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Green Druid : Ashen Blood

Denver band Green Druid offer an interesting 'Dark Souls'-inspired debut album as their first full-length release.

Denver-based four-piece Green Druid have been around since 2014, with a self-released digital EP released the following year to their credit. It clearly made an impression in some relevant places, since Earache Records not only approached them to handle the release of their debut album, but decided to include the whole EP on debut 'Ashen Blood'.

That does make it partly an album of two halves, and, indeed, a slightly weird one, since the new intended-full-length material clocks in at around 34 minutes, while the EP - presented in entirely original form, bar a change to running order - takes the lion's share by adding an extra 40-odd minutes. According to the band, it's because they didn't want their first album release to comprise just three tracks...I'm not sure I entirely get that, since the EP actually had four (though 'Nightfall' is admittedly a brief, off-piste, ambient instrumental), and the core of 'Ashen Blood' is, well, three tracks. But Colorado was the first US state to legalise weed, and the 'Green' part of the band name is something of an eager endorsement of that policy, so it probably made sense at the time...

Anyway, regardless of the semantics of EP-versus-full-length definition, the core, super-heavy, Electric Wizard-meets-Sleep sound remains fairly constant across both sections of 'Ashen Blood', though it's fair to say that the newer first part demonstrates more of a maturity and evolving identity than the second. That's something particularly noticeable with the tracks 'Agoraphobia' and 'Dead Tree', which both take their time in creating and exploring atmosphere, smoothly transitioning between those sections and more bludgeoning sludgy Stoner staples. That technique isn't entirely absent from the earlier tracks, especially with the almost-pure dark ambience of closer 'Nightfall', it's just been refined into something a little more cohesive and integral to the music. And it certainly doesn't hurt that the vocals have distanced somewhat from the sometimes alarmingly Jus Oborn soundalikes of the EP, becoming more woven into the mood of the music.

As is often the case with Stoner, especially these days, you're not really getting anything absolutely new, or entirely devoid of namecheckable influences. But you are getting a band that's willing to move on and improve, and determined to find their own niche - 'Ashen Blood' being something of an homage to the bleak, punishing, fatalistic and deadly mood of the "Dark Souls" videogames series, for example. And, much as I love "Silent Hill", it's certainly a pleasant change to see a different, equally doomy, franchise getting a look-in for a change (now, if somebody could just cover "Dead Space"...).

So, whilst I wouldn't say Green Druid have quite hit the upper-echelon eclecticism of contemporaries like, say, Sea Of Bones just yet, they've definitely taken a decent stride along that path, and laid 'Ashen Blood' down as a statement of that intent. Very much recommended as one to watch for the future, and, in the meantime, this does give you a serious value-for-money package of modern Stoner/Doom.

Note: A shorter version of this review was originally published in print format in FIRE Magazine Issue 8, Spring 2018.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Pale Blood Sky
2. Agoraphobia
3. Dead Tree
4. Cursed Blood
5. Rebirth
6. Ritual Sacrifice
7. Nightfall

Duration : Approx. 74 minutes

Visit the Green Druid bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-06-19 by Mike Liassides
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