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Monday, December 26, 2011

Review: Stone Angels - Within The Witch

Click this album cover art to go to the Stone Angels website
and find out how to obtain "Within the Witch"
Stone Angels - Within The Witch 
(Self released/Satan City Records, Christchurch, New Zealand)

Three days ago (two days before Xmas Day) my old home town of Christchurch was hit by its fourth major earthquake since September 2010. Ironically, around the same time I read another review of ‘Within the Witch’ quoting the Christchurch band's bio (see the bottom of this post), which talked about how Stone Angels had formed during this time (after the first Earthquake) and how inadvertently their existence as a band had become a by-product of it. But to the music... ...All will become clear.

My first impression of ‘Within the Witch’ was playing it while driving home from seeing Stone Angels play live for the first time at Stonerfest 2011 - Northern Lights show. My thoughts after a few minutes were: "This is actually a pretty damn enjoyable listen - especially for a first release". I've since listened to it quite a few more times.

If I had to name the sound that best describes Stone Angels it would be ‘Bleak Post Apocalyptic Sludge’. Reason being is their music is along the lines of the post-Sabbath sludge doom played by bands which I'll leave you to guess the names of, but with a unique difference; the best way to describe this difference, which lies in the songs, sound, intros and interludes, is to try and imagine the setting of the movie ‘The Road’, and then picture the sort of music a group of rogue survivors might make if they stumbled across a cache of drums, guitars, amps and diesel generators in the midst of the destruction. Take the environment that Stone Angels actually exist in and it all starts to make sense.

It's actually hard to pin point exactly where said sound lies in the music, but I think it's partially from the production and musical input of Sinistrous Diabolus’ main man Kris Stanley (live Session guitar for the band and who features on some of the album's tracks), who would be lying if he denied the mighty ‘Disembowelment’ as an influence. However, for the most part it's in the songs themselves. Some compositions including the title track, explore a rock groove while other tracks such as the closer ‘Coffin Cross’ delve into discordant down-tuned black textures; all of which makes for rewarding listening.

While Christchurch is still being hit by thousands of aftershocks, people are grieving for the 182 loved ones lost in the 22 Feb 2011 quake; houses are falling down, streets are full of sink-holes swamped with silt from liquefaction as well as the smell of raw sewage, and probably more major earthquakes are to come. At least a silver lining is that, much like the mass unemployment that influenced so much good music there in the early 90s, Christchurch musicians and artists, including Stone Angels, will be drawing influence from their experiences and producing gems like ‘Within the Witch’ into the foreseeable future................ or until the city returns to the sea from which it once came.

Stone Angels - Band bio
The band is not bound to any tag, fusing elements of doom, rock and metal into a lo-fi melting pot. Formed in Christchurch New Zealand after two devastating earthquakes, Stone Angels writes most of its material off the cuff - without pre-conceptions - in an effort to capture the feeling of the times. In an abstract way, to capture what it is to live through this sort of chaos. This has been the focus until now, however the direction is not limited by anything other than those creating the music.

The debut album Within the Witch was recorded in a concrete shed amongst the ruins of Christchurch, with K.S (Sinistrous Diabolus) handling recording and production duties. The CD was released on 02/12/2011, with tape + digital download coming early 2012.The band has shared the stage with, amongst others, Creeping, Ulcerate, Shallow Grave and Thrall (Australia). Members are also involved in Sinistrous Diabolus and Second Gear Grind, alongside other projects.

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