Stoner Rock

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CLUTCH Psychic Warfare Album Cover Psychic Warfare
CLUTCH
4.81 | 12 ratings
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CLUTCH Blast Tyrant Album Cover Blast Tyrant
CLUTCH
4.74 | 11 ratings
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CLUTCH Robot Hive / Exodus Album Cover Robot Hive / Exodus
CLUTCH
4.69 | 9 ratings
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CLUTCH Earth Rocker Album Cover Earth Rocker
CLUTCH
4.53 | 12 ratings
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SPIRITUAL BEGGARS Earth Blues Album Cover Earth Blues
SPIRITUAL BEGGARS
4.55 | 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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FU MANCHU California Crossing Album Cover California Crossing
FU MANCHU
4.50 | 5 ratings
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FU MANCHU Daredevil Album Cover Daredevil
FU MANCHU
4.50 | 5 ratings
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FU MANCHU In Search Of... Album Cover In Search Of...
FU MANCHU
4.44 | 5 ratings
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CLUTCH Strange Cousins From the West Album Cover Strange Cousins From the West
CLUTCH
4.33 | 10 ratings
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CLUTCH From Beale Street to Oblivion Album Cover From Beale Street to Oblivion
CLUTCH
4.26 | 11 ratings
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CLUTCH Pure Rock Fury Album Cover Pure Rock Fury
CLUTCH
4.25 | 12 ratings
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Welcome to the Machine
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stoner rock Music Reviews

BLIND ILLUSION Demon Master

Album · 2010 · Stoner Rock
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UMUR
"Demon Master" is the second full-length studio album by US, San Francisco based thrash metal/hard rock/heavy metal act Blind Illusion. The album was independently released in July 2010. Blind Illusion was formed in 1979 and although it took until 1988 before the band were able to release their debut full-length studio album "The Sane Asylum", they are widely recognised as an important and influential San Francisco thrash metal act. Blind Illusion weren´t able to secure a new label deal after the release of "The Sane Asylum", and after releasing the 1989 "Psychodelic Symphony" demo, they slowly faded away and finally disbanded in 1992.

It wasn´t completely over for lead vocalist/guitarist Marc Biedermann though, and after a long break he opted to reform Blind Illusion in 2009. On "Demon Master" he is joined by drummer Robert Nystrom and bassist Danny Harcourt, making Blind Illusion a trio on the album.

Stylistically "Demon Master" don´t exactly pick up where "The Sane Asylum" took off. There are zero thrash metal riffs and rhythms on "Demon Master" and instead it´s a bluesy hard rock/heavy metal album with Biedermann singing instead of shouting/snarling like he did on "The Sane Asylum". So this probably came as a big surprise to the original fans of the band, who had been waiting for a follow-up album for 22 years. But changes aren´t always bad new, and Blind Illusion actually pull off playing this new hard rock/heavy metal style pretty well. Biedermann is still an excellent guitarist and his new rhythm section keep things organic, energetic, and powerful. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Biedermann can actually sing too, so all in all "Demon Master" is a pretty good quality hard rock/heavy metal release and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating isn´t all wrong.

MONKEY3 Welcome to the Machine

Album · 2024 · Stoner Rock
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siLLy puPPy
MONKEY3 has navigated the seven seas of psych and back since its formation in Lausanne, Switzerland as far back as 2001 and has continued to ramp up its space odyssey ever since with a series of albums that incrementally progress the band into farther reaches of the known universe and going where no band has ever gone before. This all instrumental project that began as nothing more as a jam band has seen three of its members: Walter (drums), Jalil (bass) and Boris (guitar) stick with the band all the way from the start with dB (keys and sounds) joining in 2004 for the EP “Monkey III” and two years before the band’s first full-length debut “39 Laps” (unless you count the supposedly live self-titled album which came before).

Given that much time in the studio together, musical visions either separate you over time or allow you to coalesce into an even tighter musical beast. MONKEY3 chose the latter and over the course of the last several albums has focused less on the heavy psych jamming elements and embodied a more dynamic and dramatic palette of progressive rock diversity. It’s been five years since 2019’s “Sphere” and the simian psych rockers are back with their latest slab of proggy space rock in the form of WELCOME TO THE MACHINE, a clear salute to the enigmatic Pink Floyd who the band certainly pays a few tributes to in the course of this album of five tracks that generate a playing time of almost 47 minutes with the ultimate tribute exploding into full tribute mode on the closing “Collapse.”

Imbued with all the proper anti-gravitational atmospheric lift offs, WELCOME TO THE MACHINE doesn’t just allow your escape into the ethereal but also features hefty stoner rock workouts with stellar guitar, bass and drum bravado that perfectly navigate the pacifying ambience with grace. The band beautifully meanderings through space rock with beautiful contrapuntal elements including echoey reverb, soaring atmospheric backdrops, lallygagging percussive drive and then contrasts it all with intermittent bursts of heavy stoner rock that allow the guitar, bass and drum to go apeshit (or is that monkeyshit?). The bluesy melodic constructs hearken to the 70s era of psychedelic space rock and of course moments of Pink Floyd influenced nods are scattered throughout, however when it comes right down to it, MONKEY3 has found its own unique little niche which doesn’t really evoke any band, psychedelic, stoner rock or otherwise.

A very melodic album that contrasts with both pacifying and abrasive tones and timbres. The guitar tones in particular are heavily distorted more like a grunge band of the 90s but the soaring lead guitar solos which are set somewhat low in the mix evoke the mighty Pink Floyd at their peak such as any track on the “Animals” classic album. While every track is distinct perhaps the most satisfying on the entire is the beautiful “Kali Yuga” which in musical notes narrates the Hindu galactic calendar period that we are exiting as we transition into the Satya yuga, a time when the wicked nature of humankind will be followed by a golden age. This particular track is the band at its best with beautiful guitar tones oscillating from arpeggios and a multi-layered contrapuntal approach that balances dynamics as perfectly as a skilled yogi. The track demonstrates the patience one must have to navigate larger systems through its nonchalant incremental procession which is about as satisfying for progressive space rock it gets.

While “Rackman” turns up the volume once again with a heavy stoner rock bombast, “Collapse” borrows a trick or two from classic Pink Floyd albums and offers the ultimate tribute to the band with a medley of various guitar riffs, drum rolls and melodies including the classic WELCOME TO THE MACHINE namesake. Overall this sixth album from these Swiss space rockers is extremely intelligently designed with five distinct tracks that evoke their own series of moods and spacey vibes with the ultimate closing tribute to the greatest space rockers of all in a beautifully composed mix of some of the most memorable moments of Pink Floyd. Showing no sign of burning out MONKEY3 sounds like it’s only getting started with a nice mix of stoner rock verging on metal with Ozric Tentacle styled synthesized trippiness. A beautiful album and one of the best progressive space rock bands of the modern era.

WHALES AT THE CROSSROADS Sea Turns to Red

Album · 2017 · Stoner Rock
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siLLy puPPy
WHALES AT THE CROSSROADS is a heavy stoner rock band from the town of Epinal, France. The band that consists of Nico (guitar, vocals), Mitch (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass) and Lieven (drums) was formed in 2015 and features members of various other bands such as The Early Grave, Diego Pallavas, Doomsisters, Major Cooper, Steptocok and Toxic Kiss.

So far this band has released only this one EP in 2017 titled SEA TURNS TO RED. The EP features only five tracks that totals a running time of just shy of 18 minutes. No physical copies have been pressed yet and the only way to find this band is on its Bandcamp site where it labels itself as an alternative heavy stoner rock band.

Honestly this reminds me a lot of early Soundgarden. Vocalist Nico sounds a lot like Chris Cornell on the heavier parts of the EP. On the stoner doom metal parts not so much. There is also a slight sludge metal thing going on here to but the band never really ventures into sludge metal extremes. This is the kind of release that will have many arguing weather its hard rock or metal since it takes heavy rock to its limits but some of it does sound just heavy enough to qualify as stoner metal however most of it is heavy rock as heard in bands like Clutch or Queens of the Stone Age.

You couldn’t have a doomy stoner vibe without some of the riffs sounding like Black Sabbath and there are moments such as towards the end of “You Rock Sysiphus” that do evoke early Sabbath, especially the first album. The production is raw but good enough that it suits this raw sound much like Soundgarden’s earliest albums such as “Ultamega OK” and “Louder Than Love” and yes it does evoke the spirt of grunge at times.

The guitarist ekes out some interesting tones and feedback fuzz which makes some good stoner vibes. Overall this is decent little release that sounds better and is more original than a lot of stoner rock / metal that’s out there these days. The tracks differentiate enough to be of interest while the overall band sound remains constant. Slower passages mixed with heavy roughness makes for a compelling classic early 90s sounding album. Very retro in that respect but done quite well. Another band i wish would continue to release albums since it shows promise.

CLUTCH Sunrise On Slaughter Beach

Album · 2022 · Stoner Rock
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Kingcrimsonprog
Clutch are one of the most consistent and hard working bands in rock and roll. The Maryland Stoner Rock outfit released their thirteenth full-length studio album, Sunrise On Slaughter Beach, in 2022. It was produced by Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Royal Blood, Pixies) and released on the band’s own Weathermaker Music.

I think its fair to say Clutch have never made a bad album, and although some albums are more popular than others, if you like Clutch you are probably in for the long haul, enjoying something off of each of their varied but always distinctly Clutch-sounding albums. Sunrise On Slaughter Beach is a great album. I mean, of course it is, it’s a Clutch album, that almost goes without saying, you know you are going to get a couple of songs you’ll remember for the rest of your life, a load of clever quirky memorable lyrics, some cool guitar/bass lines that get stuck in your head for weeks and exceptional drumming beyond all of their peers… but even for a Clutch album, and the inherent high standards that implies, this is a strong outing.

The first two singles from the record, “Red Alert (Boss Metal Zone)” and “We Strive For Excellence” were so ridiculously strong, so profoundly catchy, so superbly satisfying and intensely memorable that I was convinced this would be in the top their of their discography before it was even released. For weeks (or is it months, my memory is failing) I’ve been listening to those songs multiple times daily, and got into a ritual of not getting out of bed until I’d heard them. With songs this strong, I was guaranteed to love the album, and sort of envisioned another Earth Rocker / Psychic Warfare style all killer, no filler, heads down, hyper focused hard rocking affair.

Their previous album, The Book Of Bad Decisions, was also excellent, but if there was one criticism to be laid at it, this would be that it was perhaps a bit too long and one or two songs could be cut to make it more streamlined. ‘Slaughter Beach seems aware of this, and clocks in at barely half an hour long, with songs that are concise, succinct and have not an ounce of fat on them. Contrary to my initial expectations however, it isn’t the heads don’t pedal to the metal rager I thought it would be, but rather is arguably their most diverse and exploratory album in a decade and a half, although crucially, having learned the lessons from their focused period, this is not bloated, self indulgent or superfluous experimentation the way some critics of the second halves of their longer records might previously have accused them of, the album is a best of both worlds, allowing the band to stretch their wings and broaden their horizons without sacrificing the flow of the album, the efficiency of the song writing or the patience of the more sober listeners. There are some really cool touches, such as soul singer backing vocals, theremin, vibraphone. However, its still just half an hour of the utmost, cleverly crafted, high-quality bangers, rather than the loosey-goosey jamming of say, Jam Room.

There are only nine songs, so its hard to sit here and pick out highlights, as there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t want to hear live or have in a compilation (in fact, on a recent livestream at time of writing, they played every single song from it live, amongst classics from various eras of the band’s history, and it all fit so well), but if forced to pick some stand-out tracks to recommend to new commers, the first three singles are all utterly essential for all new Clutch fans forevermore. A clever blade-runner and pandemic-conspiracy inspired utter fist pumping banger, a truly triumphant tale of young kids building a bike ramp that sounds like the very best moments of the first three QOTSA albums filtered through Fu Manchu’s most catchy moments and Pure Rock Fury’s personality (the bass groove when the cowbell kicks in makes me grin like a schoolboy every time), and a groovey as hell Sabbathy stoner anthem title-track that educated me about horse-shoe crabs having blue blood overused by the pharmaceutical industry to the point of threatening extinction on the species.

Tales of D&D twelve-sided die and chaotic evil, or being accosted in space by an unknown menace to rumbling drums and expansive sounds almost match this for quality, as do ghost and witchcraft stories that are more moody and diverse, but the other real highlight for me is the enormously catchy “Three Golden Horns” with its almost Thin-Lizzy-esque lyrical story telling and super catchy “Jazz Music Corrupts The Youth” chorus. The album ends on a more sombre note, about previous heroes/legends being cast aside as criminals/tyrants by future generations that seems to subtly reference recent turning in political tides towards previously lauded forefathers who are now viewed less favourably due to their problematic deeds, with an almost folky slow drum beat and ghostly guitar lines that sound like the emotional climax of a movie.

This is an album I’ve been listening to on repeat, listening to every day since its release at time of writing, and which I will absolutely rinse for the next few years, if not forever. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Just put it on, get into the vibe, and repeat until in love with it. More highly recommended than water or oxygen!

CLUTCH The Elephant Riders

Album · 1998 · Stoner Rock
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UMUR
"The Elephant Riders" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US hard/stoner rock act Clutch. The album was released through Columbia Records in April 1998. It´s the successor to the eponymously titled album from 1995. While Clutch started out as a hardcore band, and their debut album "Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes, and Undeniable Truths (1993)" still featured quite a few hardcore traits, by the time of the eponymously titled 1995 album, Clutch had changed their style towards a hard rock/stoner rock sound.

That style is more or less continued on "The Elephant Riders". Hard rocking riffs and organic rhythms, and Neil Fallon´s commanding powerful voice on top. The band experiment a little with the use of trombone on "Muchas Veces" and "Crackerjack" (...and to great effect on especially the latter), but most of the tracks are relatively simple vers/chorus structured blues based hard rockers. Some more memorable than others, but all tracks are well written and entertaining while they play.

"The Elephant Riders" features a warm, organic, and well sounding production job, which suits the material well. Upon conclusion it´s a quality release in most departments, but the songwriting could have been more memorable, as I don´t remember that many tracks when the album has finished playing. Of course it helps the more spins it gets, but to truly shine all tracks on an album in this style should in my book be more or less instantly memorable, and about half of the 10 tracks on the 51:05 minutes long album aren´t. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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