A compelling destructive seduction, Life Drawing the new album from US metallers Stoneburner, casts no doubts on the suggestion that the Portland quartet is one of the most exciting prospects in aural consumption out there. Creating a scintillating weave of doom and sludge metal with atmospheric ingenuity and melodically sculpted temptation, the band escorts and very often drags a willing imagination across intensive and fiercely enveloping landscapes under tempestuously climactic sonic skies. The album enthrals and intimidates, inciting heavily emotive reactions to its own intimately emotional yet broadly applicable investigations of the “struggle to be a decent person in a world that keeps doing its best to cause you not to be.”
Formed in 2008 by drummer Jesse McKinnon (ex-Buried Blood) and guitarist Jason Depew (Buried At Sea), who had played together in many incarnations previously, and guitarist Elijah Boland, Stoneburner unleashed their first forage of the senses with the demo V.L.A. the following year. The band was soon making an impacting presence and noise within the Oregon underground scene, a proposition taken to greater attention and strength by the release of debut album Sickness Will Pass in 2012 as well as over the years the band’s acclaimed live performances which have seen them play with the likes of Yob, Sleep, EYEHATEGOD, Neurosis, Buzzov-en, Weedeater, Saint Vitus, Watain, Tragedy, Noothgrush, Graves At Sea, Lord Dying, Drop Dead, Whitehorse, Wind Hand, Bastard Noise and many more. Completed by bassist Damon Kelly (also Heathen Shrine and the son of Scott Kelly of Neurosis/ Shrinebuilder fame), Stoneburner now uncages their latest infestation of the senses and psyche, an encounter which leaves the listener simultaneously suffocated and invigorated.
Opening track Some Can smothers ears and senses from its first breath, a sonic breeze pulling in a thick and thuggishly textured collapse of antagonistic rhythms and prowling lumbering riffery. The track continues to slowly ravage air and recipient until the entrance of the vocals sparks a spurt of adrenaline and urgency to the persistently uncomfortable and demanding intent of the song. A masterful groove swings its bait openly and irresistibly across the dark bulk of the track whilst McKinnon offers slaps which simply send the body reeling and the appetite into greedier hunger. It is a dramatic and absorbing start where everything from the rapacious rhythms and carnivorous bass tone to the flesh scorching sonic designs of the guitars and the exhaustive vocals of Kelly, or possibly McKinnon with both providing raw delivery across the release, outstanding alone and viciously majestic united.
The noir cloaked almost sinister and wholly magnetic initial coaxing of the following Caged Bird instantly has thoughts and attention gripped tighter. It is an imposingly provocative lure with the darkest irresistible shades of temptation, its destination a broad hint which you cannot anticipate with the piece at times offering the garage punk realms of say The Cramps as a possibility or the ravenous scenery of a Mastodon as an option to give just two examples. Where it does lead is into a corrosive tempest of sonic abrasion and virulent hostility wrapped in a doom drenched maelstrom of spite and malevolence. As its predecessor, the track finds a spark which injects an eager rabidity and raucous energy into the heart of the pestilential stalking and further on a bewitching melodic elegance as the song evolves and twists within its tortured stance.
The beautiful Drift brings a mellow respite next, the short acoustic guitar sculpted instrumental a safe peace before the savage tsunami of An Apology To A Friend In Need falls upon the ears. The track merges a melodic acidity and venomous intensity into a thunderously eventful and unpredictable adventure, rhythms and bass courting the uncompromising vocals for a merciless predation whilst the guitars seduce and carve up senses and imagination with a skill and ingenious ideation that is impossible not to be fully consumed and submissive for. The song is a beauty and the beast endeavour which is already in control of the passions before its turbulent mid-point.
Both the atmospherically enthralling Pale New Eyes and the Giver Of Birth immerse the listener into soundscapes which leave no room for outside interference. The first exploring a progressive essence to its scenic exploration before walking into a mouthwatering storm of sonic violation and rhythmic punishment, an oppressive brutality which only serves to ignite the imagination and exploit further. It is a riveting canvas of guitar invention and vocal ravishment around a frame of barbarous rhythms which ensures the short instrumental beauty of its successor with a haunting ambience is a psyche soothing godsend.
The next up Done is quite mesmeric and sensational, taking best song honours with ease despite the triumphs around it. Opening on a cinematic and again sinister entanglement for the imagination, it develops an eager stroll which continues to invite dark visions of a more filmic nature before striding through an intensive sludge fuelled narrative and infectiously incendiary drama in sound before the abrasing vocals add their strangled syllables and malice coated words. It is a brilliant tease and masterful persuasion and the perfect way to enter the immensely dangerous sonic world of Stone burner for newcomers.
You Are The Worst provides a colossal towering adventure to lose yourself within, every soar and fall within its antagonistic passage voraciously damaging and unrelentingly absorbing to almost match the plateau of the previous track. It turns into the most savage and bruising incitement on the album and in many ways the most satisfying before the closing epic persuasion of The Phoenix unveils its hypnotic journey. As good as eighteen minutes in length, the song emerges from a tightly enveloping almost claustrophobic birth within deep atmospheric waters. The song floats towards a crystalline light, heading up to a beckoning surface of escape and hope, its warmth realised by sultry guitar craft and caressing melodies. Initially intangible, malevolent intensity is also worming its way into the hues of the adventure, niggling away until erupting and soaking every twist and turn to become an inescapable cloud. It is a glorious technically impressive and narratively thrilling journey which never relaxes as the battle between light and dark rages within its imposing confines until the very end.
Life Drawing is a must for all with a keen appetite for masterful sludge and doom premises and those with a hunger for aggressive progressive explorations. It is not an easy listen at times but one of the most rewarding likely to be heard this year.
Life Drawing is available through Neurot Recordings now!
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