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Bong in thrall to Sleep template of stoner doom - 67%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, August 11th, 2012

Awesome foursome Bong take us on two long psych-stoner journeys on this EP. The title track settles listeners slowly and gently into the groove with a very long, sparse and above all repetitive sequence of percussion, repeating drone sounds and a cavern of deep, dark echoing space. It's not until we reach the track's halfway mark that we start to hear a bit more guitar but in teardrop tones rather than in loops of riffing or melody. Sitar can be heard peeling off the odd twisting lick or two before eventually joining the rhythm section. The entire track continues in this very restful and trance-inducing way.

"Stone Mountain" sounds very much a homage to Sleep in deep-droning sub-bass sound, glacial pace and zombie-like stupor: the only thing missing (for the first eight minutes anyway) is the typical Sleep monotone chanting of spiritual revelations received during a bong-induced trance. Near-tribal percussion with drum rolls, lots of cymbal crashes and thumping bass drum helps to structure the track. Oh, here come the vocals and, what do you know, it is Sleep-like monotone chanting of spiritual revelations received during a bong-induced trance. Move on further and at last a lead guitar work-out begins, stretching its tones as if waking up and exercising its limbs, and trying out long droning riffs for size. The percussion rhythms change as well and the track goes into a different, darker and more psychedelic key. As the track trudges towards the end, the drums become more tribal and martial and take over the role of leading instrument, and the bass guitar becomes a series of didgeridoo-style droning. Shamanic vocals join the track again - the shaman has come back from his or her journey into the spirit world with new knowledge that's sure to benefit humanity here - and intone robotically in a strange language that mirrors the sub-bass droning.

By far the better of the two tracks for me is "Stone Mountain" if only because I like the Sleep style of stoner doom metal and Sleep are not a very prolific band compared to Bong. "Stone Mountain" is a very mesmerising piece suited for meditation and, for imaginative people, could describe a narrative of a ritual in which a shaman or psychopomps takes tourists on a trip to the underworld to visit the spirits of those who died long ago. As for the "Bethmoora" track, it's better regarded as a softening-up appetiser for the mystery of "Stone Mountain". At this stage in their career, Bong perhaps hadn't yet settled on a definite style and direction and were still very much in thrall to Sleep and similar stoner doom bands. There's very little here for the sitar player to do and listeners may wonder why the band keeps him if he rarely gets a chance to show off his skill and creativity.