Black Lung are a Baltimore-based trio whose debut self-titled album is scheduled for release this June. Playing a variation on the classic grounds of stoner/post/blues rock and eschewing a bass for a second guitar with a molasses-dark tone, they characterize their songs with concise melodies and uncluttered grooves. It’s striking in this simplicity, with no wasted fat or free space, just rock solid execution and sensibilities.
Giving this album its first listen-through, I was struck with a certain sense of deliberateness that I usually don’t notice in this genre. Black Lung seem like a band who very much rock smarter, not harder. The guitar and vocal leads have an excellent sense of structure and direction, picking their way through your ears with careful, metered footsteps. Some might consider this a slight but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. On the contrary, this only serves to show this band have their songwriting priorities in check.
This deliberateness is used to put together songs and melodies that reflect a more melancholic version of blues rock. The combination of clean-picked riffs with, driving, fuzzed-out chords bring some post elements to mind and tracks like the closer, “Black Rainbow”, uses a poppy, almost indie-rock styled guitar tone. While other tracks like “What it Takes” drag a little southern drawl into the vocals as the guitars conjure images of cracked earth and cacti. The overall result of all these different tastes, for me, was to give the album much more emotion and weight than you would usually find in a straightforward rawk-fest.
The deliberateness I mentioned above shines through in the way they mix their chosen elements together. They are very even-keeled in each song, tastefully blending chunky stoner riffs, with clean, almost soaring, guitar lines and then wrapping it all together in a cohesive package. “Move” is an excellent example of this, with the opening stanzas reflecting a heavy post-blues element, only to have the big fuzz and screeching guitar solo come in through the back half.
As such the end result is a refreshing mix of blues rock tempered with stoner, not the alternate combination that seems to be much more popular. By playing with all of these mellower elements and putting together some legitimately catchy songs, they have made a very accessible and immediately pleasing album. It’s an album that will be as enjoyable to experienced ears as it will be to fresh-faced greenhorns and is a stellar foundation for a band to launch themselves from.
“Black Lung” will be coming out on June 3rd in the US through Grimoire Records (digital/cassette/CD) and June 6th in Europe through Noisolution Records (Vinyl/CD). Also included below is a play-through video of “The Ghost” which is a simple and cut back affair that showcases the deliberation and careful playing style these guys have put together.