Newcastle-based stoner rock collective Bong have unleashed their latest alb… oh, wait – let me try that again.
With their audaciously titled fourth album ‘Stoner Rock‘, drone druids Bong have opened a dialogue on the usefulness and accuracy of broad genre definitions, and taken an opportunity to own and redefine the term “stoner rock” in their own image. As any writer in this field (or punter for that matter) will know, the term “stoner rock” has come to be used as shorthand for any band that appears to espouse the virtues of weed, often regardless of the kind of music they make. Considering that this covers a pretty wide spectrum of heavy metal, whether derivative of Kyuss and Sleep, classic rock, or Southern boogie, one has to ask, how can a band really be labelled “stoner rock” if they don’t at least make you feel stoned?
Just as the true sense of “doom” (i.e. impending dread) is largely absent from most “doom metal” these days, “stoner rock” as it is popularly known now has as many negative connotations as good, thanks to countless terrible bands whose names are terrible puns. While I would hesitate to label Bong a stoner rock band, their name certainly has some strong genre connotations which is probably why they’ve often been mistakenly lumped in the genre. However, ironically, Bong are also one of the few current bands that can actually make you feel stoned with their music, and with ‘Stoner Rock‘ they’ve come to take ownership of the term with an almighty, two-pronged, THC-induced drone assault on the senses.
‘Stoner Rock‘ is repetitive to the extreme across its sprawling 74 minutes, coaxing you to zone out in the ever growing waves of distortion. Bong take literally one root note and play it out to eternity, without ever veering off their singular, slovenly path. The two tracks here, ‘Polaris’ and ‘Out Of The Aeons’ sound like alternative cuts from Earth’s pioneering drone metal masterpiece Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version, albeit cuts with even fewer mood shifts or diversions, and, taken as a whole piece, it’s certainly as epic in its scope as the holy grail, Sleep’s ‘Dopesmoker‘. But don’t come to ‘Stoner Rock‘ expecting Pike-ian riffs or solos – the album is a relentless onslaught of molten guitars, each distorted strum overlapping and consuming the last, while bass rumbles gently and an eastern melody chimes out in the distance to really nail down the hypnotic vibe. If the pace of ‘Polaris’ is designed to slowly lull you into a fugue state, then ‘Out Of The Aeons’ finishes you off, putting you into a coma, with drums crawling to the point that you kind of forget that the next snare hit is coming. Eventually time just seems to stand still, leaving you utterly mesmerised.
So, will ‘Stoner Rock‘ come to be seen as the pinnacle of the genre? Probably not, unfortunately. But I would argue that ‘Stoner Rock‘ has done more than any so-called stoner album released in the past few years to approximate the sensation of being under the influence, and thus has come the closest to redefining the term. Ultimately people will either have the patience to kick back and enjoy the long slow ride that ‘Stoner Rock‘ takes them on, or they won’t. But one thing’s for certain – Bong are here to weed out all the fake stoners with drones that will test your mettle.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin