Review Summary: I really like listening to this album stoned. I think that's appropriate.
Stoner metal, a genre defined by a shared love of weed and distorted, heavy, de-tuned guitars. Bongzilla is one of these mighty collectives of musical herb enthusiasts. Their name sums up their sound pretty well. Bong. They smoke a lot of weed. Zilla. The size of their sound is immense. Bongzilla. A gigantic weed-loving musical monster. I don’t see their album name, Amerijuanican, as just a simple play on words. I believe it is these brave men’s testament to their pride in not just being an American, but a marijuana loving American.
Before first listening to Amerijuanican or even Bongzilla, I was looking forward to them due to the descriptions I had seen describing them as stoner (obviously) metal but that they also have psychedelic tinges to their music. Three tracks into Amerijuanican I was beginning to get doubtful of this aspect. The tracks were great, and I enjoyed them very much, but they were relentless in the onslaught of heavy, groovy, and always loud riffs. The track to break the mold however was the fourth, “Cutdown”, which still incorporated their slamming grooves with interesting sections that focus on the vocals taking precedence over the other instruments.
While drawing heavily from forerunners of the stoner/sludge genre such as Sleep and Electric Wizard, Bongzilla still have just enough personality to separate themselves from the massive crowd of bands that tend to blend together in this type of music. Their vocals are raspy screams, giving more of a nod to their metal side rather than the psychedelic one. No, there’s not much melody to them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, because the role of the vocals (provided by guitarist Mike “Muleboy” Makela) on Amerijuanican is to further reinforce the wall of sound that is already being provided by the entire band. The lyrics are near impossible to discern most of the time, which may be a good thing. They aren’t exactly “deep”. For example, the title tracks only lyrics read, “Oh say, we love weed by the bong's burning light / We so proudly inhale the bowl's last burning / Born in the USA, an Amerijuanican by the grace of God.” Personally, I take them with a grain of salt, and hope anyone else will too. They’re so ridiculous in their worship of weed that it comes across pretty humorous. Overall though, the lyrics really don’t matter too much because of how hard it is to understand the singer anyway.
Even though a good amount of stoner metal bands are noted at times for lacking musicianship, Bongzilla definitely deserve to be recognized as a greatly skilled band who flow extremely well together. They also speed it up more often than other bands in the genre, and I enjoy that a lot more than just constant sludge drowning me alive. With the album clocking out at just around 43 minutes, it’s just the right length that it doesn’t exhaust the listener and is still fun to listen to by the end.
The sixth track, aptly titled “Stonesphere”, is Bongzilla at their finest. The musical content of this 12 and a half-minute monster is more than enough to keep me entertained, but may be a turn off for those who don’t like extensive use of repetition or bands simply jamming. “Stonesphere” starts off with an extremely catchy vocoder line that reminds me of classic rock like Black Sabbath. This extends into the obligatory stoner metal crushing riff section, which incorporates the vocoder a few times more. Eventually, the song recedes into an expansive jam complete with wailing guitars that slowly, slowly decrescendos until erupting back into the riff from the beginning of the song and ending in a climactic return of my beloved vocoder line.
I really like listening to this album stoned. I think that's appropriate. I would usually expect myself to seek some more psychedelic/progressive bands like The Mars Volta or Pink Floyd, but after a nice session I always find myself turning to this album. The music is heavy, lethargic at times, and just perfectly fits that semi-exhausted "I need to sit down for a while" feeling that you get after you hit the bongzilla...uh, I mean bong.