Style: Stoner Rock
Release Date: 1 Jan 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives
Stoner rock comes in a lot of flavours, but this is the liveliest, sharpest and bounciest stoner rock I think I've ever heard, not to forget perhaps the most varied. It's the product of one man, because Val Tvoar is not Estonian slang for something illegal and intoxicating; it's his name and he does most everything here, writing the songs, performing every instrument and singing too. He didn't paint the cover and he didn't mix the album, but he may well have put the kettle on during the recording sessions.
His sense of humour is apparent as the album begins, with a voice counting down some sort of space launch and tripping over the numbers. Dark Sun is a up tempo rocker built from stoner riffs but without much fuzz on the guitar. Nothing here is laid back and it wraps up pretty quick, at just over three minutes, but that's fine. The Preacher continues in much the same vein, but with a more prominent bass. That's one benefit to being a one man band: you want to hear everything you play!
If those tracks sounded vaguely like Lenny Kravitz playing stoner rock, the next song, Hold on to Silence is far grungier. There's some Soundgarden in here, I think, though it bizarrely ends with a Raining Blood homage. That's unexpected but cool. Unchained brings in some more fuzz and gets jauntier. Eternity Ends Here adds a prog vibe. There are lots of sounds incorporated into this stoner rock framework without ever seeming out of place.
Perhaps inevitably, given its title, things get more traditional with Weird Painting with Skulls and the River Runs Thru, so impeccably stoner that the title doesn't even make sense unless you're under some sort of chemical influence. It plays a lot more psychedelic than anything else here, much more like stoner rock usually sounds like. Dancing with the Flames does too, but in a heavier way. I'd call this album stoner rock but this song is stoner metal for much of its running time, the guitars all crunched up and in our face.
The title track is another traditional stoner rock song with the fuzz turned up. The lyrics are pretty simple, being mostly the title and another single line repeated quite a lot. It's not the shortest song on the album, Dancing with the Flames clocking in at only two and a half minutes, but at merely a minute longer, it's surely the least substantial song on offer, making it a surprising choice for the title track.
Then again, this couldn't be mistaken for any other genre. Nobody is going to pick it up believing that it's jazz or death metal or trip hop or world music. Even if potential customers haven't even heard of stoner rock, they would still know that that's what this is. There isn't a lot of honesty in advertising nowadays but this is exactly that.
This isn't the sort of stoner rock I'm coming to relish. It features almost no psychedelic edge. There are no long drawn out instrumental jams. There's nothing that feels like a journey or a soundscape. But I liked it anyway. What Val Tvoar delivers on this album are a set of short and lively songs that are interesting and varied, with decent riffs and consistently strong instrumentation. Knowing that every instrument, including the vocals, is Tvoar himself makes it more impressive still. It's kind of what pop punk is to punk, but to stoner rock.