(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
Let me start things by saying that the Koksijde, Belgium STONEMULE are gifting all fans of underground music with a refreshing release.
Polder Records issued the powerful five-song “Dystopian State” on February 24th and if you’re a fan of multifaceted, genre-diverse music, then you must check this out.
Clearly, what lends itself to the possible mass appeal of STONEMULE is the way they so fluidly fluctuate from one style of sonics to another. While doing so, they also keep the vocals in an almost ever-changing state, thanks to 3/4 of the band providing them.
See, Tom Vandaele (lead guitar, vocals), Benjamin Himpens (rhythm guitar, vocals), Wannes Breyne (bass, vocals), and Ruben De Wilde (drums) are aural wizards. They cast hard-hitting, resonating spells in songs that shift from stoner metal, sludge, punk, and southern doom to post-hardcore and beyond.
The songs of “Dystopian State” are lengthy, exploratory constructs amassed upon chunky guitar riffs and magnetic rhythms. It begins with the semi-battering “Away“, with its slamming verses, both guttural and punk-infused vocals, and unexpectedly uplifting choruses.
Never knowing what might unfurl next, comes the roll-out of “All Will Be Gone“. That roll gains momentum and energy with gritty, slicing riffery and wicked kit work. But it is the following song that I believe most will find hard to not gravitate to, the scathing “Cult Of Ignorance“.
At first it slowly moves in with an airy, hazily melodic presence, as it gradually begins to build steam. A momentary pause that cues some fierce guitar heaviness and then we careen off the rails with a thunderous chugging beneath the throat-ripped vocals.
For me, it is the eight minute-plus “Last Rites” that has quickly become one of my favorite songs. A dark calm cradles you within the hypnotic vibes that first announce the song, yet they soon melt away, immediately replaced by thick riffs. Once again, the opposing vocal styles square off in a give-and-take of gravelly heavies and almost pop-like cleans.
Another stellar sonic stand-out gets served with the album-ending “Recipe For Agony“, an explosive hardcore-laden beat down. Thick guitar in the equivalent of a baseball bat batters you, while ruptured rhythms hold you down. This is all-out aggression that, much like the partial namesake of the band, kicks with the force of a hand grenade.
The concrete-busting STONEMULE are a sound-imbued wrecking crew, of this there is no doubt that can withstand once you hear them. They deliver quite caustic craftsmanship in the song structures of “Dystopian State“, along with the morphing genres impacted within them.