The glaring fact that I've probably not heard even a fraction of the "stoner" rock/metal albums released thus far this year will not deter me from recommending for the average Joe/Jane metal fan (who that might be is a discussion for another time) two releases that should quench thirst: PRIESTESS' "Prior to the Fire" and BARN BURNER's "Bangers". Both are very good metal albums, no matter how you slice and dice the genre, and are particularly praiseworthy for serving in some sense as the proverbial ambassadors for the heavy stoner metal community, or if you prefer, the stoner heavy metal community. We've already examined the finer points of "Prior to the Fire", so we'll move on to "Bangers" with further reference to BARN BURNER's Tee Pee competition for comparative purpose only, building it up of course, as tearing it down would contradict the entirety of my premise.Much like "Prior to the Fire", the most important quality of "Bangers" — beyond any stoner metal this, or psychedelic rock that — is that it is a loud, high-energy, and indubitably rockin' heavy metal album with sizeable hooks. Compared to "Prior to the Fire", which does cross over into some proggy and/or psychedelic territory from time to time, "Bangers" is a more straight forward affair and is a pinch less NWOBHM-powered. Crossing lines that have previously been crossed by stalwarts FU MANCHU (especially the vocals and in some cases the melodies) and critical darlings THE SWORD is one part of the equation, the other part characterized by a riff-aggressiveness and tone that occasionally approaches COC muscularity. The album is filled with fire-breathers and super charged rockers like "Fast Women", "Tremors", and the riff-sizzlin' rumble of "Beer Today, Bong Tomorrow". And note my statement about "Bangers" being a "pinch" less NWOBHM-powered, as the Celtic-tinged — in an IRON MAIDEN kind of way — "Holy Smokes" is a standout album-opener in a vein not entirely dissimilar from "Lady Killer" from "Prior to the Fire". The difference is that the BARN BURNER tune wouldn't have fit snugly on a WHITE WIZZARD album. The early MAIDEN bent rears its head on "Half Past Haggard" as well, that is, when the verse isn't coming off like a variation of the opening to "Fairies Wear Boots". Well shit, for that matter, a swirling lick that could have ended up on the next SLOUGH FEG disc rockets out of an arrangement shift on "Brohemoth", a track that also features some vocal (lead and backing) twists. What is it really all about then, huh? Well, it's fuzz 'n buzz with more drive, bigger riffs, and catchier melodies. Dig it.
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