Whilst a new release for December 2016, ‘The Eye’ has actually been available for over a year now, albeit in the currently kvlter than kvlt way of buying a tape from the band in their darkened Finnish home or the ever growing library on Bandcamp. Now, with the addition a CD release and fresh push, I get to listen to this debut long player by Stone Ship, since the last tape deck I had was built into the dashboard of a rusted powder blue Ford Fiesta that I had scrapped in 2009!
Apparently some ten years in the making since the band first formed, ‘The Eye’ is nothing if not epic. Only two tracks fill the album, each at a meaty twenty minutes plus, meaning the four piece get to explore the sonic landscape created by the tracks in their fullest. ‘The Ship of Stone’ starts the intergalactic voyage, starting with a trippy bass line, howling effects and a stark guitar building up with a mournful drum beat that sets up a near funereal tone for the track. This darkness is reinforced by the echoing vocals that join in like a ceremonial chant almost five minutes into the track, lending a mysterious occult tone to the track. The lyrics themselves could almost be Stone Ship’s own interpretation of the lesser known Dreamlands stories of HP Lovecraft, a tale of a voyage that could easily be across the ocean, through the stars, or between the worlds of reality and fantasy. The pace of the track builds and builds into a near frantic, or at least as frantic as traditional doom can ever get, gallop, before fading down for the last couple of minutes with a stripped back sound that mirrors the opening.
‘The Crooked Tree’ that follows is no less massive, a blissed out and fuzzed up journey through riffs that pay homage to giants of the genre such as Pentagram or Sabbath, but played out in a single meandering composition rather than cut into separate numbers. It would be easy to imagine the work that went into making the 23:49 of ‘The Crooked Tree’ sound like a single cohesive work, and it would have been easy for the band to simply introduce a couple of breaks and make it three or four separate tracks, and still be on an scale to match any of the likes of Candlemass, but instead they rightly stuck to their guns, making it instead an opus of several movements.
If you are used to radio friendly four to five minute chunks of music that suit the random play function of an MP3 player, this is not for you; if, however, you are willing to take the time to absorb the track as a whole, you will find yourself rewarded. I could easily imagine this band filling a slot, and the venue, at the likes of Freak Valley Festival, or the new HRH Stoner vs Doom brand, and if a chance ever arises to see Stone Ship live, it is a journey I will be making.