“Big dirty riffs with horrible vocals,” this wonderful phrase sounds like the perfect Halloween listening and tells you everything you need to know about the sludgy, stoner rock sound of Hull’s bearded behemoths Battalions.
The quartet of Phil Wilkinson (vocals), Peter Cross (guitar), Matthew Dennett (bass) and Matt Walker are belligerent champions of the UK’s underground rock scene and have been through their fair share of iterations since forming back in 2010 – including a spell of dual bassists without a guitarist, which just sounds bizarre. Now though the band is firmly settled and, as Phil tells us: “We’ve grown as a band into something bigger sounding than ever intended.”
When asked about their ‘dirty riffs,’ Phil explains: “Well, we usually use a similar description, big dirty riffs with horrible vocals. We just have fun writing riffs we want to listen to whilst still trying to move forward as a band. There’s a definite ‘southern’ sound to some of our riffs, but at the same time we like to think there’s always a Battalions spin on the genre of sludge.”
Battalions have pumped out an impressive three albums in as many years, of which the latest, Forever Marching Backwards, is released on 30 November. The band describe it as “meaty” and “confrontational as fuck,” which should have your tastebuds positively tantalised.
But if that’s not enough, then the first taster to drip onto your tongue absolutely will. EP title track Forever Marching Backwards dives straight into a bouncy riff that is simply so good it’ll have you dribbling in lust and, from personal experience, you’ll be growling around the office for hours. Then a huge filthy scream gives way to intense screamed vocals that are soon answered by the return of the beastly riff. Turn the volume up, and hit play on the video below.
It’d also be remiss of us not to draw your attention to the unbelievably, disgustingly good Skinjob from last year’s album Moonburn. Just listen, and let the riffs speak for themselves.
The new album is littered with Phil’s trademark booming vocals that add raw emotion to the crushing heaviness of the instrumental support. The eight tracks see the band exorcise a wide array of sorrow and raw human emotion, along with Tyskie Vampire, a song about being on tour with their labelmates Pist, dropping cans of strong Polish lager on the floor and having to suck them dry when they split open. Beautiful, and so very Battalions.
Phil explains there’s no set formula behind the Battalions sound, but there’s certainly a general trend to what inspires it. As he explains: “There’s no real themes with our music, lyrically there is everything from personal issues, mental health, singing about our favourite movies, sci-fi epics to straight up ‘fuck you’ style nihilism.”
While they define themselves as sludge or stoner, Battalions certainly have one eye on the metal gods of the past, taking in the music of Black Sabbath, Status Quo and Judas Priest in their spare time, along with early influences Iron Monkey, Clutch, Scissorfight and Weedeater.
Battalions will be playing at our New Band of the Week from last week Barbarian Hermit’s album launch show at Northern Monk Brewery on 16 November, which will be an epic gig. They then play SOPHIE Festival at Rebellion in Manchester on 24 November, a small headline weekender at the end of the month to support the release of Forever Marching Backwards, before playing The Dev in Camden on 30 November, the next night at The Cellar in Oxford and a hometown release show at The Polar Bear inn Hull on 2 December.
Looking further ahead, they’re currently planning a European tour early next year, along with a slot at Hammerfest later in the year with more shows to be confirmed. More info on all their gigs is here.
Do what you can to make it to a Battalions show and, as Phil puts it: “We’re four lovely idiots from Hull, who love to put on a good rock and roll show. Come and say hello, we’re friendlier than we look!”