Album Review: God Damn – Vultures

Black Country two-piece deliver a crushing debut album to fulfil the promise of numerous EPs

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Rating:  ★★★★★

Soon after I received the Vultures LP in the post from One Little Indian (Björk, Skunk Anansie), I learned that God Damn would be supporting Foo Fighters at Old Trafford, as part of a tour roster that elsewhere includes Iggy Pop, Royal Blood and Kaiser Chiefs. The content of Vultures, their debut full-length release, is emblematic of their recent meteoric rise in popularity. This LP is furious, dynamic and engrossing, capturing as much of the live God Damn experience as can be realistically committed to a recording. It seethes with energy and dissatisfaction, pauses for breath, and delivers an incredibly dark and powerful ending. Vultures is fast becoming a regular feature on my record player.

Quiet and ambient intro track ‘Horseley Fields’ brings us unwittingly into the direct and concise opener

Quiet and ambient intro track ‘Horseley Fields’ brings us unwittingly into the direct and concise opener, ‘When The Wind Blows’, which has been in circulation as a single for a while. Energy and groove are the watchwords here, forming a live staple and an absolute head-banger. ‘Silver Spooned’, ‘Shoeprints’ and ‘Maladie Melody’ juxtapose this style with some low-fi sections, giving us a glimpse of vocalist Thom Edward’s voice largely unfettered with effects or hidden by the combined weight of guitars and drums. ‘Horus’, ‘Deadpan Riot’ and the title track form a trio of similar efforts, all boasting memorable riffs and vocal hooks while remaining strident and powerful in their delivery. ‘We Don’t Like You’ is a dirge with a direct message, and showcases the moment of most astute anger on this record as well as some of the simplest, most punk-inspired songwriting.

But the jewel in the crown of Vultures is ‘Skeletons’, which appeared on their Heavy Money EP, but exists here freshly re-recorded as the closing track, to great effect. With an acoustic intro showing us that Thom can sing sweetly if he wants to, ‘Skeletons’ bursts into full gear suddenly and spectacularly, boasting the loudest and fullest guitars on the LP and undoubtedly the best riff. The vocals are harsh and yearning enough to give the dark lyrics their place above dozens of guitar tracks, and the ending leaves the listener aurally battered and emotionally drained. A classic album closer.

The tight but raw production of the album is key to its success, layering numerous different guitars to fill the ears with the pounding riffs and stylish melodies that this album boasts in quantity. Thom’s guitars sound anything from tight and smooth to wild and fuzzy, and in some of the more ephemeral sections sound very little like guitars at all. The drums, which sticksman Ash Weaver insists on playing as if each skin and cymbal had personally insulted him, are audible underneath Thom’s bastions of grungey guitar largely through force of will. They are the irreplaceable bedrock that creates the duo’s groove and solidity underneath what could otherwise be chaotic noise rock. The vocals are at times ethereal, at others chorally huge, but remain full of energy, bite and a strong sense of melody.

Vultures fuses classic rock, grunge and metal into a unique sound and an album that boasts a fantastic sense of wholeness in its arrangement. Though there are individual highlights, Vultures definitely bears listening to as a whole. Even more so, it recommends the band as a live phenomenon, giving the listener a taste of the energy and volume that they would experience if they were standing in front of Ash and Thom in a small room, surrounded by speaker cabinets. God Damn are on the way up, and if this album is anything to go by, you may not be able to see them in small rooms for much longer.

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