The RMR deck crew has recently taken a fancy to the styleless masses of the metal multiverse. Outfits that moved away from the (self-imposed) conventions and narrow rulez of genres that shouldn’t even exist. Bands that impress us with non-melody, completely out there in the fever swamps of dronish imagination. Or others that just gallivant around the soundscape the way they see fit. And sometimes it is not even metal the way ‘it is meant to be’.
You get my drift, right?
And this is, by the way, exactly what bands should do. Make music, and find out where it leads ye. Instead of subjecting yourself to the straightjacket a genre may impose. And you don’t even know who invented them. So why abide by them?
And – by all means – render the life of your reviewers difficult. Because if they are challenged, you most probably got yourself a piece that should be worth its salt. Just sayin’.
So, here we got ourselves the new record Conquistador of the US band Stone Healer. A band that likes to play hide-and-seek before showing the gazillion of colors it’s made of. And they truly like to divide and conquer, as the title implies.
One Whisper already drives that one home. Comfortable wailing, frugal guitar play together with somewhat spastic drumming. All of that comes on a bed of some type of Heavy Rock, percussion included. Dime-a-dozen Malibu beach rock, fit for my purple-green Cadillac on a stroll to the coast.1) Right?
At 2:50 of this first track, the holy dissonance strikes. And you end up in a tremolo-laden techfest that stayed this crew’s hands on the way to the off-button. Suddenly, the vocals got some (a lot of) bite in them, and the guitar an energy boost with a neat little grind that got on our good side. And, the drums finally show a somewhat nuclear power that we started to enjoy. Not that the band didn’t try to annoy us again with some acoustic ambients later.
Now, fear naught. The RMR crew isn’t going to bore you to death with a detailed description of every hook, lick, and solo you might find in Conquistador. But – boy – Stone Healer are nobody’s bitch. This whole record is full of pigheaded style changes. Sometimes this feels like one of those crazy Japanese crosswalks. You know those four-dimensional things, where everyone walks in at the same time.
Speaking of which. The record often descends into the 8th circle of Tech Metal hell that would make Harakiri in the Sky go pale with envy. The band’s spiel moves from progressive to technical, to some trash-punk and into thrashy notes and back. This all fills up with a few rounds of acoustics and sudden ambient that don’t make a lot of sense.
All that jazz neatly embeds the ebb and flow of Dave Kaminsky‘s vocals. True, notes are sometimes a bit astray. Yet, this strange mix of clears and shouted screams goes well with the overall theme of ‘everything goes’. Even if we were sometimes unsure where the core-like unclean vocals and abundant weird tremolos were heading. Black Metal ain’t in it, more some strange offshoot of Hardcore perhaps, even if this won’t really hit the mark either.2)
And let’s break a lance for the production. I always continue to think that I’ve seen the best of multilayered tracks on metal pieces. Yet, Conquistador here blows everything we heard to date pretty much out to the water. This is – yet again – a band at work that makes complexity and abject technicality sound easy. To top it all, the mix never loses any instrument. I was pretty much able to find the throaty bass at any time of the record. And that’s a good thing because that bass really kicks ass on this album.
And all of that goodness comes with wildly tilted songwriting chops that truly made my head spin at times. There’s so much going on that piece of vinyl, it might easily overpower the usual rock fan. But that most definitely wasn’t a concern of the songwriter. And so it should be, by the way. As the saying goes, make music for yerself, not for the mean masses and thou shalt reap yer just reward.3)
Finally, we have – yet again – found a record that answers to no master. Dave and Matt Kaminsky just took whatever idea fueled their tune best and went for it. The piece extracts elements useful to the overall flavor of the record and mixes well, like triple shots on the rocks. And this without any weirdness filter or other annoying checks and balances.
Conquistador thus truly divides and conquers. Yet, it stubbornly refuses to suck up to any genre out there. And that is exactly what combines its essence with its undoubtedly geeky allure.
In short, Rock Healer wrote an anarchic jumble of a metal record that almost drove us nuts. Yet, we loved (almost) every minute of it. And that’s quite a vote of confidence right there.
Ed’s note: Hunger for more? You might also be interested in our kinda-sorta mid-year selection of the most colorful out-of-the-box records. Hit it!
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Facebook
Release Date: 30 April 2021