Stoneburner is yet another act amongst the multitude of sludge bands oozing outta Portland, so expect the inevitable comparisons to YOB and Witch Mountain. Oh, and Neurosis, who signed these guys to their label, Neurot. Did I mention that this album’s 66.5 minutes long? It’s giving off a Neurosian vibe already…
It’s not long before we hit a 10-minute epic—Track 2, to be precise. “Caged Bird” starts off softly, the rhythm section coming in quietly ahead of a slowly ringing three-note pattern on guitar. After a couple minutes, the bass takes command (insert bass solo GIF here) as the cymbal crashes get louder…then the whole band erupts into a moody mass of blackened sludge, vocals mixed low enough to sound like just another instrument. The pace pursues a rhythmic, pounding, steady chug for the foreseeable future, and then drops down to low and slow, with some Iommiesque hammer-ons thrown in for good measure. That said, the outro is a little too Meshuggah for my tastes.
A couple songs (and one interlude) later, we’re hit with “Pale New Eyes,” which starts off on a similar note, albeit slightly more spacey (must be the flanger!) Vocals first come in as a harsh whisper, Scott Kelly-style, then gradually turn into a growl as the band casts an ominous shadow underneath, a moment of calm before a barrage of rugged post-sludge riffage paired with outright howling. As the riffs slow down the screams come on stronger, though they’re somewhat overshadowed by the massive guitar pillars that loom large over the rest of this tune.
Grand finale “The Phoenix” stretches nearly 18 minutes, and is even more sad and longing off the bat, really stretching and drawing out its initial notes like some one-man-and-a-guitar-loop group. I even think I hear a cello. This one takes a lot longer to get going, lightly lingering like a recent Earth or USX release, but slowly gathering steam to a caustic piece of post-sludge that would do Mike Scheidt proud. After several seconds of feedback, it almost seems like we’ve switched to another song, like some cinematic jump-cut. Aaaaaand we’re back in much more mellow territory, with space bass setting the pace… This last part really reminds me of Pelican, at least until they end, once again, on a grating doom note.
Ultimately, these guys have at least as much in common with Winter or Windhand as Neurosis or YOB, without sounding exactly like any of the aforementioned. Does that make them post post-sludge?