Istvan - IstvanThis may be considered blasphemy by some, but I’ve managed to avoid taking a single hit of marijuana for all of my twenty-six years. Not once have I ever blasted the roach or taken a toke. I’ve never smoked the bowl, nor have I mowed the grass. I puffed a magic dragon once, but I’m pretty sure that was in kindergarten and isn’t relevant to the discussion at hand. Yet, for some reason, I’ve always been drawn to stoner rock and metal. Is being stoned a prerequisite to proper enjoyment of the genre? Recently I was introduced to a band named Istvan. This trio of Italian psychedelic rockers attribute their sound to the likes of Earth, Om, and Black Sabbath. They offer slow-tempo, stoner rock that captivates its listeners through the use of powerful doom-slathered riffs and hypnotizing drones. After listening to their self-titled debut for the past week and a half, I can say with confidence that opiates are not necessary to the enjoyment of this record.

Istvan opens with “Bohor,” a dreamy and meandering track that immediately establishes Istvan’s mission statement – to relax, captivate and tranquilize with the sounds and atmosphere of their music. Claims that Istvan draws inspiration from spiritual and metaphysical philosophy and teachings become apparent after but a short exposure to their music. Indeed, this isn’t the hard-hitting, down-tuned stoner metal you might find on a release from Sleep or Electric Wizard. There is no violence or aggression here. To those who find such a description boring, I offer an analogy. Would you enjoy taking a trip through the countryside on a quiet and misty morning? If so, you will probably enjoy listening to Istvan.

Being a peaceful listen is not equivalent to being single-tonal, and Istvan fits a lot of ideas and experimentation within its runtime. “Mire” picks up the tempo somewhat while also including some of the only vocals on the album. “Stonemill” is a short but sweet acoustic interlude that I honestly found more enticing than anything off of The Sword’s recent Low Country. Each track has its own identity, and the material is concisely packed into 32 minutes. Such a run time is perfect for a largely instrumental release like this. It manages to keep the listener’s focus throughout without overstaying its welcome.

Istvan 2016

Befitting the atmospheric nature of the record, Istvan is mastered with clarity and dynamism in mind. The album sports an impressive DR 10 rating. This really helps songs like “Rundweg” shine, where the tone and tempo shift at regular intervals. The down-tuned, distorted guitars are balanced perfectly with the higher pitched, clean tones. The bass is prominent and the drums are punchy, giving me no qualms with the mix. Any complaints I do have generally come down to the nature of the music itself. This is definitely mood music, and if you’re not in the correct state of mind you’ll find your enjoyment of this record diminished. Istvan is not reinventing the wheel here, and as with many instrumental releases, I sometimes find it difficult to form a strong emotional attachment to the music. These criticisms don’t keep Istvan from being a very good record, however, and by and large Istvan earned themselves a highly coveted stamp of approval from yours truly.

Istvan is a very enjoyable release that manages to zone me out and zen me in whenever I spin it. It’s not going to appeal to those looking for something more ferocious, but its dreamy, stoner rock sensibilities and varied songs and structure make Istvan a satisfying platter, regardless of the contents of your bloodstream.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Aural Music
Websites: istvanfellowship.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/istvanfellowship
Releases Worldwide: October 21st, 2016

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  • Vic279

    October 2016 is unreal!! And the pace with which you publish quality reviews is too!! With no intention to reduce the impression of your performance the previous years, the quality and quantity of your critiques is impressive. It’s undoubtedly a great time to be a reader of AMG.

    • GardensTale

      We are thankful for the whippings we receive from the masters.

      • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

        So many smackings and whackings for our poor tender heads… Almost too much to take!

  • Thatguy

    Good review…but I disagree. This is bland.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    This really sounds a lot like OM. Nice

  • David D.

    The embedded track is showing up as a private video for me. Sounds cool from what I’ve found on youtube though. Maybe they should get together with Istvan Sky

  • Innit Bartender

    I must be the only one out there to really like acoustic The Sword! That said, I’ll give these fellow countrymen a go for sure!

    • Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick

      Nope, I’m digging that stuff, too…

    • Zephyrus

      I really couldn’t get into high country so I’m just unfairly biased.

  • The Unicorn
    • sir_c

      couldn’t you jump off the rainbows you fart?

      • The Unicorn

        My pal Giant Realistic Flying Tiger can do that. I only shit rainbows, I still just fart gas, which really sucks.

  • Thomas Grann

    I just love the introduction to this review. Especially the combination of drug slang with Puff the magic dragon. Great stuff.

  • TLFernandes

    Can someone explain what is the DR 10 rating? Thx

    • Zephyrus

      DR stands for dynamic range, and is basically a measure of the ratio between the loudest and softest parts of a song or album. If the ratio is really low it means the whole mix will probably sound loud and often (but not always) indicates problems with the mixing and mastering of the album. I think DR 6 is the standard.

      • TLFernandes

        Thank you!