I love stoner music, at this point it should be clear to all the readers of this blog. It is a passion that stays with me since I was a teenager and this music, in some way, brings me back to that exciting phase of my life. But it is not only nostalgia, of course, there are the impressive sounds, the desert atmospheres, the exciting riffs and, very often, some of the most beautiful voices we can find in a rock band.
As a long time follower of stoner music I can tell that the musical production in this case is anything but uniform and regular: there are peaks in which two or three albums of absolute value arrive to the shelves and then, sometimes, absolute silence for long months. The first part of the year, fortunately for us, belonged to the first category and in particular we had the opportunity to listen to one specific work, Sundrifter‘s Visitations, which immediately entered the prestigious club of the Best New Music. Let’s see now the complete group of stoner publications of the first months of 2018.
When you’ll read my comments on these four albums you may notice that these are not always enthusiastic despite the fact that I’m collecting here the “best records” of this period. As far as stoner is concerned, my standards are extremely high and I’m generally not satisfied with a couple of good tracks per record. In the end, however, these remain valid and interesting albums and you will get your own opinion when listening to the songs that are proposed below.
This chart reports the best albums for the first part of the year. Everyone who landed here via a search engine could be interesed in having a look to the stoner section of the blog, you can check by yourself if there are more recent updates. Enjoy!
#1) VISITATIONS by Sundrifter
I already mentioned that VISITATIONS, by Sundrifter, is by far the best stoner album of the year so far. In this LP the band from Boston shows an impressive capacity to blend together classic stoner music with elements from psychedelic and space rock. The development of the songs, in most of the cases, is that typical of stoner music: an initial riff of guitar, loud and rhythmic, on which are added an opulent bass and an essential – but still warm – rhythmic session. On top of that we enjoy the fantastic voice of Craig Peura, who’s is in effect one of the winning elements of this album and perhaps the real element of differentiation from the many other stoner bands that we have today. The full review of the album is available here.
#2) CLONE OF THE UNIVERSE by Fu Manchu
Fu Manchu are one of the most famous and appreciated bands in stoner rock and, as such, every new release from them is awaited by fans with great trepidation. They also managed to become one of those groups that can be recognized after only a few seconds of listening thanks to the particularity (and the beauty) of their sound and, in particular, of the unique voice of Scott Hill. Unfortunately, however, the years pass for everyone and with their recent album Clone of the Universe, this iconic quartet begins to show some signs of regression. More than 30 years have passed since the foundation of the band and that magical fluid that until today made all their songs to be vivid and fresh seems to be in short supply. It is no coincidence, then, that in this last LP these legends from Southern California seem to play with the brakes pulled, favoring the sounds and the atmospheric aspects of their music rather than that immediacy and spontaneity we were used to find in their songs. There are still very good moments in the LP but, unfortunately, we also cope with less exciting and excessively slow and conceptual tracks, like an epic but somehow questionable track of almost 19 minutes that reiterates almost indefinitely the same riff.
#3) SLODGE by Yellow Dust
Yellow Dust is a German stoner band and Slodge is their new album, released in January 2018. The album sees the band engaged ith both the sound and dynamics of stoner rock and the slower and more abrasive sounds of sludge metal. In all honesty I can say that in the first case (i.e. with the stoner songs) the results are undoubtedly better. The sludge tracks in fact do not take any particular advantage from the raw and low-fi production of the album, and they don’t show neither any particularly exciting idea that can sustain and valorise the longer and relatively psychedelic songs that complete the record. Anyway, the album is a good step forward with respect to the band’s debut LP and brings the signs of a raw talent that could give us great surprises for the years to come.
#4) ANATOMICAL VENUS by Black Moth
Black Moth, from England, is a band which is trying to find their own way into the stoner genre through the integration iof elements from psychedelic rock and doom into their music. Anatomical Venus, their last LP, brings a bunch of good ideas and a number of interesting deviations from the canons of the genre. The album, however, doesn’t manage to be always exciting and thrilling in all of the songs and when compared to their previous LPs we can feel that their creativity seems to have reached a stasis point. Although there are still some interesting and “cinematic” pieces, the problem with this record is that the loss of ferocity and aggression generated by the insertion of psychedelic and doom elements is not compensated, in the end, by an equal level of creative inspiration. The approach taken by these musicians, whose music is also enriched by one of the most fantastic female voices of the current years, remains thus interesting and intriguing, but this new step in their career is not at the same level of their first two records.
If you enjoyed this post, have a look at the following:
- SIDEWINDING, a stoner / sludge mixtape released a few weeks ago.
- END OF THE YEAR CHARTS: BEST OF STONER IN 2017.