originally written by Chris McDonald
It’s albums like Serbian outfit The Stone’s Magla that make it great to not only be a metal reviewer, but a metal fan as well. I could easily have gone my entire life without ever even having heard of this band, and here they come along from completely under the radar and absolutely blow me away with a work that not only demolished my personal expectations as a critic, but totally amazed me and threw me for a loop as a listener in the process.
It’s almost always a testament to a band’s brilliance when their music is difficult to describe with words alone, and sure enough I’ve been wracking my brains trying to come up with some way to really detail The Stone’s style to those of you who have never heard them. The closest I can come is to give you some of the bands that The Stone reminded me of instead. Imagine the complex and spiritual melodies of Taake, the constant tempo changes and confusingly catchy riffing of Immolation, the trudging melancholic beauty of Drudkh and perhaps a touch of chaotic later-day Emperor (sans the keyboards), all melded effortlessly together and infused with the band’s own unique elements and you’ll have a vague idea of what to expect from Magla. Honestly, even this summary does the music little justice; what The Stone have written here is obviously coming directly from the artistic drive of the musicians involved and not a desire to emulate or even expand off of the sounds of others. This staunch creative independence is a rarity in today’s extreme metal scene, and The Stone are one of the first bands I’ve heard in a long time where I can safely say that they really don’t sound like anybody else. Another thing that I wasn’t really expecting was how technical some of this material is; for a band who many do the disservice of labeling black metal and stopping there, these guys possess some downright impressive musicianship. Riffing and soloing is intense and dexterous without ever sounding wanky and the drummer changes tempos and beats effortlessly, sometimes in the course of a single riff like the aforementioned Taake. The production job on this disc is also stellar, clear and balanced (even the bass is audible) while retaining a great organic feel.
While the whole album is fantastic, Magla (translates to “The Fog”) is book-ended by its two strongest cuts. “Magla” opens things on a positively spellbinding note that left me amazed the first time I heard it and every time since then as well. The Stone possess a great talent at walking the fine line between keeping things varied while allowing enough time for the riffs to sink in, and the riffing throughout this song is incredible, drawing inspiration from all corners of the extreme spectrum and somehow coming off as fluid and natural. What stood out most about this track to me was the segments that had an air of unusual and almost uplifting melody that totally caught me off guard and simply warmed my bones. One of my favorite songs so far this year. Closing cut “Mesecev Zrak” is the album’s longest track at over ten minutes and sums up the work in spectacular fashion, running all the bases of the band’s sound before closing on a great guitar solo and finally fading into some eerie sounding synth melodies. While the rest of the tracks don’t quite live up to the excellence of the ones described, every song on here has something different to offer and all are terrific. The only aspect of this album that isn’t really that special is the vocals, which remain in the familiar hoarse mid-range area and don‘t always add that much to the compositions. Still, they get the job done fine.
Some bands try to come off as original by blending two or three different existing styles (often with disastrous results), while others take a tried-and-true formula, add one or two distinguishing or weird elements, and call it a day. The Stone, however, are truly an original band, and have released a work that sounds like all of your favorite groups at once and somehow completely unique at the same time. I had never really heard an album likeMagla before, but I am extremely grateful that I have now. This band has the ingenuity and talent to accomplish whatever they want to in the future, and I can’t wait to see what that future holds in store for these guys after this masterpiece. Put simply, if you don’t at least give this a try, you suck. Now get going.