Do you know Jane? I don’t. Some people are addicted to her, and apparently, some people have outright faith in her. But if Marylander’s Faith In Jane are any indication, it’s the sort of religion that’s easy to get behind. Since 2012 this trio has been putting out releases of highly energetic and ambitious stoner metal and they show zero signs of slowing down anytime soon. Axe To Oak is their latest release, and when the first track convinces this reviewer that this will probably be one of my favorite releases of the year, I’d say we’re off to a good start.
The first track in question is the ferocious nine-plus minute Whiskey Mountain Breakdown. An appropriately menacing doom metal intro soon gives way to the melodic riffing and soaring vocals of frontman Dan Mize. Someone else could probably make a better comparison, but to my ears he sounds something like a cross between The Guess Who’s Burton Cummings and Graveyard’s Joakim Nilsson, completely nailing that ragged-yet-soulful variety of ‘70s hard rock singers.
With Mize’s guitarwork I am reminded of the superb one-album act Operator Generator and Dead Roots Stirring-era Elder. These are riffs that want to travel to different spaces and at different speeds instead of being too comfortable in a standard dinosaur herd plodding motion. Rounding out the attack is the rhythmic stomp of drummer Alex Llewellyn and bassist Brendan Winston, who carry the upheavals and swerves effortlessly.
dynamic stoner metal played by a well-oiled three-piece that hits on all the right levels…
Things take a somewhat different turn with an emotional surging and haunting take on the classic Irish folk song She Moved Through The Fair, making ominous use of rippling cymbals and distorted bass before launching into Enter Her Light. It follows a somewhat similar trajectory to Whiskey Mountain Breakdown, only there’s far more lead guitar. Mize’s soloing has the right balance of focus and improvisation, and his tone is not picture perfect, but that only serves to benefit the band’s sound. It’s a fiery song that ends with a pleasant spacy zone out guitar part reminiscent of the late Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic fame.
Heavy Drinker is a bluesy song about issues with a particular fermented substance (in case you didn’t know), while How Many Ships Sail In the Forest? is a swinging psych instrumental. If I have one complaint about the record thus far, it’s that I think the production mix might just be slightly lacking in displaying Faith In Jane’s true prowess, but I have to emphasize the word ‘slightly’. Simply put, there are no bad songs on this record.
This album kicks ass. It’s emotionally satisfying, deeply melodic and dynamic stoner metal played by a well-oiled three-piece that hits on all the right levels. Axe To Oak firmly wedges its blade into the bark of a genre that can sometimes get too comfortable with banality.
Scribed by: Rob Walsh