As a passionate fan of stoner rock, the problem with writing for The Sleeping Shaman is that I don’t tend to review albums I dislike. As such, when the occasional record really stands out from the crowd as phenomenal, it’s very difficult to stress just how good it is. Stubb’s Cry Of The Ocean is just such a record.
Following on from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut, Cry Of The Ocean utilizes a stripped back, ‘power trio’ approach, evoking a rich heritage of classic bands, from Cream to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, utilising minimal arrangements and prominent basslines that eschew the ineffectual technicality of modern rock and metal. Very rarely does a 21st Century band capture the majestic, elegant danger of the great rock’n’roll bands of the 1970s quite so perfectly.
Although the album is based upon the usual fuzzed out Sabbath worship and riffery of psychedelic rock, upon closer listening, the diversity of Stubb’s influences become apparent. The band’s primary reference points seem to be Black Sabbath and early, Pompeii era Pink Floyd, whilst frontman Jack Dickinson’s superb guitar work expertly melds Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, brewing up a fierce, psychedelic lead style and a penchant for fat, punchy driving riffs that are more reminiscent of the 1990s stoner/desert rock scene on tracks like the standout Devil’s Brew and Sail Forever. Meanwhile, the title track and fingerpicked acoustic melodies of Heartbreaker expose a chilled out, traditionally bluesy side to the band, allowing moments of ecstatic musical beauty to shine through.
Each track has a great ‘jammed out’ feel, without excessively rigid structures, giving space for semi-improvised solos and psychedelic wig outs like the phemonemal, groovy, Funkadelic-influenced conclusion to the album at the end of You’ll Never Know. In this spirit, Cry Of The Oceanseems to follow the mantra of ‘elegance through simplicity’, with pentatonic, bluesy basslines, layered in fuzz, and simple, powerful drum rhythms that demonstrate sticksman Tom Fyfe’s musical playing. Meanwhile, vocals feature a heavy dose of Roger Waters’ English style, with a few Ozzy-isms thrown in for good measure. On tracks like fiery opener Cry Of The Ocean, Part One, the influence of Bruce Dickinson also seems to shine through, showing a commendable diversification of the band’s influences. Meanwhile, bassist Peter Holland plays off the main vocal lines with harmonies that add a touch of class to proceedings.
One measure of a good band is to take easily discernable, classic, recognizable influences from other places and combine them all into a single sound that is coherent and consistent. On these terms, Stubb receive full marks. Admittedly, its not an approach that makes for the most original sound in the world, but for riff-worshipers and psych-addicts, Cry Of The Ocean will make a captivating album nonetheless.
Scribed by: Tal Fineman