Something is a-buzzing within the progressive stoner community. We’re barely past the half way mark and the number of great albums released in the genre is steadily increasing. In light of such a process, the definitions of the genre are being challenged, as is only natural; in times of such rapid expansion is when sub-genres are born. From the slower, smoke-drenched Boss Keloid, through the more progressive oriented Illudium, right up to the all together hectic Tardive Dyskinesia, progressive stoner metal is beginning to splinter. However, just as important to this process is a clearly defined center, an essence from which the rest of these experimenters can draw. Where should one look for such a center? How do you even define it?
Luckily, the work of the righteous is often done by others and Lady Luck has mercifully rid us of our conundrum. Through the ways of the inbox, we have been presented with Family‘s Future History and within it, we have found our center. The album contains everything that progressive stoner metal is doing today and does so in a lucid, well thought out and delivered manner. However, it never strays too far from the basic trappings of the definition. That’s what makes it so perfect for our needs. It represents a snapshot of a movement, a frozen moment that is immediately understandable to anyone versed in the ideas and sounds of the emerging mode.
So, what are those ideas and sounds? First off, a certain vocal approach is needed. On Future History, Family encapsulate both those styles. Firstly, tune in to “Day Vision” to hear the mighty screams. These, of course, hark back to Mastodon (WHITE WHALE/HOLY GRAIL) but also turn the delivery up a notch or two. They represent the main momentum of the track and, indeed the album. However, just as important as the more abrasive sounds of this vocal style, is the honey drenched, folklore channeling clean vocals. You can hear them on “The Dark Inside”, the opening track to the album. They conjure the smoke, the incense and the seduction present in stoner metal as a whole and especially well made, progressive stoner. Together, these two vocal styles set up and delineate the canvas on which Future History is drawn while channeling the basic, aggressive seduction that makes up stoner metal.
Next, we of course must speak of the groove section. Here, we once again have a classic approach revved up to the extremes demanded of progressive iterations on any genre. The opening phrases to “Precedent”, further along the album, are a fine example. Listen to how the basic coupling of massive drums and background-dominant bass quickly set the tone for the track. However, notice also how they are broken up, modified and repeated, and the interaction between chorus and verse. Everything is catchy and groovy, but for those with keen ears and the desire to do so, a not-so-standard approach can be heard. While we’re here, checking out the layering on the clean vocals and be reminded of the last paragraph.
Finally, we have the guitars. These are a big part as on any stoner album and yes, they are tinged with the Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath tones of yester-decades. Here, perhaps, stoner metal is played in the straightest fashion and that’s perfect; the guitars give a much needed accessibility to the whole thing. Moving between Baroness-like riffs to intense solos, and back to a familiar interplay between backing and lead roles, the guitars are everything we wanted from such an album. And that’s exactly their power: they are our anchor, as Future History will serve when discussing the proliferation of progressive stoner albums. Something about the album just screams in the right tones, speaks the right words with those tones and overall sounds like a long lost friend finally returned us, ready to serve as a compass once again.