02. Ghost Chair
03. Thank Fuck I Ain’t You
04. Heroes Are What?
05. The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire
06. The Battle of the Sinkhole
08. I Will Make You Real
09. Military Wife
10. Not Another Name
The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire is the debut release from UK-based stoner/sludge metal outfit Bovine and, as far as debut records go, is a fantastic collection of accomplished and polished tracks. Bovine have a sound evocative of a huge swathe of likely influences but do a fine job in defining their own style, combining a multitude of characteristic elements from a number of genres.
After a brief musical interlude The Sun Never Sets… comes crashing into its own in “Ghost Chair”, a pounding and high energy introduction to Bovine’s often aggressive and riff-heavy sound. The track sets a high standard, but one which is carried forward well into followup “Thank Fuck I Ain’t You”, which sees the drive of the opener toned down in favour of slower and more groove-oriented riffing. For me, the dissonant tones and upbeat feel of the guitar work here were reminiscent of Every Time I Die and, where it appears, this style effectively contrasts a more relentless and pounding sound found elsewhere on the album.
Continuing through the record, “Heroes Are What?”, with its soft acoustic intro uncomfortably transitioning into a visceral and emotionally wrought latter half, does well to accentuate the immense value the talents of lead vocalist Marcus Wolfgang bring to the band’s sound. Marcus’ voice at times seems to channel Chris Cornell via Josh Homme and excels at sounding powerful and full of conviction while remaining clean and melodic. According to the band’s Facebook page, vocal duties are shared between three members of the quartet, and the addition of harsher vocals, along with the driving yells – characteristic of much sludge metal – allow for great variety, especially within the album’s heavier moments.
A deviation from The Sun Never Sets…’s previous tone is found in the title track; a much slower and more reserved effort which unfortunately falls a little flat without the depth of sound brought by the more driven riffing found elsewhere on the album. The band quickly regain their pace with the album’s aggressive peak in “The Battle of the Sinkhole”, however, and the fantastic “I Will Make You Real”, in which a welcomed dalliance into guitar effects and a more accentuated lead tone stands out. In penultimate track “Military Wife” the band utilise an upbeat bass riff and some subtle post-production tweaks to bring the more groove-oriented elements of their sound back in full force, justifying the “Clutch on steroids” tag the band proudly display on their Facebook page.
This album is at its best when the band truly commit to their more chaotic influences, channelling Mastodon and early Baroness into more groove-heavy crescendos accentuated by greater freedom for variety and flavour in their rhythm section. The combination of layered guitars, pounding drums, and driving clean vocals strongly recall Swedish metallers Khoma, but Bovine manage to add enough variety to their sound to dodge the monotony such a style can lead to. The aforementioned groove-heavy bass riff opening “Military Wife”, and QOTSA-esque leads in closer “Not Another Name”, stand for me as elements of the band at their best, embracing the fun side of their sound while not losing the solid songwriting and fantastic production that allow their clear technical skill to shine through.
The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire is a fantastic debut release from a band well on their way to carving out a powerful niche within their genre. The album finds the sweet spot between excessive and absent variety and, though the band’s sound feels more developed where the songs hit harder, Bovine show themselves to be more than capable of exploring differing tempos and atmospheres throughout the album.
Above all Bovine demonstrate remarkable musical maturity and clarity, producing an album with consistency and quality rarely seen on a debut record and I would strongly recommend The Sun Never Sets… to fans of a wide array of bands that Bovine’s style touches upon.