Friday, March 1, 2013

Stonehenge - Bunch Of Bisons


When asked to give a synopsis on Germany’s contribution to metal most will either talk about the brutal Teutonic thrash scene spearheaded by Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and Holy Moses or will bring up or the influence ze Germans had on modern power metal with bands like Running Wild, Blind Guardian, Helloween or Gamma Ray and some may even bring up the heavy metal exports Accept and Scorpions. However, not many know that the country in question here has a budding Doom and Stoner metal scene as well. As we are talking about stoner here, the German catalogue consists of bands like My Sleeping Karma, Kadavar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Electric Moon and Rotor.

This brings us to the new stoner band on the block. Going by the name Stonehenge which is a 4 piece band the band released their debut album entitled ‘Bunch of Bisons’ early in 2013. German stoner rock is notorious for its grandiose take on the mentioned genre and has gained quite some popularity because of it. Continuing in the same vein Stonehenge unleashes this album upon us. Bunch of Bisons can be described as a conglomeration of heavy fuzzed out stoner rock taking elements from both modern as well as the swamis of the genres ala Kyuss and Fu Manchu along with scanty trips into the psychedelia infused unexplained expanses and bluesy marijuana meanderings in a mirage inducing desert baked by the hot sun. These are meshed together with a rock out and live in the moment attitude of classic rock bands and with touches of krautrock sprinkled throughout all the time backed with the unpredictability and song writing skills of progressive rock bands. After you wrap your head around that, drench this in an organ bathed atmosphere and you have what is collectively known as Stonehenge.

With 7 tracks dragging almost an hour this band do not intend to make an easy listening album and know exactly what type of audience they are looking to target.  Apart from the sporadic vocals this is mainly an instrumental band. The band is at times similar to the fellow country mates Samsara Blues Experiment but instead of the drawn on hazy jams that enveloped the listener with Stonehenge you feel a proclivity towards more structured and thought of songs. While the album opener ‘Arctic Brother’ starts off with a krautrock type intro that lasts over a minute it doesn’t take for the band to get into its groove with the plodding riffs, groovy interludes and solos that can range from soaring to mini dabbles. Though there is the obvious worship at the school of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, especially on the title track, the band is never a rip off with its numerous tempo changes that contribute greatly to the atmosphere and the bands paltry respect for conventional song structures. Even though the band lays nothing back when it comes to the riffs department the changes in tempo and riffs are at times subtle which if one pays close attention to detail can understand how they complement each other. With each track and each passing minute you understand the band lesser and lesser as the band may at times cover you with a barrage of new riffs be it groovy or a soft strum and it times follow the minimalist approach by attempting to create an atmosphere through repetition and continually surprise you with sharp twists and sudden turns. Whatever the band seems to throw towards the listener be it a earthy and melodic phase or an unpredictable tempo change or a dope induced rambling section or even the fuzzed out heavy leads coupled with the swirling guitar solos you can hear the gargantuan amount of talent this band has and while you are gripped by the complex song structures you can sense the bands high level of amusement and frolic. The way the band has meshed together the unusually high amount of variables and still come up with a release that surrounds you and flows with such fluidity for almost 60 minutes is certainly laudatory.

Johannes steals the show with his organ work
It is not unusual for a bands selling point to be the guitar work or powerful vocals, but here the person who takes the cake easily is Johannes, the guy behind the keyboards and organs with his ‘I sold my soul to the devil’ like grandiose performance. His work is what gives the band its unique sound and thrust the bands to greater levels of originality and greatness. And with this, Stonehenge has once again proved why Germany is the hub of stoner music and is constantly putting out bands and albums in an unimaginable stagnant genre of music. ‘Bunch Of Bisons’ is an extremely powerful debut in an extremely over stuffed and uncreative genre, and with a little luck they may gain the much deserved accolades fellow bands like Kadavar has gotten.

SCORE - 83/100

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