REZN – Calm Black Water (Released 2018)
Stoner metal is rather self-evidently concerned with creating huge, monolithic soundscapes, and with nailing the attendant atmospherics. The less immediately obvious but just as salient upshot of this is that sometimes these bands take this commitment a bit too far by dedicating whole entire tracks – long ones, we’re talking in the 6+ minute range, here – to farting around out in the mode of some the vaguely spooky intros that populated metal songs in the genre’s infancy. To name but one example, there’s a track on Electric Wizard’s otherwise extremely good album Come My Fanatics… that is just about nine entire goddamn minutes of feedback and other noises, reminiscent of FX from Black Sabbath Volume 4, a fifty second track that’s fifty seconds too long.
REZN, blessedly, doesn’t seem to have the same terrible taste in intro bits from the 70’s, but listening to a track like Mirrored Mirage puts one in mind of the intro to No Quarter; if you ditch the drum beat propelling forward in the background, they would sound very similar indeed, as would a lot of the quieter bits peppered throughout the album. This is otherwise perfectly serviceable drony nonsense, but there’s really very little variety here. There’s the aforementioned intro bits, and then eventually there’s this big loud riff that is decent I guess but not all that distinguished, and then when the vocals kick in they’re pretty droney, and don’t offer much in the way of hooks. It’s like this for 40 minutes. This is a perfectly acceptable album, but not much more than that.
Standout Tracks: Iceberg, High Tide
Rift – Forming the Void (Released 2018)
Do you like mid-tempo sludge? These guys have mid-tempo sludge riffs aplenty, and they seem to know how to effectively build a song around them to boot, full of hooks and memorable bits and all that good stuff. This has the added effect of making this album into a more varied experience than it deserves to be – again, most of the actual riffs are mid-tempo sludge straight out of the “We’re all super into Mastodon, and we always dug it when they slowed things down a bit” playbook. But when you’re able to take your singer’s weird growls and make them melodic and hooky, you’re able to stand out a bit.
Standout Tracks: Extinction Event, On We Sail, Transient
Spaceslug – Lemanis (Released 2016)
Oh man. What do you do when you’re trying to write about stoner metal, but it’s all started to sound kind of same-y over the course of the past week and a half or so? Do you sit and chill and force yourself to have thoughts such as, “Gee, this band is kind of neat” in a concerted effort to have a real opinion? Do you step away from a bit and hope that when you circle back to the album later, it’ll make more of an impression? Do you throw your hands up in surrender and go full rotten old bastard by declaring that every piece of music released after (insert arbitrary cutoff date here) is hot garbage?
Or do you do what Spaceslug seems to be all about and chill the fuck out? There isn’t too much metal out there that can be accurately described as chill, and yet Spaceslug seems to have figured out a way to be both heavy while also sounding uninterested in getting off of the couch. You could maybe fall asleep to this album if you really wanted to, and somehow I mean that as a compliment. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the fuzz. Seriously though, somebody needs to start a band dedicated to naptime metal. I would give it a few spins.
Standout Tracks: Hypermountain, Supermassive
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