Full disclosure: most of my favorite albums of 2015 thus far fall into the doom/sludge/stoner category. In this “Stoner Rock” edition of Heavy Blog’s Rapidfire Reviews, I’ll briefly dive into the latest offerings from four totally killer stoner rock bands: Abrahma, Stoned Jesus, Kings Destroy and Ten Foot Wizard. They’re all worth a listen, and they definitely won’t harsh your mellow, dude.
Abrahma – Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird
Hailing from France, Abrahma are a relatively new band to the stoner scene, having only recorded one album prior to their latest record, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird. However, they’re signed to Small Stone Records, a label known for peddling some of the best stoner rock around, so you know they have at least some street cred to their name. Their sophomore effort is a surefire slow-burner, and if the trippy album art is any indication, it’s one that’s perhaps a little more introspective that your average stoner rock album, but still a rocker nonetheless. Songs such as “Fountains of Vengeance” and “Weary Statues” are a little more straightforward and feature head-bobbing, bonafide hooks, while other tracks such as “A Shepherd’s Grief” and the three part “Omens” standout in a much different way with their spaced-out guitar passages and smokey undertones. The guys of Abrahma are certainly adept songwriters, and they’ve made huge strides creatively since their debut album Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives. However, after all is said and done, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird just isn’t that memorable. It’s a good listen when you’re in the right mood, but not much of it will stick with you, and the mark of a good stoner album is one that keeps you humming long after it’s over. It’s not a bad album by any means, and definitely warrants a listen; it’s just lacking the “oomph” that other bands in the genre have.
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Abrahma’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird gets…
Stoned Jesus – The Harvest
You don’t even have to listen to the music of Stoned Jesus to know that they’re a stoner rock band. What their name doesn’t imply, however, is just how badass they are. Actually, maybe it does. The Harvest marks the third album for these Ukraine bud rockers, and it’s a kick in the pants right off the bat. The driving riffs and catchy chorus of “Here Come the Robots” make for a great opening track and sets the energy level at an appropriate high (no pun intended). In fact, this album is a whole significantly more high energy than Stoned Jesus’ previous albums. The band has opted for a “less is more” approach to their songs this time around; some are noticeably shorter than their songs have been in the past, but they’re crammed to the brim with infectious riffs and all of the stoned-out qualities which make stoner rock so charming. Most of all, these songs are extremely accessible, well-written and downright fun to listen to. A song like “YFS” could easily be slipped into your local hard rock or even classic rock radio station’s regular rotation and nobody would bat an eye. The only exception to the “less is more” rule on The Harvest is “Black Church,” which sits at just shy of 15 minutes in length and features a minimalistic, military-march style riff that only builds in intensity as the song stomps along. Overall, The Harvest is a catchy-as-hell rocker of an album that showcases a new, improved and more accessible Stoned Jesus.
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Stoned Jesus’s The Harvest gets…
Kings Destroy – Kings Destroy
The third, self-titled album from Brooklyn doom rockers Kings Destroy indeed, destroys. Recorded with the inimitable Sanford Parker, not only does the album sound massive, it’s full of fuzzed out riffs and canyon-wide grooves that’ll keep your head bobbing and won’t soon leave it. The album as a whole sounds much cleaner than their previous albums whilst still maintaining that dirty vibe that’s required on a stoner rock album. Lead Vocalist Steve Murphy belts out melodies that at times sound like a more youthful Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, and at others like King Buzzo from The Melvins. The whole album is really an exercise in how to do stoner rock right, and tunes like “Mr. O,” “Embers” and “Mythomania” will likely stand among some of the best songs of the year. The album ends on a slightly sludgier note with “Time For War” and isn’t quite the album closer I would’ve hoped for, but is good nonetheless. The only other downside to the album is that is feels a little short for a stoner rock album at 34 minutes. That said, the songs on Kings Destroy are just too good to overlook, and more than make up for its shorter running length. Definitely give this album a spin, or two, or ten.
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Kings Destroy’s Kings Destroy gets…
Ten Foot Wizard – Sleeping Volcanoes
The second album from Manchester, England’s Ten Foot Wizard is a groove-filled, Clutch-worshipping slab of superb stoner rock complete with tongue-in-cheek humor and plenty of cowbell. Blues-soaked riffs and song titles like “I Miss the Sex” and “Covered in Tits” give Sleeping Volcanoes a dirty southern vibe that’s perhaps best enjoyed under the influence of a strong whiskey. In addition to the prevalent stoner rock and metal influences, hints of punk, bluegrass and even reggae can be found throughout Sleeping Volcanoes, making it quite a varied and fun listen. Lead vocalist Gary Harkin does his best to impersonate Clutch frontman Neil Fallon on tunes like “Mind Control”, and he does a pretty damn good job of it. As with any stoner metal album worth it’s weight, the bluesy, southern-tinged riffs are what will keep listeners coming back to Sleeping Volcanoes. The nine-minute album closer “Ode to Death” is a bit of a change of pace from the rest of the album, displaying a more subdued and almost heartfelt Ten Foot Wizard, complete with an Earth-rumbling, Sabbathian riff and a reggae breakdown, and is great way to end the album. Ten Foot Wizard certainly aren’t breaking any new ground, and admittedly, some of the songs on Sleeping Volcanoes do feel a bit like filler, but what Ten Foot Wizard do they do very well. Fans of Clutch, Orange Goblin and Scissorfight ought to drink this album right up.
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Ten Foot Wizard’s Sleeping Volcanoes gets…