From Portland Oregon they came. Laying down the sludgy groove like a JCB spreading tar. Lo and behold I did get stuck in their groove and gave in to the glorious muck. No struggle did I make just a constant rhythmic nodding of the head with a toothy grin on my visage.
As you can tell by that load of bollocks above, I like this. A lot. This is the second full length offering from this four piece and what is on offer is 9 tracks of groovy down tuned Sludge of the finest vintage.
A “Stoneburner” is a weapon of epic proportions from Frank Herbert’s Dune opus. To quote the Dune Wiki a Stoneburner could “perform one of two tasks; the first function of the bomb was to release massive amounts of J-rays (a type of radiation that dissolves eye tissue), thus blinding all creatures within a few kilometres. The second objective was to create general destruction of property.” This is no Nerf Gun people!
Opener “Some Can” unleashes the rumble with high pitched rasped vocals riding the wave.
The manic riffs and staccato rhythms prepared me for a rollercoaster ride but what came next threw the brakes on and sent this listener in a completely different direction.
Caged Bird is 10 and a half minutes long and worth every second. The bass line that opens the track must be played on a double bass and gives the track a mournful heartbeat whilst guitars pick out a Western theme. I can almost spy Lee Van Cleef sneering over the cocked trigger of a Smith and Wesson. Three minutes in the first riff drops and the vocals kick in and by then that bass line has become –not your heartbeat- but your head bang. Some tracks are toe tappers this is a head and body rocker. I ain’t talking 80’s electro I mean full on psycho ward rocking to the rhythm. From such a sedate beginning by the end the track has become a hectic almost industrial wail but I did not notice any change in tempo. What the fuck?????
Luckily Stoneburner acknowledge the headfuckery afoot and place an acoustic, almost genteel, instrumental next to bring the listener back down. Of course this then means we are back to the front for “An Apology to a Friend In Need” Unusually this band seem to delight in melody which isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when things get sludgy. This track also has a leaning towards –whisper it- Prog but without disappearing up its own arse. In fact it has more akin to progressive black metal than trad prog metal bands. Yet again though change of pace is used to disarm the listener and keep the interest piqued. Interesting that the album is called “Life Drawing” as it really does work as a piece of art, a collection of pieces that fuse together to form a rounded piece that really need to be heard together to appreciate. This is not an album of mp3’s to be chopped up and added to playlists.
“Pale New Eyes” drops some riffs that Iron Monkey would have been proud off and lovers of Yob and Noothgrush will lap up every sticky morsel. Another interlude “Giver of Birth” rubs some Vaseline on my scabbed bleeding ears and weary neck before “Done” begins. The intro here is like the Doors in a Haunted House. Peyote Ghost Train anyone? Then the ghost of Pete Murphy seems to waft in from a castle somewhere. There is a whiff of Post Punk groove and essence of fast goth about this which gives way to growly death rock. Sludgy-growly-goff-death-rock and roll! It’s like someone has poured my brain out and pumped it into my stereo!!!! WITCHCRAFT!!!!!
“You are the Worst” sprints out of the blocks – which for a band of this genre, from Oregon, is unusual.
So how the hell are these boys gonna round of this album? My neck is aching my wits are at an end. What can they possibly offer me now?
18 minutes of “The Phoenix” that is what! Wonderful piece.
Just buy this damn thing. It needs to be listened to not written about!
(8.5/10 Matt Mason)