Review Summary: Blending traditional stoner metal and acoustic melodies, Stoned Jesus has crafted a unique album that falls just short of being a classic.
From simply looking at their band name you can probably guess what genre of music Stoned Jesus plays. For those still guessing this Ukrainian band plays a version of stoner rock/metal, but with acoustic and folk influences. They released their debut, First Communion, in 2010, but while a decent album in its own right, it was marred by subpar production. For their second release, Seven Thunders Roar, they work out the kinks in production and also improve their songwriting to create a truly amazing album.
As mentioned earlier the production value has been improved immensely and has made this album a joy to listen to. Gone are the extremely fuzzy guitars and hazy vocal lines. Some may argue that heavy distortion is a staple of stoner metal but the overall sound of Seven Thunders Roar is better due to the new and improved production. That is not to say that there is no distorted guitar on this album. It can still be found throughout many songs, notably in Electric Mistress and Stormy Monday. In fact Stoned Jesus has a very nice balance of distorted guitar and cleaner acoustic passage which provide for a varied listen.
One fundamental aspect of stoner metal is that it must groove. So does Seven Thunders Roar accomplish this? Yes it does. When listening to the latter half of Bright Like the Morning I couldn’t help but headbang as I lost myself in the music. Electric Mistress is another example of the ability that Stoned Jesus has to write truly grooving songs. Lead by driving riffs, an excellent guitar solo and powerful drumming this song is definitely not one to pass up. As one of the heavier songs on the album it would probably appeal to more metal oriented listeners.
While the instrumentals contained in this album are great I cannot help but mention the excellent vocals on Seven Thunders Roar. Igor Sidorenko, guitarist and vocalist, uses two vocal styles for most of the album. During the softer songs he uses his velvety smooth clean vocals, which are very pleasing to the ear. They are found most often in the standout song I’m the Mountain and the first half of Bright Like the Morning. More often though, he uses a more aggressive yelling style that still tends to remain melodic and not over the top. Both styles work well in the context of this album and are done very well.
Stoner metal tends to be very low end heavy and incorporates bass more than many other genres and Stoned Jesus is no exception. Throughout most of the album Nikolay’s bass can be picked out among the other instruments and is rarely hidden in the background. In fact, in songs such as Indian and Electric Mistress it sometimes plays a key role in driving the music along. Too many bands do not utilize bass to its full potential, a trap that Stoned Jesus does not fall into. Although the drums are nothing spectacular on Seven Thunders Roar Alexandr does his job nicely and even has a few standout moments in the song Indian.
I’m the Mountain is undoubtedly the standout track from Seven Thunders Roar and is highly recommended. At sixteen minutes it is a monolith of a song that never fails throughout its running length. It begins with a nice acoustic section backed by excellent vocals, and shortly after the two minute mark one of my favorite guitar riffs begins to play. Soon the other instruments join in and the song works its way to an incredible climax. I found I’m the Mountain on a whim while searching for music on Youtube and it was the song that introduced me to Stoned Jesus. Since then I have not been able to stop listening to it and has become my pick for best song of the year.
The only setbacks that stop this album from being a classic is its sometimes less than spectacular transitions and sometimes not so noticeable drumming. The end of Electric Mistress seems out of place a bit and mars an otherwise excellent song. It isn’t a bad section, just not as great as it could have been. Stormy Monday is another slightly weaker song, switching too frequently between styles at times. Notice that I said slightly weaker as there are no songs that are not worth listening to on this album. These negatives are very few and far between and are only noticable after many listens.
Seven Thunders Roar was an extremely pleasant find for me and has become one of my favorite albums after many listens. With the release of this album Stoned Jesus has definitely found their niche in the music industry and hopefully more people will begin to notice their excellent songwriting. With plenty of positives and very few negatives Seven Thunders Roar has deserved a 4.5/5 and I am excited to see what they have to offer in the future.