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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Album Review: Sonic Titans Compilation from Stargun Music

To commemorate the launch of their new record label, Stargun Music has recenlty released the digital version of the compilation album “Sonic Titans” featuring twelve of the United Kingdom’s finest rock groups that may not have as yet become ‘known’ commodities. Actually, the fact they’re not yet ‘known’ or ‘discovered’ is a great indicator that the rock and roll contained within “Sonic Titans” will be, as Stargun
describes it on their Facebook page, kickass.

Taking a trip through “Sonic Titans” reveals one truth about the twelve not so disparate acts . . . they are all very talented and artistic, producing exactly the kind of rock and roll music we love to listen to, playing with style and grace, heart and muscle. All included here tend to stomp hard, punch true, and pulverize you with loud, heavy, blistering assaults of bone crushing, eardrum popping stoner metal music, leaving you drained and breathless, exhausted from the encounter, deep down wrung out from the experience, but willing, wanting, and ready for more.

So, brave knights of the realm, don your plates and mail, strap on your shield, hoist your claymore, and prepare to face Stargun Music’s round table champions of stoner metal mayhem from the United Kingdom.

The compilation begins with an up and coming band, XII Boar, and their track “Smokin’ Bones”, which comes from their latest release and kicks off “Sonic Titans” in grand fashion. Vocals deep and rich, loud and clear bass, pulse pounding drums, and a strenuous guitar playing the familiar riffs of stoner metal and blistering, ear bleeding solos. This is an up tempo tune that blows the door wide open for the selections to follow.

Grifter, another three piece band, lets loose with “Good Day For Bad News”, a southern rock tinged, rollicking good time where the vocals are crisp and clean, and the song’s hook is accompanied by loud, raunchy riffs that overlay a powerful  bass and a warm, punchy drum attack.

The next selection comes courtesy of Trippy Wicked & The Cosmic Children of the Knight, titled “Up the Stakes”, a track with an insistently cool riff that accompanies a . . .  well . . . trippy vocal styling that creates a guitar heavy psychedelic groove, layered with solos and change-ups, fuzzy in the corners, clean on the edges, and all around wicked and cool.

Goat Leaf has recently reformed after a long layoff and is back at it with renewed vigor and recharged batteries. On “Sonic Titans” they crank out “Sweet Sorrow”, a song that lays down a measured, powerhouse package of catchy guitar riffs that power the song along on an undercurrent topped off with the band’s equally powerful vocals, intersected by an exquisite interlude where vocals are whispered and the solo dexterously slices through to deliver the payoff. Goat Leaf has mined some of the best sounds of rock with equal parts Chuck Berry, Aerosmith, Buckcherry, and The Black Crowes but with a distinctive stoner sound all their own.

Next up is the excellent “Exelerator” by The Bad Channels, packing heavy, hard hitting fuzz and distortion with excellent vocals, distinctive driving drums, and huge powerful bass. A nugget of sludge is surrounded by the bone crunching guitars of this 4 piece band from Cornwall who pride themselves on their live performances while demonstrably delivering the goods in the studio as well.

Slabdragger throw down with a full frontal assault of sludge and doom on “Murky Fen”, banging, screeching, and wailing away on heavy, impenetrable riffs that lead into a quagmire of pure sludge to close out the song by this gifted three piece band from just south of London in Croydon.

Heavy Planet regulars may be familiar with the next artist, Stubb, who were featured on the site back in February for their wonderful album “S/T”. Stargun Music has included here their excellent track “Hard Hearted Woman”, an intricate and rich mixture of booming drums and big, fuzzy guitars, backed by a huge bass guitar that drives it all forward into a slow and powerful instrumental coda that glides and beckons with clean, clear, crisp renditions from each of the three members.

“Oceans Blue” comes up next, a bluesy, fuzzy number from The Neon Tigers, with a plaintive wailing on vocals and guitar, deliberate and full, driving through in a measured, commanding,  and powerful performance.

Distortion hits you square in the face at the beginning of “The Butcher”, before kicking into a mighty, meaty, full out fuzz assault from Steak, a London stoner band that play the full stoner sound on this track, reminiscent of Dozer, Freedom Hawk, Firestone, Truckfighters, and Cowboys & Aliens . . . not to mention the pearl of inspiration for the high desert sound, Kyuss. Steak brilliantly capture the Stoner sound and play it with exhilaration and brio.

On Steak’s heels come Enos, a stoner, psych band from Brighton, with the excellent “Transform”, a fast, furious, fire-breathing fuzz monster of a song with scorching stoner guitars that are instantly familiar in sound and new in delivery with original songs that run the gamut of stoner rock. Vocals are perfectly matched, drums are insistent and driving, and the bass big and monstrous, matching the gargantuan fuzz bombs from their guitars.

Leaving Stonerville behind and entering the metropolis of Sludgeville, governed here by Dopefight, a band straight out of Hell . . . according to their bio anyway . . . who deliver a sludge and doom filled brawl of a song called “Leviathan’s Burp”, where the guitars are deep, dark, and dreadful, spewing forth a cacophonous mixture of belching bass and raucous, staccato drums.

Topping off “Sonic Titans” are the Sons of Alpha Centauri with “31”, an instrumental song from an instrumental band who have been creating music for their own artistic endeavors since 2001. “31” renders almost nothing conventionally by using only conventional instruments, something difficult to achieve, much less master, but this song is interesting, varied, layered, well structured, and thoughtful throughout. The guitars are large without being overwhelming, the drums numerous and varied.

Stargun Music have an auspicious beginning with this amazing compilation in which they’ve compiled 12 outstanding musical representations of the very best of rock and roll that happens to come from the warrior islands of the United Kingdom, but could very well have been a collaboration of many of what the stoner, sludge, and doom world has to offer from all regions around the globe. All of these bands are still on the frontside of fame and recognition, but all are more than capable of delivering the highest quality rock from the highest quality genres of stoner, doom, and sludge rock and roll.


Enos - "Transform"


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