2017 is winding down. Let’s be honest: nobody really wants to read new reviews at this time of year. Just give us the damned lists and be done with it! But that’s not how we roll at Angry Metal Guy. We strive to provide until our last hollow breath. And so, I present Interstelar, a stoner rock band from Los Angeles that strives to take as much time recording as Sea Goat. Formed in 2005, Resin is their first album, hot on the heels of EPs in 2006 and 2011. Resin was actually an independent digital release last year, but has been picked up by Kozmik Artifactz and is seeing a re-release now, physical and otherwise — and why not, with that trippy album cover? Slow and easy wins the day, and couldn’t we all use a come-down during the crazy shopping season?
Resin begins with “SiLO,” and I am immediately disappointed. It sounds like 237 other stoner rock songs I’ve heard this year – a thick riff that could’ve been written by anyone. It’s a “good” song, but I’ve heard it on every stoner album this decade. However, my ears perk up as soon as the title track kicks in, with a trippy tom loop and doomy, atmospheric guitar work. At seven minutes, “Resin” is the longest song on the album, and sure the riffing is still generic, but the singing carries this song (and others) into realms rarely ventured into. Jason Kothmann possesses an excellent voice, nailing stoner groove, falsetto, and everything in between, with hints of John Garcia and Chris Cornell. His vocals are the highlight of the album, although that’s not to say the band doesn’t also kick ass: they do, and when unencumbered by the few generic songs here they really show their stuff.
“High Horse” is an excellent piece, moody and airy, sung entirely in falsetto like an old Lenny Kravitz number, and album closer “Sequoia” is a killer mellow acoustic track, very intimate and again beautifully sung. Interstelar are at their best when they shed the stoner rock tropes and expand their writing style. It’s like stoner rock with a post-grunge twist to it, and the “classic” feel you get from some of the songs, while familiar, is so well-executed that it’s a joy to listen to these songs — there just aren’t enough of them. Assuming debut EP React in Silence contained five songs at the most, Interstelar have recorded 16 songs max in 12 years. That’s a pretty thin ratio. And two songs on Resin are remakes of songs that first appeared on Black Waves, their EP from five years ago. “Opposite Daze,” with its 70s guitar and vocal riffing, and “Armada,” with a complex riff and loud/quiet arrangement, are good songs, but they’re retreads, leaving us with six new songs.
And that’s where the problem is. While Interstelar show they’ve got chops that are much broader than the rather limiting stoner rock label, and the album is produced with the right balance of meat and clarity to suit the style, the fact that of the eight songs present, four are standout material while two are good-but-generic cuts, and two more cuts are five-year-old redos, makes me question the overall value of Resin. Maybe another EP would have been a better move.
Resin is a mixed bag: on the one hand, the variety in the songwriting and the excellent vocals and instrumental performances make Interstelar stand out from the masses of stoner rock bands that abound, but on the other hand, a few songs come off very nondescript, and with two of them being rehashes from Black Waves I’m not sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck here. However, the good songs are so good that in part they overcome the lesser material, and thus the grade you see below. A couple more songs in the vein of “Resin” and “High Horse” and we’d have a classic on our hands. As it stands, Resin is a good debut, and here’s to hoping the band can up their writing output.