Review: Stoned Jesus- The Harvest
Stoned Jesus grew bored of dwelling in the occult, so he grabbed himself a leather cut and a Harley and rode towards Cali to join the Sons of Anarchy. The Harvest is the soundtrack of this parable.
Never the ones to shy away from innovation, the latest LP from Stoned Jesus sees the Ukrainian band move in yet another direction. After the fuzzed-out riff fest heard in First Communion and the exploration of prog-influenced psychedelia in Seven Thunders Roar (an album filled with quiet-loud dynamics plus interplay between acoustic and electric instrumentation), The Harvest showcases at least two major shifts in method. The first is a drastic change of pace; this record features the fastest material of this group’s catalogue. Second, a much simpler approach to songwriting. Please note that simpler in no way signifies inferior – in fact, the shorter songs here are very well crafted and are responsible for making this Stoned Jesus’ most instantly enjoyable album.
Take the first track, for example. From the start, its infectious energy grabs your attention and never lets go. This is textbook “motorcycle music”, very reminiscent of Red Fang’s livelier songs. It would fit perfectly as background music to a traffic pursuit. “Here Come The Robots” indeed, running over the metaphorical gate like the most rabid of coal rollers, leaving nothing but an intoxicating black smoke behind.
Before you’re even able to catch your breath from the bike chase, Act 2 of this parable brings forth a drunken bar brawl – chairs flying and bottles smashing. Another great riff, another memorable song to be found in “Wound”. Fans of Clutch will not be disappointed at all with this track, which is gifted with tremendous staying power. Igor’s vocal performance is a highlight. Besides the distinct accent, his voice possesses an intangible sort of rock star quality as he alternates between melody and grit as the song dictates. The chemistry this band displays is captivating, with both Sid (bass) and Viktor (drums) perfectly following the singer’s leads.
After this bombastic introduction, one might think that this band has left its doom metal roots behind. One could not be more mistaken in their assumptions. “Rituals of the Sun”, or Act 3, if you will, sees the traditional plodding riff with a bluesy tail performed in brilliant fashion. Once again, the synergy between the members of this group is evident as they move forward as a single unit in every segment of this 7-minute song. Doom heads everywhere will appreciate the delicious zippery guitar tone. If you’re following suit on the cinematic analogy, you know the biker anti-hero is legally required to leave the bar fight scene with his romantic interest. This is the “Why don’t we do it in the road?” moment afterwards. Mating rituals, I guess.
Act 4 is “YFS”, the “getting ready for revenge” montage. You know, that scene preceding the final throwdown. The track is defined by its funky groove. Bass and drums pulsate in such a compelling manner that you will have a hard time not stomping your feet or headbanging to the rhythm. The syncopated riffing greatly increases the addictive effect, and it’s performed in a way that reminds me of Black Drawing Chalks‘ last album, No Dust Stuck On You. The last verse builds up the excitement towards the end of the track, which culminates in one of the dopest solos I’ve heard in a long while.
“Silkworm Confessions” is my favorite track – a masterfully built, 9-minute song that somehow encompasses all the strong points of this record. It starts with the energy of The Harvest’s first tracks, but winds down to the slowed, fuzzy goodness as it progresses. The transition between different sections here is seamless, greatly due to the use of bridges, pauses, and another resource that is fairly prominent in this type of music – one I like to call the “stoner waltz”. It consists of playing simple, repetitive drum and bass patterns while the guitar slowly repeats the same melodic phrase. Through repetition, this achieves quite an enthralling effect. Listen to the stoner waltz at the 4:50 mark of this song as background music to this video and tell me it’s not a good fit.
The album closer, “Black Church”, is where this band unfortunately drops the ball. It is the longest cut of the album, clocking in at 14 minutes, but it does not work as well as the previous track. Its individual portions are interesting when picked apart, but the whole piece feels like a puzzle that wasn’t assembled correctly. I, for one, would have liked to see the final segment – which features a sinister organ riff and a great crescendo – either released as the final track alone or adapted to become the song’s main pillar.
Still, this is a minor hindrance in an otherwise solid LP. It shows the band is more comfortable than ever, taking cues from rock n’ roll and even pop structures. Hopefully the shorter songs and the incredible replay value of The Harvest will grant Stoned Jesus the recognition they deserve.
The Harvest was released in February 24, 2015. You can stream the whole album on Bandcamp (see above), as well as buy it digitally on iTunes or in CD format on Big Cartel. Make sure to give them a like on Facebook and follow them on Twitter by stabbing here & here, respectively.