Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Small Stone Records Double Take

What better way to brag up one of the most consistent labels in the game by killing two records with one small stone. Featured in this episode just so happen to be two records I received in the mail just the other day and have been yammering about for a while.

Take 1:
Jeremy Irons & The Ratgang Malibus - Spirit Knife

This album has been perhaps the most interesting record I've listened to all year. I'll be honest and say when I first listened I must not have been fully engaged as I wasn't bragging it up until months later after giving it a random spin. As with every single release on the Small Stone roster the expectation level is high and the return on those expectations is usually met. With the Ratgang Malibus, expectations were superseded with a fondness not often felt with a new music release.

For those that listen to music fanatically, like me, you may start to get a bit jaded over time and your listening preference tends to seek out tunes that are off the beaten path, yet still have that familiar buzz within the neighborhood of your normal taste. Spirit Knife is exactly that. I can confidently say that nothing quite comes as close to nailing its own genre with my name on it as does this release.

Side A wastes no time in lassoing your soul with the opening track, “Fog by the Steep.” Slowly building and completely haunting the living hell out of me in exciting fashion, the calm psychedelic intro breaks ferociously into a jagged vocal scream searing straight to your core. The intense storm of foggy riffs encapsulate a sense of bewilderment amongst its passionate cries. I could, and have played this song over and over as its 10 minute duration keeps you on the edge of your earbuds the entire time. As the A side continues, the classic Zeppelin-esque vibe ignites like 1970’s grade leaded octane. Misty fuzz laden grooves swirl to a tribal rhythm as Karl Apelmo echoes a mesmerizing harmony. Elements of classic, stoner and psychedelic rock, present themselves on any given moment throughout, ranging from precision solos, to hallucinogenic moans of psychotic grandeur, to meditative lullabies.

Side B continues the spirit of mystical enchantment with more wondrous wailing. Starting off similar to the kickoff of side A, “Clang's” high energy force palpitates like a stampeding buffalo's heart throbs in an Indian chief's hands. Ritualistic fuzz steams into the spirit world of riff rock. “Point Growth” tans the album's hide with a dreamy tempo taking the trail of tears towards the closing title track. “Spirit Knife” slits the spiritual vein and transfuses its cerebral prowess unto the aural canal.

It may have taken a few spins to set in but JIRM left a lasting impression on me taking it straight to the top of the Small Stone throne. And I'll say it again. Unless you're living under a large one, Small Stone is on your radar and they have been annihilating the competition with consistently great releases thus far in 2014. I quickly grabbed the dark blue transparent 180g vinyl LP as soon as I saw it available and it's quickly becoming one of my most played albums on the turntable. I'm not gonna be one of those guys and say "it sounds better on vinyl" but I will say "it's a great sound for vinyl" as some albums just are. Well worth your money for a fantastic sound, sexy look and dynamite artwork.

Take 2:
The Socks – S/T

One of Small Stone’s newest members The Socks released their Small Stone self-titled debut on March 18, 2014. That's right folks, “The Socks”. As I read in an early review, and agree to an extent, The Socks isn't the most enticing band name. Or you can look at it as it is in fact the MOST questionably genius band name? Who knows, it screams for sarcastic comparisons and puns but the main thing is they are on a trusted label and the music rhymes with socks (it ROCKS).

First off, we can ignore it but how about that cover artwork? What the fuck is that? We can't really let it go. It really stares you down. I see beaks and feathers, roots and leaves, and those goddamn colors are magnificent. The cover art is a fantastic display that overcomes the mediocre title to say the least.

The Socks represent a New Wave of Retro Heavy Metal. That's right, why don't we just start it now? NWORHM? Maybe it's already out there, maybe we can just leave it at a joke? But there are enough bands out there successfully producing that throwback sound while utilizing the modern day tools that increase the flavor to warrant some kind of cult tag. The Socks are no joke; the record possesses 70's inspired hooks laced with the almighty organ, and vocals that beg for attention.

One can't help but make comparisons to NWORHM giants Graveyard and late era Witchcraft pop with the overall tone and style. Adding a bit of flair to the attire The Socks combine not only the flooded retro sensibility but craft a trippy, yet completely competent and seriously invigorating display of rock and roll. Chalk full of not only guitar solos galore, but bits of bluesy fuzz-o-rama. Hints of psychedelia add warmth and comfort, not unlike a great pair of socks…

The album is a full course meal by all means. Guitars, bass, drums, organ, and superb vocals combine in harmony throughout each and every track. At this stage it's hard to tell whom the Small Stone band of the year is (Well I voted JIRM already), but The Socks are in the running. Either way you look at it The Socks will..... wait for it...... KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF!!!!

You can stream both The Socks, JIRM and most all the other releases up at the Small Stone bandcamp page and hurry up if you want to grab a vinyl edition. I can attest they do a great job and the records look sexy as fuck!

-The Huntsman

Listen and/or purchase below.

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