As I type, one of the great and elusive joys of life is happening…the sun is shining in the UK! Those of you from more temperate parts of the world might not fully understand the implications of this; if you are in Portugal or California you might think ‘what’s the big deal?’. For those of us in the Northwest of England the appearance of the sun and any temperature over 17 degrees is the prompt for wearing shorts (t-shirt is optional), sitting in the garden/local pub beer garden, drinking your body-weight in strong lager, and in my personal case – breaking out the stoner/desert rock!
In such circumstances there are two routes to satisfy the desert rock craving: either Kyuss (obviously) or practically anything on the Small Stone label. Any label that is home to Greenleaf, Lo-Pan, Acid King etc, etc, etc, is worth paying attention to. Over the years they have released some of the very best albums in the genre, so it is with some significant levels of hope and expectation that I wander into the sunburnt world of Shun.
This is Shun’s debut release, and by the sounds of things the band have come together to get their collective fuzz-on as Covid prevented them from doing anything else! The band is made up of scene veterans and touring techs with more love and knowledge baked into their blood than anyone would ever need, and it shows in an album which is more becoming of a band that is three or four releases into its career, than one of first-timers .The songs are strong, the production is good – which when you take into account that the recordings were all done separately and mashed together later, is a minor miracle.
First point of reference: Dozer. If you love Dozer as much as I do then save yourself the trouble of reading any further and proceed directly to Bandcamp! The opening track Run has echoes of everything that makes Dozer great; big riffs, a hummable melody, a slow/quiet section, and a sprint to the finish. All of this is delivered via a classic stoner production job.
Speaking of all things classic-stoner… take a look at the album artwork. I have absolutely no idea what it is, but I know it works, and I know I like it.
The second track, Sleepwalking reminds me of early Queens of the Stone Age. Not a band I listen to very much these days, but the riffs here make me want to go back and check them out. As with QOTSA, the drums here are massive and keep everything rolling along at a comfortable throb.
Shun have reinvigorated my love of good old-fashioned stoner rock – and this album will certainly take a well-earned slot next to some established bedrocks of the genre…
At Most introduces a change of pace and some different guitar sounds. The bass really stands out in this track and the vocal melody from Matt Whitehead is also worthy of note. Bizarrely I kept hearing touches of Mother Love Bone in the melody, which was wholly unexpected, but totally welcome as I bloody love their stuff.
Machina has a riff that moves into Melvins territory (the major label Melvins stuff that everybody pretends not to like, but secretly it’s their favourite), and once again has a really effective vocal line with some subtle double-tracking that works very well.
Undone has dual guitar riffs which intertwine in a really interesting way. The verse sections are also the bluesiest thing on the album – low down and dirty with a great ominous bassline from Jeff Baucom. Did I mention that Matt Whitehead’s vocals are very good as well?…at this point you should just take is for granted that I’m gonna pretty much wax lyrical about the whole thing.
Near Enemy speeds things up and whacks you with a huge rolling groove like the best stoner rock does. A Wooden House initially brings the pace back down and contains maybe the best guitar performances on the album, only for the track to veer off into fast paced riffs and a squealing solo. Heese is the heavy metal track and does a great job of kicking you in the mouth in readiness for the final track Once Again. As soon as I heard the swampy guitar intro to the final track, I knew it was going to sum things up very nicely indeed.
Shun’s debut and self-titled album is a record that has sent me running back to those often-overlooked stoner albums in my frankly out of control collection. It has reminded me how effective this genre can be, how it’s the perfect soundtrack for the beginning of summer and the return of many other things that we know, love, and have missed.
Shun have reinvigorated my love of good old-fashioned stoner rock – and this album will certainly take a well-earned slot next to some established bedrocks of the genre. What have I listened to today?…Welcome To Sky Valley, Through The Eyes Of Heathens, and Shun. Not bad company to keep, hey?
Scribed by: David J McLaren