Stoners Rule by StönerRelease date: June 25, 2021
Label: Heavy Pysch Sounds
While some artists like to be viewed as genre-less to avoid being pigeon holed, one suspects Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri have no qualms about how they are going to be catagorised on the record shelves when they name their latest project Stöner, and further plant their flag firmly in the ground with the title Stoners Rule for their debut album on Heavy Psych Sounds label. And if any people can claim the genre stoner rock as their own then Brant (Kyuss) and Nick (Mondo Generator) are probably more titled than anybody else. Especially since Josh Homme has long abandoned such genre limitations and was last heard dancing under a disco ball via turning to Bowie for inspiration and applying his magic for Iggy Pop.
If a rock sub-genre is suitable for the summer season then it is surely stoner rock served up at the original home of the Mojave Desert. As in all Brant Bjork projects his music is seeped and drenched in hot ‘n’ sweaty heatwaves. Stöner is no exception, no seismic shift here, it sounds exactly what you would expect. The interesting inclusion in the line-up is Nick Oliveri and what his influence will have. To be honest, aside from the one track he takes the lead vocal on – ‘Evel Never Dies’ – it’s largely that his bass is nicely turned up in the mix, opener ‘Rad Stays Rad’ states that point loudly. For the main part, Stöner is more in tune with Brant’s musical past than Nick’s, which Brant Bjork’s solo band’s drummer Ryan Gut completes the trio.
The studio album follows on the heels of the live album but no comparisons here as I haven’t yet heard the live one. As for Stoners Rule, the band slip into that unique technique of rocking in a cool laidback, inhaling the sweet leaf style. ‘Nothin’ hits the soothingly driven fuzz of what we expect from Brant over the years. It would have perfectly fit into the stoner rock masterclass of a show this reviewer saw at London’s Garage a few years back. As would the best tracks on Stoners Rule like the said ‘Nothin’, the mid-tempo chugger ‘The Older Kids’, and the Jimi Hendrix vibes on ‘Stand Down’.
However, while this is all good toe tapping stuff it does fall short of previous greatness. There isn’t a great earworm of a tune like Brant Bjork’s ‘Chocolatize’ or they don’t quite hit the deep ‘n’ heavy grooves of Brant Bjork’s Low Desert Punk Band on albums Black Power Flower and Tao of the Devil. The thirteen minutes plus ‘Tribe/Fly Girl’ should have been the ideal opportunity to demonstrate this but instead wanders aimlessly, unable to levitate to a higher level. Shame.
Overall, this feels like a missed opportunity for the wiser older dogs to supplement the scene with another high bench mark for stoner rock that many younger pups have achieved and kept the quality going in recent years. It all comes down to the fact I was initially underwhelmed and it took four listens to start to appreciate the warm fuzzy tones. Obviously, this has to do with the members of Stöner have built reputations that now come with huge expectation. I’m sure these will sound good live but a slight air of disappointment hovers over the studio album. Hopefully, they will go on and spread their wings out significantly further on future releases. In the meantime, Stoners Rule is only a good-ish starting block to build on.