If you know anything about me, then you know I see a ton of live music. It's hard to place a finger on the exact number of acts I see on a yearly basis, but I can say that even with as much as I consume, a new band in this town hasn't impressed me as much as Houston's Warlung. Comprised of former members of Rivers and The Dead Revolt, their blend of metal and psych-rock create a sound that's hard to walk away from, and their live sets are just as face melting. On their debut release Sleepwalker, they take the intensity of their live shows and commit them to an album that's definitely worth checking out. In eight songs they raise the bar for some metal bands, and definitely anyone who's making their blend of metal and psych.
The band wastes no time starting strong with "Stone Cold Killer," which couples squealing, distorted guitar with added keys and drums cluster to sculpt an impressive sound that steers away from normal doom structures. This is followed by the fuzzy, bluesier "Indicativa," where the four piece slows things down half a step and some keys come in to add more depth. Some moments the mix of the lead guitar and the vocals may remind you of Mars Volta, which is a trip to hear from a primarily metal band. This shows through especially on another slower-paced song, "The Black," which is infiltrated with these trippy little guitar pieces mixed with synths. Of course, this is all before the band goes all in, speeds things up, and takes listeners to a heavier place. Like if you took Black Sabbath and Austin's The Well, and gave them both a new direction, you might have what's happening here.
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The band gets a little snappier on "Unknown Stranger," even adding backing vocals. (Don't worry, they don't take away from the overall sound.) However, it's the following "Hear Evil, See Evil, Speak Evil" where Warlung really opens up and really takes the listener to a new head space. The band seems to accept that they don't have to stick to traditional themes and goes for more epic storytelling, helping to further expand their sound. Though it has the same fuzzed-out guitars as the previous tracks, but the fact that it's not so heavy seems to really work for Warlung, adding to an already impressive arsenal of songs. The sonic heft of well-titled closer "Mind Melter" indulges Warlung's inner Black Sabbath fandom without outright stealing; its heavier riffs and traditional metal chords add to an already impactful debut album.
You can stream or purchase the album directly from Warlung via their Bandcamp page. You can hear the songs live when the group plays the first day of the End Hip End It Festival and Harvey Benefit at Sigma Brewery this Saturday, October 20. The all-ages event also features performances from King Buffalo, Acid King, Elder, Eagle Claw and more. Doors at 2 p.m.; suggested donation $20.