Wednesday 17 May 2023

MOONSTONE ~ GROWTH .... review

It seems like quite a while since we dipped our toes into the murky waters of the Polish underground scene and what better band could we pick to make that return journey for than Moonstone, a four piece combo from Kraków consisting of Wiktor Kozak (bass); Kacper Kubień (drums); Jan Maniewski (guitars/vocals) and Volodymyr Lyashenko (guitars). Regular readers may remember Desert Psychlist heaping truckloads of well deserved wordy praise on the bands 2021 two song opus "1904", waxing lyrical about its dark spirituality and its expansive blending of ambience and heaviness, well the band return this year with another helping of all of the above with "Growth", and if you thought "1904" was something special then wait 'till this little gem hits your audial canals.

Gently plucked guitars, laid back percussion and vocals that possess a lilting folk-like quality might not be quite what you are expecting to hear from a band we, at Desert Psychlist, have described in the past as having a low slow and heavy aesthetic but the beauty of listening to a Moonstone release is that you don't always get what you expect. "Harvest", the albums opening track, might start its journey from a place of calm and tranquillity but musical journey's tend to deviate and rarely finish how they started and this is also the case here. Those sweetly serene guitar tones that introduced this song are gradually replaced by dark reverberating chord progressions, those laid back drum patterns become more insistent and heavier, the introduction of bass guitar adds a dark edgy pulse to proceedings and the vocals shift from folk-like to having an almost Gregorian cadence, these shifts, although subtle, leaving the listener doubting whether the song they just pressed play on is the the same one nearing its close on a wall of droning dissonance. "Bloom" follows and like its predecessor starts loose and languid but instead of a gradual climb into heaviness the band dive straight into that heaviness after just a few bars, only deviating from that heavier dynamic for a brief interlude of  post metal languidity before erupting back into a stoner doom groove to take things to the close. "Sun" is a far from sunny opus with a slow creeping dynamic decorated in a twisted mournful vocal, it is probably the albums only song that, apart from a brief folkish interlude, sticks rigidly to what we have come to recognise as a typical stoner-doom groove. "Night" is up next and boasts ringing guitar arpeggios shimmering over a low slung bass motifs and tight percussion, this is a song that slowly increases in both atmosphere and intensity but never quite explodes to the level you expect it to, this might sound like a complaint but it is not as it is this expectancy and anticipation that ultimately works in the songs favour. "Lust" is probably Desert Psychlist's favourite track on the album, it's a song that mixes a little Sabbathian flavoured proto-doom with traditional doom and then puts a spin on things that only a band hailing from Poland's heavy underground could pull off, and if you don't quite understand that last statement then you need to listen to more Polish doom. Finally we arrive at "Emerald" a song with a torch-song like dynamic boasting deep lyrics telling of "ground once tortured" and a "will once torn and broken" against a backdrop of crunching riffs, spiralling guitar solos, growling bottom end and powerful drumming, its intense heavy but also quite beautiful.

Moonstone's "Growth" is an album that is constantly in flux and at odds with itself, an album that can be serene, tranquil and melancholic one moment and brutish, blustering and confrontational the next, it  feels, in places, like this is an album that is a product of a band who have had to deal with mental health issues in the past (we could be wrong), which may go a long way in explaining why the band  describe "Growth" as "a sonic tale about the many emotional journeys that we've been through, currently struggle with and will battle again in the future"
Check it out ....

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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