"This one is dedicated to anyone suffering with depression. It may never leave us, but at least we can drown it out with metal." Green Lung might not be the first band you'd turn to for moments of candid poignancy, but judging by the spell they've cast over Brighton tonight, there's a connection the Londoners have forged with their fanbase that goes far beyond their riotously entertaining occulty-wulty schtick.
Not that said schtick isn't brilliantly realised and earnestly delivered: from the band's 70s-indebted stoner-doom riffs and magickal lyrics to their beautifully crafted artwork and impressively decked out stage (skulls! crows! a Dorset Ooser!), Green Lung's sense of world-building is fast becoming as epic as their songs. And what songs: opening with a triple-header of anthemic cuts from this year's fabulous This Heathen Land, the five-piece quickly flex the scale at which their songwriting chops have grown in recent years. The Forest Church and Maxine (Witch Queen) are packing two of 2023's biggest choruses, sung full-heartedly by a packed-out Patterns, while Mountain Throne is pinned around a riff that would make Tony Iommi pull an impressed screw-face.
There's a surprising but brilliantly executed change of pace early on, too, as the band pull out the brooding, slow-building Song Of The Stones, a track frontman Tom Templar knowingly describes as their "first without any metal riffs". It could have been a stone cold momentum-killer, but it isn't; rather, its booming drums and swells of twinkly keys create a captivating atmosphere, the 'Can you hear the stones / Calling you back home?' refrain sung back at the band in a way that makes the gig feel less like a rollocking rock 'n' roll show and more like a ritual baptism.
Musically, the band sound fantastic live, John Wright's work behind the keyboard particularly standing out and adding an extra layer of psychedelic madness to the heavy metal thunder of bangers like Hunters In The Sky. Templar's voice is also note-perfect, sounding like Ghost's Papa Emeritus might well do if he was forged with woodland folk magic rather than the Satanic dark arts.
By the time the singer makes his statement about depression before the stirring One For Sorrow, Green Lung already have Brighton firmly in the palm of their hands. They don't let go until it's all over a few songs later; as hundreds of grinning, black-clad metallers shuffle back out into a freezing cold South Coast night, there's the overwhelming sensation that we've all just witnessed something very, very special. And that we may not see this band in venues this small again any time soon.