Photo: Andy Ford
British history and culture is strewn with tales of the supernatural and otherworldly, so much so that the influence of The Weird is everywhere. It sits just below the surface, waiting for someone to step outside of the chaos of the modern world for just a moment and pay attention to the occultish aura that is all around them. The folklore that surrounds us, whether it’s the Green Man face in your local pub or the ancient megaliths and stone circles that dot our landscape, just needs people to shine a light on it. People like those at Cornwall’s Museum of Witchcraft, authors like Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate with their Book Of English Magic, the makers of so-called “folk horror” films like The Wicker Man and The Blood On Satan’s Claw, and artists like Ben Edge, whose recent folklore exhibition, Ritual Britain, was housed in a crypt under a church in central London.
Inhabiting this wonderfully weird realm as they create an infectious strain of psych-tinged, ’70s-flavoured stoner metal, London’s Green Lung continue this trend in their own unique way. Their music is a celebration of Britain’s weirder side, always brimming with an unstoppable effervescence and yet harnessing the atmosphere of folk tales, supernatural horror and psychotropic rituals. With second album Black Harvest now out in the world, we had the band break down each track, delving into the album’s creation and the eerie inspirations behind the lyrics. Why not listen along and find out more about the record as you work through it?
GL: We wanted to open the album with a kind of cinematic fanfare, and Scott [Black, guitar] came up with an organ-led piece that’s equal parts Wakeman-esque prog and Tom Scholz power-pop. The folky vocal intro was added last – instead of using a sample as on our previous record, we wanted to create the atmospheric moments ourselves this time. When we were recording the album in rural Wales we found the local church at the bottom of the hill, unattended and swathed in mist. The ambience was so eerie we ended up deciding to record the sample in there, using the pump organ and with Tom [Templar, vocals] singing from the pulpit.
This track was the first we wrote after Woodland Rites (2019) was released. It’s intended as a mission statement, and a microcosm of everything Green Lung is about – a massive, grooving riff, an anthemic chorus, a proggy interlude and a soaring key change. The lyrics, too, encapsulate the band’s vision – celebrating a lost, folkloric pre-Christian, pre-imperial, pre-capitalist England, and seeking to revive it.
Leaders Of The Blind
Unusually, the genesis of this song was Tom writing the lyrics and vocal melody and relaying that to Scott, rather than Scott writing the music first. It resulted in a song that has multiple vocal hooks, from the chorus to the fist-pumping middle 8. The lyrics were borne of frustration at the use of disinformation by the UK state and media, and it’s intended as a political song in the Sabbathian tradition. The solo is heavily influenced by Judas Priest – we’d been playing a cover of ‘Electric Eye’ at the time…
This is the oldest song on the album. It was originally written at the same time we were working on ‘Free The Witch’, and originally titled ‘Let The Devil In’! Obviously, those lyrics went elsewhere. We didn’t crack the song until Scott wrote an absolutely monstrous middle 8, and Tom responded with a King Diamond-esque vocal. With its lyrics referencing a cornucopia of folk horror harvest lore, it’s very much a thematic centrepiece of the record.
We’ve been wanting to write a song about the Victorian cemeteries of London since the band began – they are the ‘Green Lungs’ of the city we call home. Highgate is probably the most magnificent of the seven cemeteries, and the story of the vampire rumoured to dwell within its crumbling walls was the perfect inspiration to a band who try to write every song as a horror story. When Scott wrote the music it felt like an exciting new vista in our songwriting – equal parts Zeppeliny folk and Type O Negative goth gloom. It was the perfect canvas for that long-held lyrical concept.
This was the last piece of music we wrote for Black Harvest. We wanted to introduce more of a dynamic across the record, and settled on an instrumental theme to an imaginary folk horror movie. The strange stringed sound was achieved when we found a type of Chinese dulcimer called a yangqin in the basement of the studio, and the cultish chanting was again recorded in the local church. We’re glad no parishioners walked in, as five heavy metal musicians solemnly chanting ‘lughnasadh’ in a darkened church is… a vibe.
Upon The Altar
Again, a long-held lyrical concept. Tom had written a version of these lyrics for his teenage band Tomb King back in 2007. They’re a tribute to the Hammer Horror classic Dracula AD 1972, and some lines are actually stolen wholesale from the Black Mass scene: “an ancient rite, performed before the very dawn of time”. This is a heavy, psychy banger that’s very much intended as a sequel to ‘Let The Devil In’.
You Bear The Mark
This song is as close to true classic rock as we’ve gotten thus far, and was an opportunity to allow John [Wright, organ] free rein for an organ solo. On Woodland Rites we recorded without an organist, and the instrument was really used more for atmosphere, but with John coming onboard as a full time member, we had a lot of fun summoning up the spirit of Jon Lord on this album. This song perhaps gets that across more than any other.
This was one of the last songs we wrote and recorded, and the only one that had its lyrics written post-pandemic. John wrote the riff, which is probably the heaviest on the album, and we saw this as a great final ‘heavy’ track – psych doom with lyrics portending the end of the world! It was also an excuse for our new bassist Joe [Ghast] to unleash his most brutal tone.
Born To A Dying World
This is one of the most interesting songs on the album we think. It didn’t immediately feel like a canonical Green Lung song, but has gone on to be one of our proudest achievements. The low-key gospel style was hard to nail in the studio, and to achieve the sound we broadened our musical palette to include a Rhodes piano and even a clarinet. The lyrics are based on the folklore surrounding the Suffolk village of Dunwich, which was lost to the North Sea. We use it as an allegory for climate change. It’s a sombre, moody closer, which may surprise some people – and hopefully it sets the scene for album three…
Black Harvest is out now and can be ordered here.
Intro: George Parr