Ripple Music’s flagship vinyl series rolls on – I can’t believe that we’re at instalment 9 already. Is it going to stop at ten, like its predecessor The Second Coming Of Heavy, or will it just run and run? I should probably have researched that before I started typing, but let’s gloss over my lack of preparation and concentrate on what we have now.
Turned To Stone has taken a few twists and turns along its various instalments. Instalments 2 and 3 were sort of two-legged concept albums and then there was a run where the series showcased two bands from a particular country. This time we’ve got Ritual Earth from Philadelphia and Kazak from Italy, so it’s up to you to figure out what connects them. I’m going to go out on a limb and tag as two bands that are putting their own unusual twist on heavy rock.
First up is Ritual Earth and their sound is hard to pin down – the press blurb describes them as ‘atmospheric doom masters’, which isn’t completely off the wall, but equally isn’t quite right for me. Ritual Earth are plenty heavy, but not particularly doomy to my ears. There’s more focus on chords relative to riffs (although there are plenty of riffs) and the songs meander in a variety of interesting directions. Tags aside (and altogether more importantly), singer George Chamberlin has a perfect classic rock voice (it kept making me think of Jack Rune from Bone Church) and the production on their side is lush – oodles of fuzz and gnarly guitar tone, but everything clearly differentiated and present.
Opener In The Wake is the pick of their tunes for me. Kicking off with a big fuzzy riff that sounds naggingly familiar, the track wanders off into a succession of quiet/loud sections that never quite seem to repeat themselves. The chorus is awesome, there are oodles of head-nodding guitar, and even the mellow, slightly jazzy bits are cool. Through The Interstellar Medium is a solid track but always feels like a bit of a comedown after such a strong opener. The first half is fairly standard crunchy guitar and vocals before they stretch out to some more adventurous territory in the second half. It’s all good, but it doesn’t quite take off.
oodles of head-nodding guitar…
Ritual Earth’s side ends with their longest track Ominous Aurorae, clocking in at just over eight minutes. As with the opener, it’s a really good track that sounds both familiar but has enough unique touches to keep it interesting. There’s an insistent groove throughout, but the structure and occasional angular chords really take things to another level. To conclude: definitely a band to keep an eye out for.
As we always do on these reviews, at the halfway point we’re going to pause the MP3 and do an imaginary flip of the record, put the kettle on, and then get round to Kazak. Now, Kazak are a duo from the burgeoning Italian heavy rock scene and, while it suffers a little in comparison with Ritual Earth in terms of production (it all sounds a bit muffled and murky), their side of the split is equally worth listening to.
I would definitely think of Kazak as a stoner rock band, but not in the way that I’d usually mean it. As with Ritual Earth, they’re heavy but have their own unique approach. Throughout their four tracks, they focus on droning, hypnotic grooves, with chanted vocals that remind me of OM, Naam, and a whole bunch of other bands I can’t remember who are named after the sort of noises you might make while doing yoga.
Kazak gently layer keys over the top and take you off on a long psychedelic journey…
They kick off with Geometrical Alchemy which sets the scene for what’s to come. Long sections of groovy, hypnotic riffing which finally break out into muted instrumental sections that are, by turns, threatening and soothing. Haze is centred around a riff that, in other hands, I can imagine being a swinging, snarling doom monstrosity, but Kazak gently layer keys over the top and take you off on a long psychedelic journey to somewhere very different.
Sunset Symphony features a simple but awesome interplay between metronomic drumming and a riff so straight-forward I could play it. Again, Kazak gradually add layers for another atmospheric track. Their final tune, The 25th Hour, is similar – a sweet riff with an irresistible groove that serves as the foundation for another cosmic journey. It’s all very well done, but also all sounds very polite – my one criticism is that I really REALLY wanted Kazak to just let rip and blow the amps. That’s not the vibe they’re aiming at and that’s fine, but it seems that a band with so many awesome riffs should rate more highly on the patented RAWK-o-meter.
Anyway, minor quibble aside, this is definitely one of the strongest instalments in the Turned To Stone series and I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on both bands in the future.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc