What I like about progressive stoner is that it melds groove and intricacy with the distortion coated vibes of stoner metal. It keeps things interesting, helping the often bogged down genres surrounding doom and stoner remember dynamism and variety. Which is exactly what Stonebirds are all about; these guys play a version of progressive stoner which relies on big guitar tones, thick bass and a drawl on the vocals reminiscent more Chris Cornell than Ozzy Osbourne. Their recently released Only Time, while not a trendsetter per se, an interesting take on the track structure that often becomes too stale even in this, more diverse, version of stoner. Check out “Sacrifice” below as an example.
First, the standard parts. Out of all of the instruments, the bass is definitely the sweetest thing about Stonebirds. It’s prominent without being overbearing and melds well with the guitars to give them out-of-this-world size we’re looking for in these kinds of releases. The drums follow suit and, together, the groove section makes up a big chunk of why Only Time works. But the really cool thing is what the band does with these instruments and tones; the composition on “Sacrifice” and, indeed, on the entire album, is what makes Stonebirds stand out. During this ten minute track, the main guitar line fades out and comes back in, often leaving the bass and the drums mostly on their own. The track is made up of a few of these movements, each time layering new elements in new ways on top of each other.
Nor does the experimentation end on this track. Following the screams that are introduced at its end, we might have expected “Blackened Sky”, which follows it, to continue the aggressive and muscular approach. Instead, we are treated to four minutes of subtle build-up, complete with strings and weird ambience. Only Time continues to utilize these ideas down the line, inserting cool moments of compositional experimentation to further increase the level of variety in the stoner/doom metal that lies at the core of the band’s sound. There might not be too much variety in what happens once those segments kick in but the questions of when they do and what happens when they don’t is what makes this release fascinating and well made.