couple more highpoints to look forward to, like the hardcore vibes four minutes into “Unseen Unheard” and its simple but effectively apocalyptic single note guitar ringing like a warning of impending catastrophe. Final track “Pictures Remain” meanwhile closes the album with the delicate power of Mrs. Glencross’ haunting delivery, before the walls of guitar crash down. The album’s other three tracks (at a combined 26 minutes) don’t disgrace themselves; they just don’t quite do enough to leave the kind of powerful impression this grand style of Metal (and the album’s opener) promise. 

Still, by the end, the listener may well feel that the world around them is indeed a dark and painful place with just the occasional rays of sunlight slicing through a grey, bleak landscape. And if that be the case, it should be said that Godthrymm have largely succeeded in their mission.

Order Distortions from Profound Lore Records, and check out all Godthrymm news, social media and merch on their official band website.

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