It was truly impossible to keep up with all the great music released in 2016, so prepare to see us talking about releases from last year a bit more in the next few weeks/months. (Time is arbitrary anyway, right?) Back to the matter at hand; stoner metal had an even better year than many other genres. Countless releases in just as many styles graced the smoke-filled skies of this sub-genre, running the gamut of infectious riffs and honey-drenched vocal stylings. Shining bright in these constellations is Netherlands and their poppy, insidious stoner-punk. Like a blend between Floor, Black Sabbath and Witchcraft, Netherlands (who hail from Brooklyn by the way) produce hip-moving stoner of the highest degree, aimed to be heavy and oppressive but also pop-y and danceable.
The latter comparison to the veteran Swedish band Witchcraft is perhaps the most accurate. With an emphasis on higher pitch vocals (drawing more from Ozzy Osbourne in their rasp than Ronnie James Dio), Netherlands center their weight around upbeat and convincing stoner metal. You’d expect lighter guitars to accompany such a style, adding to the dynamics of the vocals, but instead, everything is covered in fuzz like a ship burning green in St Elmo’s light. The feedback is resplendent, lending a certain panache to the guitars that somehow doesn’t detract from their heaviness. These rich tones blend with the powerful vocals in the best of ways, creating a first half of the album that’s pure power and delivery.
By the time “New Jocks” plays, we’re well lathered and made ready for the punk influences. While said influences are present in the first four tracks to an extent, they explode on this fifth track as the guitars pick up in pace as well. This is followed up by the chaos of the following track, “Dots” to create a blistering middle of the album, bringing to mind comparisons with contemporaries like Wild Throne. In tandem, the classic stoner feeling is maintained via main riffs, cavernous, roiling drums and the sheer amount of effects added to the vocals. These two polars create the interesting and bewildering hybrid that is Netherlands. Is this a punk album? Is it stoner metal? Is it pop (as some of the earlier tracks can be downright dance-y as are some of the vocals on “Thrombosis”)?
The answer is, of course, “yes”. This is the beauty of Audubon and the unique edge it brings to the prolific year of 2016. Unlike most of its stoner metal brethren in the past year, Mastodon is not present in its list of influences. The progressive edge that such a pedigree brings with it is absent. In its stead, there’s more of what makes stoner rock great to begin with, injected with high octane, hip-swaying choruses alongside angry, radical punk manifestos. The fact that Netherlands successfully channel these ideas and influences into a cohesive whole is immensely impressive and a feat of musicianship that is awe inspiring. Perhaps the secret lies in the layers of fuzz, granting everything a common voice and timbre. If so, then Netherlands have reconfigured the stoner metal formula in 2016 and found their strength not only innovation but also in dedicated to the roots of their genre. Whatever the answer, the result is damn impressive.
Audubon was released on June 17th, 2016 via Prosthetic Records. You can purchase it via the band’s bandcamp, as linked to above. Happy new year!