Review Summary: A relaxing, subdued psychedelic journey…
The rather prolific Russian psychedelic/jam rock trio have recently released their 7th studio effort. Stories of the Astral Lizard
follows the solid Chronoclasm
LP, which saw the light of day in December 2017. Maintaining the reptilian themes found on several album titles and artworks, The Re-Stoned actually came up with something new this time. Gone are the crunchy riffs, fuzzy solos and even the drums, so they had an almost blank canvas to work on. There are several audible influences here, ranging from folk, blues or Eastern-tinged progressions. We also received an overall emphasis on eerie, sometimes E-Bow assisted, ambient guitar leads. Right from the start, the Twin Peaks-esque intro on ‘Fractal Panorama’ evolves into warm, percussion-led, bluesy improvisations, whereas ‘A Companion from the Outside’ takes things further by adding some Causa Sui synths besides more poignant bass lines too. The resulting relaxed atmosphere matters most, since the record relies on it to create an immersive journey. There are no heavy detours, just calming tunes with light build-ups and hypnotic repetitions.
There are also a couple of interesting, shorter songs amid the three transcendental epics, ‘Mental Print for Free’ & ‘The Heather Carnival’. The former starts similar to an acoustic Opeth ditty, until bongos join in and psychedelic guitar licks start floating around. Slightly distorted notes can be heard here and there, still the focus is on the gentle chord strumming. ‘The Heather Carnival’ leaves the flute to lead, whereas the members focus on the sonic foundation. Faint flamenco influences are often heard, bringing in a fresh perspective to avoid monotony. Nevertheless, the main highlight is ‘Two Astral Projections’, a 17-minute cut that makes good use of layered, E-Bow guitars. The first minutes are filled by a surreal introduction, only to take off when the lounge-paced bass and percussion begin playing their beautiful grooves. I believe the desired pastoral vibe is best portrayed here, as the simplicity of the arrangements offers a natural touch too. It’s like witnessing a successful live jam session without unnecessary or forced additions. Yes, the guitars are often indulgent (available for all the band’s records), however, there are very few moments here when I can say stop to let the other instruments do their thing. Ultimately, I did not expect to enjoy Stories of the Astral Lizard
so much, just like I didn’t see it coming. This is a very relaxing LP and I urge you to take your time to explore it. The Re-Stoned themselves can follow this path on future projects, because it definitely diversifies their output.