Stoner Rock

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CLUTCH Psychic Warfare Album Cover Psychic Warfare
CLUTCH
4.95 | 7 ratings
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CLUTCH Blast Tyrant Album Cover Blast Tyrant
CLUTCH
4.89 | 5 ratings
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CLUTCH Robot Hive / Exodus Album Cover Robot Hive / Exodus
CLUTCH
4.77 | 7 ratings
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CLUTCH Earth Rocker Album Cover Earth Rocker
CLUTCH
4.53 | 7 ratings
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SPIRITUAL BEGGARS Earth Blues Album Cover Earth Blues
SPIRITUAL BEGGARS
4.55 | 6 ratings
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MONSTER MAGNET Mastermind Album Cover Mastermind
MONSTER MAGNET
4.71 | 3 ratings
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FU MANCHU Daredevil Album Cover Daredevil
FU MANCHU
4.71 | 3 ratings
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CLUTCH Strange Cousins From the West Album Cover Strange Cousins From the West
CLUTCH
4.50 | 6 ratings
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DOZER Through The Eyes Of Heathens Album Cover Through The Eyes Of Heathens
DOZER
4.56 | 4 ratings
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CLUTCH Pure Rock Fury Album Cover Pure Rock Fury
CLUTCH
4.33 | 8 ratings
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CLUTCH The Elephant Riders Album Cover The Elephant Riders
CLUTCH
4.31 | 9 ratings
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MONSTER MAGNET 4-Way Diablo Album Cover 4-Way Diablo
MONSTER MAGNET
4.38 | 4 ratings
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stoner rock Music Reviews

NINGEN ISU Ningen Shikkaku (No Longer Human)

Album · 1990 · Stoner Rock
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voila_la_scorie
I probably wouldn't have watched the video had it not been for the name, Ningen Isu. I knew the name to be the title of a short story by the famous Japanese mystery and suspense writer, Edogawa Ranpo. The story of a furniture maker who wanted to be part of his creation and feel what it was like to be a chair. The Human Chair. I had opened up the YouTube app to watch a video, and at the top of my suggested video feed was a band called Ningen Isu. I watched the video and was floored. What a sound! Three members and with all the guts of Black Sabbath and Budgie plus a host of other influences throughout the early years of heavy metal delivered with a modern metal sound, and still daring enough to release as a single from their 21st album a song over eight minutes long with a middle section that goes off from the main song and explores that early seventies heavy rock/heavy prog territory that I love. I ordered two CDs. I ordered two more. I ordered eight more. Man, these guys are good!

"Ningen Shikkaku" is the band's debut release from 1990. There was an ep the year before, but it's out of print now and all the songs can be found either re-recorded on this album or on later compilation releases. The song title is from a book by Osamu Dazai and is translated as "No Longer Human" but more directly translated means "Human Disqualification" as in "disqualified as a human being". The band's love of early seventies heavy rock is undeniable. Think "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "Fairies Wear Boots" and "Children of the Grave" by Black Sabbath or "Guts", "Crash Course in Brain Surgery" and "Breadfan" by Budgie and you'll immediately understand where this band is coming from. In fact, the song "Hari no Yama" ("Needle Mountain" or translated on YouTube as "Spiny Mountain in Hell") is a Japanese lyric version of "Breadfan" with a different story but all the speed and bombast of the original that inspired a Metallica cover.

The album opens with an instrumental that is half guitar effects and half a grooving heavy riff before the Spiny Mountain in Hell song charges in. "Ringo no Namida" (Tears of the Apple - The band is from Japan's Aomori Prefecture, which is a major producer of apples) has a really grooving riff and beat. The title track takes us partway through the song before going of into a sparse guitar effects adventure backed with a steady pulsing bass, and then gradually builds until it erupts into a kind of part two with a different riff before finally returning to the original song. "Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita" (Beneath the Full Bloom of the Cherry Blossom Forest" is another mini- epic with a song within a song. It's also the title of their next album. This track has become my favourite simply for how fantastic the music replicates early 1970's heavy rock. The groove, the changes in the music, the drums, the bass! You could say that this is the best album of 1970/71 that was recorded in 1990!

"Arnheim no Izumi" (The Spring of Arnheim) is the one major sidestep on the album as it's a simple clean guitar instrumental that sounds like someone left a present on the doorstep of Atom Heart Mother Pink Floyd but they missed it.

Without describing each of the other tracks in detail, the album is not only early seventies heavy rock in style but the sound is very closely duplicated, an homage to the period. Whether short ("Heavy Metal no Gyakushu", 3:00) or longer than five minutes, most of the songs include unexpected turns in the music, suddenly changing tempo and charging ahead or abruptly changing riffs or slowing down.

The vocal style is also worth mentioning. The two vocalists of Shinji Wajima (guitars) and Ken'ichi Suzuki (bass) don't sing in a usual Japanese rock or heavy metal way (think Loudness or Onmyo-Za). Their style is more like Japanese theater or like two story tellers singing the stories. They are from a part of Japan with a very distinctive dialect and they see no need to conform to what's popular. It gives Ningen Isu's sound something very Japanese and somehow leads itself perfectly to the British heavy rock playing style.

The music of Ningen Isu is described as stoner metal/doom metal/hard rock/progressive rock, but one point worthy of mentioning here though is that this album is not indicative of Ningen Isu's overall sound. Their recent albums feature a more modern metal sound. Check out songs like "Heartless Scat" or "Namahage" on YouTube to get an idea of their 2010's music. Still, heavy, doomy, and man do they know how to play this kind of music!

XYSMA Lotto

Album · 1996 · Stoner Rock
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Triceratopsoil
Very strange album to be coming from a former death/grind band, though not totally unexpected given the trajectory Xysma's career had been taking up to this point. While the prior albums First and Magical and Deluxe being somewhat lighter & trippier variations on Entombed's "death-n-roll" theme, Lotto veers into stoner rock and even almost pop-punk. Think, a more garage version of Monster Magnet or Queens of the Stone Age. The production is intentionally a bit lo-fi, but it works.

The lyrics are goofy ("There's a feel I gotta be behind the wheel, I love my tram") and the vocals are split duty between croaky and (surprisingly good) clean. Overall, the thing that strikes me most about Xysma and especially Lotto, is how lighthearted and fun it all is. Hard not to have a good time listening to this album.

Favourite tracks: We Just Came Inside, New Gel In Town, The Tram

FU MANCHU Daredevil

Album · 1995 · Stoner Rock
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Unitron
If there's any band where the term desert rock perfectly applies, it's Fu Manchu. Their sound is all about driving dune buggies and convertibles on southern dirt roads and beach corners, crankin' your tunes, and just enjoying the summertime ride. No summertime blues here, other than the Blue Cheer distortion.

If you're looking for something more anthemic, California Crossing is the better album, but Daredevil is equally fantastic. It's basically 60's/70's heavy metal, but with the doom replaced with driving around. There's also some subtle space rock influence, in songs like Travel Agent, Sleestak, and Space Farm, but they're used as just nice embellishments to create a fuller sound.

Scott Hill's deadpan vocal delivery is probably the most iconic thing about the band, and this may be their album with the most fuzzy distortion, so it's all at its complimentary best. Like desert atmospheres, fast cars, distortion, and heavy riffs? If so, you can't go wrong here.

MONSTER MAGNET Mindfucker

Album · 2018 · Stoner Rock
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Kingcrimsonprog
Mindfucker is the tenth proper full-length studio album (if you aren’t counting redux albums and compilations). It was released on Napalm Records and released in 2018, 5 years after Last Patrol, which was the longest gap the band have had between albums to date, but the line-up stayed the same as last time.

To my mind, Monster Magnet have never made a bad album. Even their least popular album, 4-Way Diablo has my favourite ever Monster Magnet song (‘Wall Of Fire’) on it. But I do have to say that this album has been out for over half a year now and try as I might, I just can’t get into it.

Now there’s nothing majorly wrong with it per sae. It is well produced. The songs are pleasant. Nothing overstays its welcome. Nothing is bad or stupid. Nothing sounds wrong or doesn’t fit the band’s style. Everything is functional. But that’s it.

Usually, there are major moments to write home about. There are usually lyrics that make me want to tell my friends about. There are usually riffs that I want to air guitar to. There are usually inventive things the band haven’t done before. There’s usually more joy in the performance. Generally, there’s usually…more.

That’s not to say the album is worthless, ‘Brainwashed’ for example is very fun, and sounds like its tapping into the same jangly ’60s influence that ‘Dreaming Of You’ by The Coral is, only faster. ‘Want Some’ has some energy to it and would be your typical Monster Magnet rocker that they have pumping out since the fifth album. The opener and the title track are passable too.

The thing is though, its not enough. Its just an ok album. Perfectly fine. If it was your first Monster Magnet album you’d probably like it. But then when you get the other records, and you hear ‘Kiss Of The Scorpion,’ or ‘See You In Hell’ or ‘Black Balloon’ afterwards, then you’d probably shit a brick! ”Wow, how did that ok band release such amazing material!?” you would find yourself asking.

If you love the band and have to have everything they put out. Sure get it. If you just want to support the band and keep them on the road, get it. If you have limited funds and can only afford to buy the best, then maybe skip this particular entry in the history of the bull god. This band have released some of the best material in the genre ever, and you should start with their better material first.

CLUTCH Book Of Bad Decision

Album · 2018 · Stoner Rock
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Kingcrimsonprog
Clutch at this point can unarguably be seen as something of an ‘old reliable’ at this point. It can be argued that the band just do not release bad albums these days and pretty much if you’ve liked any of the band’s recent albums, you are probably going to like this one.

That being said, they aren’t too repetitive and they do evolve over time and each album has its own identity and each cluster of albums has a certain flavour.

The last two albums; Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare have been two of the bands hardest, most streamlined, direct albums to date and this time the band seem aware that this may not have been what fans of the older albums like Elephant Riders and the self-titled wanted, so this time around instead of battering you over the head with the hardest songs straight away, they open up with some more laid back Stoner Rock song. Its a bit more armchair than thrill-ride for the first three tracks, for those of you who were missing the band being more hazy. Combined with the less polished, looser production style (that hi-hat sound and muddier guitar tone has something in common with their Jam Room album to my ears).

That’s not to say it is a full return to the old days; its more of a balancing act between that, the recent material and also pushing new ground. There are a few tunes on here which retain the breakneck rocking and clear focus of Earthrocker; ‘Weird Times,’ ‘Paper & Strife’ and the Tony Iommi wetdream of ‘A Good Fire’ keep things direct and punchy.

In terms of newer ideas, ‘In Walks Barbarella’ sounds exactly like its most memorable lyric ”weaponised funk” – it is full of full on 1970s Starskey & Hutch sounding funk overtones.

Lyrically, the record is just as fun and interesting as ever, with some brilliant lines, such as in the pre-released ‘How To Shake Hands’ where Neil tells us that when he becomes president, ”First thing I’m gonna do is go for a ride on a UFO, put Jimmi Hendrix on the $20 bill and Bill Hicks on a 5-note,” as well as ‘Hot Bottom Feeder’ which is basically a recipe and when the Neighbours in ‘Paper & Strife’ are reportedly ”clearly raging communists.”

The last few albums have had man-of-the-match awards for drummer JP Gaster and Frontman Neil Fallon, but the real hero of this album is guitarist Tim Sult, who seems to on a mission to display as wide a range of styles of guitar solo as possible. There’s so many different vibes to his leads and solos on the record, from melodic to flashy to effects-laiden and everything in between.

Because Clutch are so consistent, it is really just a matter of personal taste which albums are your favourites. This album is no disappointment. For my tastes, its somewhere in the middle, better than for example Jam Room but not quite as transcendent as say, the last two albums, or the fan favourites like Blast Tyrant, but fairly close and absolutely worth checking out. There are many songs on here I really can’t wait to see live and wouldn’t ever want to make a Clutch playlist or compilation without ever again. If you aren’t sure if the album is for you, check out ‘Ghoul Wrangler’ – the music, production, eccentricity and lyrics should give you a good idea what you are in for.

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