Interesting, original stoner-inflected rock is the name of the game with Croatian quartet Stonebride. ‘Summon The Waves’, their second release, is aptly named as the music of Stonebride ebbs and flows like a great sea. Their sound touches on aspects of Soundgarden circa ‘Louder Than Love’, Tool circa ‘Aenema’, Kyuss circa ‘Sky Valley’, and also hints strongly at a Doors influence when they open things out into wider territory, but still manages to sound somehow only tangentially related to those bands. It really is refreshing to hear a band coming, ostensibly, from the sphere of ‘stoner-rock’ that sounds so damned original. Stonebride’s influences may be partially visible above their surface, but they are NOT in thrall to them.
Intro, ‘The Phoenix’, almost wrong foots the listener into expecting something a little more ‘meat and potatoes’ from Stonebride, being as it is, merely a hefty Sabbath-esque guitar lick, behind which a choir of voices slowly emerges to augment the ominous chords before the whole thing is cut dead by album opener proper ‘Shadows Like Snakes’, a track which twists, turns and writhes like it’s very namesake. The opening couple of minutes of ‘Shadows Like Snakes’ sound as though Stonebride really are channelling the spirits of Soundgarden from the time of their ‘Louder Than Love’ opus, except a shade darker and a touch more Alice In Chains in the vocal harmonies. The track crashes in and lumbers just like ‘Gun’ until a choppy, blues-prog riddled breakdown pushes things into a more hypnotic direction – wide canyons of throbbing bass and subtly motorik drumming, whilst guitarist Tjesimir shows a deft and subtle touch, soloing cleanly over the deep bedrock, in a way that brings to mind ‘Whitewater’ from Kyuss’ ‘Welcome To Sky Valley’ being played by Can.
The fluidity of the whole band, and Tjesimir in particular, is what raises Stonebride above so many other bands with similar influences – they make it all feel so natural and almost second-nature. Tjesmir’s solos on ‘Shadows like Snakes’, ‘Mute Heart Rivers’ and ‘Moonrider’ are tasteful, sinewy and incandescent – in particular his explosive run on ‘Moonrider’ is sublime – and his playful Eastern figures on epic closer ‘Silver Ship’ would make Robbie Krieger proud.
Aside from the just over a minute and a half intro, none of the other five songs herein are particularly short, yet not ONE of them outstays their welcome. ‘Moonrider’ enthralls for nearly ten minutes, switching from an ebbing Doors-y groove to a full-on rollin’ and tumblin’ bluesy riff-fest, with vocalist Krnfa crying out like a lighter Franz Treichler, of The Young Gods, and the whole band crashing into a lurching end-section that for all the world reminds me of a slow-motion Helmet riff, topped by a STELLAR solo from Tjesimir.
As for the rest, I could enthuse for hours about ‘Crimson Tongue’ with its choppy hi-hats and twinkling guitars, and the majestically hypnotic ‘Mute Heart Rivers’ – hats off to drummer Steps and bassist Lenny for their almost psychic level of interplay on this li’l number, complimenting one another’s playing perfectly – on which Krnfa’s powerfully clear voice really lets rip over a Tool-like swaying riff, but it’s the near twenty minute long album closer ‘Silver Ship’ that really demands attention.
From an opening that melds the feel of Tool’s ‘Third Eye’ and The Doors epic ‘The End’, Stonebride let the tension mount at their own pace. Krnfa’s subtly double-tracked vocal evoking the crooning of Franz Treichler and Jim Morrison, with the hystrionic edge of the Melvins Buzz Osborne, and the rhythm section locked in and chiming out like Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius of Om. This is deeply hypnotic, psychedelic and shamanistic stuff. Tjesimir keeps the aggressive guitar back for a good three quarters of the track, playing his Arabic figures and liquiescent lead line clean until he just can’t hold it back anymore and the whole track erupts into a molten mix of frantic drumming, thrumming bass and layers of droning, keening vocals. Stonebride dial it back again after this ejaculation and take it right down to bass and drums again before making a leap for the end with a juddering, writhing slightly discordant riff that pulses and throbs urgently over a chiming cymbal-driven beat and some tasty wah-wah abuse. Krnfa uleashes one final multi-tracked cry and then it’s goodbye from Stonebride.
The more I listen to ‘Summon the Waves’, the more I get out of it. Stonebride have it in them to be a world-class act, and it really wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if their next release was an absolute MONSTER. Pay attention folks, ‘Summon the Waves’ MORE than warrants it.
Geography may be against them, but talent will out and, hopefully, this is a band you’ll be hearing a lot more from.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson