So, as I know there are legions of Opeth fans out there among you, let’s get this up straight and centre. “White Stones” are the death metal band put together by Uruguayan Opeth band member Martin Lopez. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of Opeth in the slightest; I can appreciate that they have some insanely talented musicians, but the songwriting always errs on the side of being the tedious side of progressive for me. With that aside, I was interested to know how “Kuarahy” would sound.

Well, some good news. This is a death metal album first and foremost, and while – yes – little hints of progressive music can be found here, it is far outweighed by a knack for a killer groove, some gnarly atmosphere and some excellent bellowed vocals. The guitar tone here is mostly clean – by design – which gives everything a slightly weird sound compared to more straight ahead death metal releases, but the compensating filth of the bass tone keeps everything grounded in heavy territory.

So, what do we actually have? It’s unmistakeably a proper death metal album. Tracks like “Drowned in Time” may have a pulsating, almost Latin feel to the rhythm, but the overlapping riffing and intricate six string work keep the album really at the more aggressive, if cerebral, end of the spectrum. Special mention here to the vocals of Eloi Boucherie, which are really, really authentically the most 90’s death metal vocals that I have heard in a very long time! Originally, Martin had planned to sing the vocals himself, but it was just wasn’t working out. In terms of the whole band, this is an outfit that really seems to have clicked. While the comparison doesn’t work perfectly in terms of sound, I would say that the most pressing likewise outfits in terms of atmosphere would be the latter-mid periods of Death in terms of how intricate the music is.

As a motif, there is an almost Spanish vibe to the melodies that run over the grinding death metal. On “The One”, for instance, the guitars have this weaving, dancing riff that spins back and forth, while the bass grumbles on like the treads of a tank. Mention here too to the drums, which are really well played – plenty of really fascinating patterns and energetic double bass pedal action.

So, the million dollar question. Is this any good? Well yes, yes it is. I have very much enjoyed it – it’s a little left field, but it’s a catchy, heavy and odd death metal album. There are hints of progressive music in it, but never so much as to induce the same levels of dopey-eyed boredom in me as with Opeth. I’ve had quite a lot of chance to listen to this recently, being a front-line worker during CV19 on the way to and from work – and it’s been a great companion on those journeys. It’s a great shame that the band won’t get much of a chance to try this material out live in 2020, but I would very much like to think that Martin will have been writing more material while he can…

(8/10  Chris Davison)