Stoneburner – Life Drawing


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 NR088_STONEBURNER_frontcover_hi-res (1)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!


RingMaster 15/04/2014

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16: Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds

It is your twentieth anniversary as a band so how do you celebrate? In the case of Southern California sludge metal band 16, you release an album of violent, filth caked, and senses consuming might. Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds is an extreme heavyweight mass of growling anger, insidious grooves, and malicious intensity. It is also a mightily impressive oppression of the ear and beyond that ruptures all the senses whilst leaving one drooling like a ravenous animal over a still feisty feast, though in reality we are the prey to this monstrous beast of a release.

Since forming in 1992, 16 has riled up and flattened the emotions through the years gathering acclaim and fans with their serial killer like muscular vehemence, persistently capturing and captivating through their releases and shows. From the original line-up of Bobby Ferry (guitar), Cris Jerue (vocals), and Jason Corley (drums) with bassist Tony Baumeister joining a year later, the band from debut album Curves That Kick of 1993 onwards grew and consumed. The follow-up album Drop Out came out in 1996 to strong critical acclaim with Blaze of Incompetence a year later equally eagerly received. Throughout these years members came and went with all the baggage this and rock n roll can often offer falling on the band yet they continued to grow in might and stature. Zoloft Smile came next recorded on 1999/2000, but released 2002 by which time the band had changed once again. 2004 saw the band call it a day but the original quartet reunited three years later and signed to Relapse Records with whom the excellent  Bridges to Burn came out through in 2009. The album immediately placed them back at the fore of the genre and metal. Another change came in the departure once more of Corley to be replaced by Mateo Pinkerton (ex Buzzov-en, Crom), and now the new Los Angeles based foursome are ready to set metal alight and celebrate the year with the unleashing of the stunning Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds again via Relapse.

There is not one single shaft of light that escapes from the album, the whole release a muggy expanse of masterful bleakness and doom trodden sludge corruption that is glorious. Like a pit of the thickest inescapable quicksand the album sucks one in and devours the life from the senses.  Each track brings down their sonic shutters to enclose and violate with venom, anger, and despair to create an irresistible and infectious depressive world that one is only too willing to succumb to. From the opening Theme From ‘Pillpopper’ the album lays its gnarly caustic palms on the senses and draws  all hope and defiance from them, not that one is putting up much of a fight for this great assault of sound. The opening track itself is a parasitic crawl through the ear that expands into every synapse and corner of the listener to drag them into its slow powerful frame. With scorched guitars, throbbing basslines and grooves that whip around the ear it is an immense start.

The following Parasite badgers and probes with searching riffs and eager grooves, neither are refined or offered with cut clarity but the music is all the better for it, their lack of definition adding to the intense weight and consumption. The vocals of Jerue spray bile and fury with every syllable of his cutting outraged lyrics, their distorted white heat cutting through the slab of sound and mesmeric grooves decisively.

Throughout its length Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds only offers up intrusive and exhilarating experiences. Tracks like the brilliant Her Little ‘Accident’ with its grooves that wantonly swagger through the sprawling intensity, The Sad Clown a song that leaves one punch drunk through its concentrated heavy jabs and grievous intensity, and the dark menacing Broom Pusher a song that prowls with predatory riffs and suggestive intimidating sounds, all leave one deeply satisfied and wasted. Do not mistake the album for simply the crushing overwhelming beast that it is for the band produces some of the most addictive grooves and distinct unsettling melodies and guitar moments possible. They may not be lined with glossy touches and glowing fragrance but they ensure the songs captivate from every angle and with sure quality.

Ending on the mesmeric Only Photographs Remain, a song that infects every cell of its victims with its slow prowl and incisive fired grooves as well as demanding intensity, the album is a commanding and testing chunk of sheer satisfaction. For all the young and powerful bands emerging and have lit up sludge metal recently 16 show they still hold the reins very firmly and impressively.

RingMaster 19/04/2012 Registered & Protected

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