There is a special kind of atmosphere within a Stone Circle. An ethereal, ambient quiet that has existed for thousands of years, when the guardians of knowledge we have long neglected decided that a particular area held a confluence of energy so strong that it had to be marked and membered in a way that would outlast the feeble span of human life and be cast down through time, to be cherished and embraced time and again.
That ephemeral atmosphere, of magic and the molecules between moments, is what this band have aimed at capturing on this, their second album. Ostensibly a fury placating mixture of Stoner Rock and Death Metal, they weave these usually mutually exclusive genres together with a lightness of touch that is both entrancing and full of hidden complexity. Their relationship with Death Metal is similar to that of Gojira. Both are willing to use the functions of the genre yet refuse to be limited by the tropes and cliches that can restrict its growth.
Dealing almost exclusively in long songs, it is clear that considerable effort has been expended on making each of these tracks a miniature opus in its own right. Full of tightly entwined riffs and opened phrased celebration, they have aimed, and for the most part succeed in capturing the golden haze of glory that shimmers out of most Stoner Rock, while at the same time adding their own toughened modern perspective.
They work excitingly well as a band together, each instrument being allowed its own space and time in the phrase and sharing responsibility for its progression evenly. Having formed in 2004 it is plain to see that they have become a cohesive musical unit in their time together.
Working within a fairly limited range of tempi, they manage to make each song resonant and distinctive through cunning applications of aggression and spiritual verve. One moment allowing their anguished intent to be borne bodily through the chest, the next letting it dissipate and dessicate giving wings to passages of poised introspection.
It is a testament to the thoughtful construction of this record that not for one moment did I find these shifts in mode and mood disconcerting or forced. They segue between them with grace and dulcet charm; convincing the mind that the heart is right.
The vocals are varied and fluidly delivered, veering from a deep guttural growl to an open and choral cascading canto, although sparsely used throughout the album, provide a sense of connecting, human conduit to a deeper meaning within the music.
Now, admittedly I did have to listen several times to this record before its multiple qualities truly became manifest for me, so anyone looking for a quick and easy fix will not find it here. But if you like your music intelligent, riff laden and considered in its brutality then I would highly recommend Stone Circle to you. Indulge in it yourself, relax, take a deep breath and find your own special kind of atmosphere.
Stone Circle is being given away free with this months Terrorizer Magazine (UK) and will be available for download via the bands Bandcamp site.
– John Whitmore