Friday 3 June 2022

Friend - Champion (Album Review)

Release Date: June 03rd 2022. Record Label: Human Worth. Format: CD/DD/Cassette

The Wreck of the Hesperus - Tracklisting

1.International Top Bloke 05:16 video

2.The Beast 05:18

3.Geoffrey 04:59

4.Dungeon Master 05:15

5.Wellness 05:31

6.Uncle Tommy 08:06

7.A Reminder 10:03


Tim Croft - Guitar

James Watts - Vocals

Skylar Gill - Drums/Vocals


Champion is the debut full-length album from Friend. A Noise Rock/Sludge Metal band from Newcastle Upon Tyne (UK) which is also my hometown. The band are made up of members from some of the areas's more experimental bands such as Lump Hammer, Lovely Wife and Plague Rider. Friend play a brutally addictive blend of Noise Rock, Grunge and Sludge Metal with death-charged growls and grunts from lead vocalist James and great backup vocals from Skylar who also excels on Drums as well.

Their debut album has influences ranging from FLOOR, TORCHE, Soundgarden, Old Man Gloom and The Abominable Iron Sloth. Well according to their BandCamp Page and it’s a very good description with their great debut album. 

Though, you wouldn’t expect that from the violently aggressive nightmarish sounds of opening International Top Bloke which blends Noise Rock, Sludge Metal with an almost violent Doom Metal backdrop. James' vocal performance is menacing and thrilling in equal measure. Add FLOOR-esque guitar melodies that’s buried under a ton of guitar reverb and Friend has my undivided attention. There’s a lovely ambient groove towards the later stages of the song that brings a more peaceful sound. However, that feeling doesn’t last long with Friend returning to their heavier ways. Punishing DIY grungy guitars collide for a more gloomier approach with a fantastic performance from lead guitarist Tim.

Second song The Beast opens with a lovely, trippy Psychedelic passage with solitary guitars and haunting vocal melodies. Then a truly aggressive Sludge Metal/Noise Rock comes to gatecrash the party and you’re right back into ugly, heavier and seedier side of Friend. There’s still a cool Psych Rock vibe hidden within the song though Friend focus more playing a 90’s style of Noise Rock/Sludge Metal with that “Doom Metal” afterthought bringing a more “riffier” style of musical action to the party. The song has a DIY PUNK ROCK vibe which is undeniably HIP and EXCITING.

Third song Geoffrey is a more straightforward Sludge Metal track with a Hard Rock edge. Catchy grooves, riffs and harsh growls combine for one of the more friendlier tracks on the album. The song is still bleak as hell but this one has a more accessible “POPPY” edge to it all. One of the standout and freakiest offerings on the album. Friend revel in both their sinister and happier alter egos coming into play on this track.

Friend continue to play their catchy but demandingly aggressive style of Noise Rock and Sludge Metal for the remainder of the album. The band experiments with their sound even further on tracks such as Dungeon Master, Uncle Tommy and A Reminder. Catchy sounds that move from TORCHE and FLOOR based sludgy grooves and classic grunge atmospherics allow Friend to play their own sinister blend of addictive music that ultimately leave you wanting to hear more.

The best part of the album is played out across the final two songs of the album Uncle Tommy and A Reminder. As this features some of the most interesting heavy sounds on the album with A Reminder being a genuine highlight for me personally. 

Friend are one of those rare underground bands that nobody knows about but deserve wider recognition from the Doom/Sludge Metal underground. Champion is brimming with truly original ideas and sounds that allow this to be a challenging and violently addictive debut album that you don’t come around too much these days. 

If you’re looking for a record that shows the uglier side of Noise Rock and Sludge Metal then you’ve come to the right place with FRIEND. Champion is local slang up here in GEORDIELAND meaning “Great” or “Excellent”. And Champion is just that - An excellent and essential release you all need to hear. 

Words by Steve Howe

Champion is available to buy now on CD/DD/Cassette Tape via Human Worth


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