Famyne – II: The Ground Below Review

U.K.-based “modern” doom act Famyne evaded my metal detector with their eponymous 2018 debut. I might have missed their sophomore outing too, had I not been desperate for some doom when skulking through the fetid promo sump on a dark and dreary night. Thus, I approached II: The Ground Below without context or expectation, and what I heard befuddled me for a good while. You see, Famyne play an unusual variety of doom that’s rather difficult to classify. There are nods to the classic doom sound, but much of what they do verges on goth rock and even alt/indie rock. One moment you might hear a Sabbathian crunch, but the next you may find yourself in Impure Wilhelmina┬áterritory or stumbling into a Tool meets Radiohead freakout. Such is the Famyne ethos, and it’s weird. It’s also quite cool and entertaining if you have the eggs for it. I like eggs.

In a clear effort to confuse the listener, II opens with the most classicly doomy song on offer, “Defeated.” It reeks of prime Solitude Aeturnus with churning doom riffs out to pulverize your skull integrity as frontman Tom Vane delivers a very Scott Reagers-esque performance. He’s whiny like Ozzy one minute, then mopey like Morrissey the next as he hawks the goods like a used car salesman working on commission. It’s not all that far from what Pallbearer or Khemmis do these days, with a nice blend of the old and new in the plodding heaviness. As II rumbles onward though, the music shifts from classic sounds towards more modern soundscapes. “Solid Earth” weaves Alice in Chains vocal harmonies through its Sabbath-worship, while “Gone” breaks into the Tool shed to borrow several pieces of equipment. These injections of new(ER) blood allow the compositions to sound familiar enough for the doom traditionalist while keeping things fresh and interesting.

The weirdest excursion comes via “Submarine,” where the band goes all in with their proggy proclivities, trading heavy doom riffs for gothy alt-rock meandering that touches on Anathema, Radiohead and The Gathering as it widdles and wiles the minutes away. It’s a strange, languid trip and I didn’t much care for it at first, but with a few listens it got under my skin like a chigger, mostly thanks Vane’s oddball antics. The album culminates well with two of its best cuts. “The Ali” borrows the burly, beefy ethos of biker doom and clubs you with big riff energy until morale improves. Closer “For My Sins” wants to have its classic and modern cakes and eat them both, melding heavy doom leads with an all-over-the-place vocal performance by Vane as grunge and Helmet-esque alt-rock elements leak into the boat. It’s weird but it works.

I can see Mr. Vane’s vocals being divisive. He’s all over the place with his performance, sometimes too much so. He rarely seems content to remain in one idiom, moving from genre to genre and often straddling several. On songs like “Submarine” he lets it all hang out, and it can take some getting used to. The same can be said of his contribution to “For My Sins” where his proggy efforts remind me of King Goat‘s Anthony Trimming. He’s a talented frontman and injects a ton of personality into the material, but he has a tendency to do too much at times, and a bit less of him might allow the songs to breathe. Tom Ross and Martin Emmons bring structure to the game with a collection of doom leads that anchor the songs regardless of where Vane opts to take them. There are a series of quality classic doom leads on offer, and the tandem show versatility as they explore various adjacent and not-so-adjacent genres along the way. This is a talented bunch, and the fact that their music is so tough to pigeonhole speaks well of their creativity.

II: The Ground Below likely won’t be my favorite doom platter this year, but it’s an interesting listen with a unique approach to the genre. Famyne take chances and push the envelope, which isn’t all that common in the doom world. It will be interesting to see where they go from here. Give this a spin and you may just be happily confused for a while.


 

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Svart
Websites: famyne.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/famyneuk
Releases Worldwide: May 13th, 2022

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