There is no single way that London trio Urne describe their sound, it all comes back to one thing: heavy. There are shades of Metallica, Mastodon, Alice In Chains in there, hopping between sludge, tech-metal, doom, hardcore and anything else with a weighty heart. On their debut full-length, ‘Serpent & Spirit’, this is writ large as the work of one of the finest new bands in the British metal underground.
They’re starting from a good place. Formed by ex-Hang The Bastard bassist Joe Nally and guitarist Angus Neyra after their former band called it quits, the pair already had a reputation for big, heavy riffs. Getting drummer Richard Harris on board in 2018, they gilded their new outfit (Urne, as in funeral urn, but using the German spelling for no real reason other than it looks cool) with ‘The Mountain Of Gold’ EP. Produced by Sylosis/Architects guitarist Josh Middleton, it immediately marked Urne out as a formidable new metallic force.
Now, they return with ‘Serpent & Spirit’. Heavier, wider and with an even higher ratio of killer riffs than the EP, it also comes with a weighty central concept based around the central character’s struggle as he’s pulled between good and evil, darkness and light.
“I had a bit of a bad patch for a few months,” explains Joe, revealing the inspiration for the album’s lyrics. “I’m absolutely fine now, but I drew on those two months where I just wasn’t feeling great. I took that and wrote a story based about that. The actual track-listing is done like that film Memento, where it’s all in a different order. Maybe one day someone will listen to the lyrics and work out which order the story goes in.
“The album is called ‘Serpent & Spirit’. The spirit is the human experience, the serpent is the evil that tricks your mind. It’s about getting pulled apart and trying to find yourself within all of that. So it’s almost good and evil, and throughout the album it’s about a person getting pulled from the light to the dark.”
Due to COVID, the final parts of the album were written over Skype, before being recorded by Chris Fielding (Conan, Electric Wizard, Primordial) at Foel Studios in deepest Wales during lockdown. It was then sent to acclaimed producer Jens Bogren who handled the mastering of ‘Serpent & Spirit. Whereas on their EP the band purposefully kept things simpler than some may have expected (“We thought, ‘We know how to play, but let’s hold that back and show that we know how to write some really steady, good songs,’” says Joe), here they wanted to push everything further. They had some reference points in mind, but when they started laying it down, it was very much a case of seeing how things breathed in the studio.“We really wanted it to sound real,” says Joe. “There’s some records that sound really live and really raw, and some that sound polished and lifeless. We had ideas in our mind, but when we were in the studio, we finished the drums and realised we hadn’t even spoken about how we wanted everything to sound. But there’s a lot of sounds and vibes on the record – it would be too hard to go ‘I want it to sound like this one thing.’”
Indeed, the result is a slab of metal that sounds simultaneously both classic and modern, delivered with equal amounts of brains and fists. And whether it’s for the brute force, the staggering playing, or the cunning twists and turns that take a few listens to properly catch in full, the effect on the listener will be the same: you’ll be bowled over.
“I wanted to write a record that took me back to being 13, saving up my lunch money, going to CD warehouse in Wimbledon and going ‘What’s cool, what’s got the best artwork, what can I get?’” says Joe. “I wanted to recreate that feeling from when I was growing up and I was finding Priest, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth. I wanted that feeling. That’s why the album had to be eight tracks – like those classics! I wanted that vibe of when you’re a kid and you hear one of those massive records for the first time.”
One listen to Urne and you’ll fully agree: mission accomplished.
(Photo Credit: GAV THANE)