BONGZILLA - WEEDSCONSIN
BAKED US STONER METALLERS' FIRST ALBUM IN 16 YEARS
Bongzilla do not appear to take life too seriously. The band’s core existence is based on zealous dedication to the Devil’s Lettuce. Formed in the cannabis culture of the mid-1990s, this is the first recorded album in sixteen years. Yes, that is right, sixteen years, but it seems little has changed between then and now.
Sundae Driver might be sympathetically described as a warped, intoxicated attempt at the album’s hit single. Oozing with rumbling slow-motion crackly stoner metal riffs and Muleboy Makela’s dry-throated, lizard-like strangled hiss, it is a solid enough start. Simplistic and organic, the down-tuned fuzzy haze transports you straight back into the mid-1990s. Interestingly, Bongzilla sound furiously seething while eulogising their favourite subject matter which is a supposed relaxant: ‘haven’t you heard / everyone is talking about the herb’ snarls Muleboy viciously. Well, everyone associated with Bongzilla clearly are. Things then recline into a sloppy bath of lethargic doom with Free the Weed. Mountainous slabs of wobbly reverberating guitar noise and a thudding riff are topped with caustic strangled vocals ‘it’s time to rise and take a smoke!’ before heading off with some glazed bluesy noodling.
The initial songs are stylistically in-keeping with what one would expect and are pretty compact but thereafter the sense of time goes awry. The title of Space Rock is somewhat misleading because –although it is a ten minute astral trippy odyssey - it is more evocative of desert-session stoner rock, starting as it does with serene, sun-bleached bluesy plucking before the crashing swells of fat, viscous noise rises and ebbs. On the whole, though, this is drowsy zoned-out reflective work with the same chord progression re-appearing at different levels that, while repetitive, stops this from meandering too far. After this, however, Bongzilla really then go wandering off into the desert with the daftly titled Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags. For quarter of an hour gently burbling blurry blues trickles through an arid, widescreen dusty panorama. That old template of quiet-loud-quiet structures are deployed here and throughout much of the rest of the album. The finale of Gummies is essentially a bummed-out, stoned jam of a single Sabbathian monolithic riff that is explored for 5 grimy minutes before it decelerates to a coastal-erosion tempo and then collapsing in on itself. Periodic bursts of unsettling sampled group laughter offer the only layering in this instrumental.
Hemp-infused enthusiasts might point to some progressions evident on Weedsconsin – and there are some minor changes such as the bass taking a less prominent place since the band now operate as a trio - but these will be lost of everyone else as this sounds largely like a continuation of Bongzilla’s previous output from a decade and a half ago. After all this time, they have offered up a curiously structured 40 minutes of runtime. A couple of five minute conventional tunes are followed by two longer meandering tracks, a 30 second trippy interlude, and bookended with an album closer that is based around a single riff. Songs also rely heavily on a central, primary riff with not much variation to give a hypnotic, nodding ambience. It might not be a major flaw and stoner doom / metal can be an amorphous art where the core essence is on mood although the whole thing seems slightly slap-shod after such a long wait. Yet on the whole, Bongzilla get away with it though. It is a decent stoner metal album that holds the attention. It is doubtful anyone wanted them to progress, experiment, or sing about something else other than getting baked; indeed the very thought would be like a whitey.