Review: The Stone Eye ‘Fata Morgana’

I make no bones about it, I bore the shit out of kids these days with tales of how awesome the early-to-mid ‘90s was for music, much in the same way that my parents’ generation generated yawns with recounting how the mid-to-late ‘60s were. You’ve heard it all before, but after the Pacific Northwest blew up there was an impressive explosion of creativity and excitement.

The Stone Eye 'Fata Morgana'
The Stone Eye ‘Fata Morgana’ Artwork

Grunge and alternative were very respected for a while before a combination of various tragedies, public fatigue, cultural shift and terrible use of the Eddie Vedder imitation ‘yarl’ vocal style ran it into the ground like a poorly made paper aeroplane. I first heard Philadelphia’s The Stone Eye a little over a year ago and was blown away by a band that managed to channel the energies of what made that period so great, albeit with a contemporary vibe. Pretty jealous too as I wish I had a band like this back then!

Fata Morgana is the band’s latest effort. The opening track A Bit Like This starts with a humorous sample that leads into an undulating rhythmic movement punctuated by weird psychedelic colors, some hand percussion and angular tempo changes. It best illustrates what The Stone Eye is about. The haunting vocal harmonies might remind some of Alice In Chains, the heavier guitar flourishes of Soundgarden, and the overall instrumental attack perhaps like Queens of the Stone Age. But that description can only cover so much ground. The whole delivery is very much the band’s own.

a deeply impressive piece of psych-prog-grunge-art rock…

T.G.R. begins as quirky staccato prog rock but later changes into a spirit alt rock belter, while Oogie-Dew goes into an even weirder prog route, finding some very unexpected song structures. Not My Circus is a lovely acoustic-led campfire rocker if I ever heard one, reminding me of Alice In Chains’ Unplugged session, as well as the lesser-known Seattle band Thread. Other tracks include the punky Sacrilegious High, the elegant and East of the Wall-ish Donora, and the sprawling King Crimson-esque In Lieu Of Roses.

Special kudos needs to be given to the musicianship. Guitarist and vocalist Stephen Burdick ambitiously comes up with guitar parts that vary from deeply melodic to agile. Drummer Jeremiah Bertin is one hell of a destroyer of the drum kit, never content to keep to a single beat. Rounding them out are the orchestral arrangements, keyboards and backing vocals of co-guitarist Christian Meecham as well as the driving bass of Mike Pacca.

Two mild criticisms I have of Fata Morgana are its length and the fact that its quirky kinetic nature can seem overwhelming at times compared to its predecessor, South Of The Sun. But these don’t dull the fact that The Stone Eye have put out a deeply impressive piece of psych-prog-grunge-art rock that strives and succeeds in sounding far more dynamic and unique compared to many of their peers. I doff my cap to these fine Philly gentlemen and greatly look forward to seeing more additions to their already impressive body of work.

Label: Electric Talon Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Rob Walsh