Often times, people outside of the heavy metal scene think of the genre to be one of absolutes; fast guitars, loud music, harsh, distorted noise. Those of us within the metal scene know that that is simply false. However, with heavy metal itself being a genre which twists and contorts itself in to multiple forms, pushing the limits of music and challenging the idea of genre definition, Time, the fourth release by French doom metal/drone enthusiasts Stonebirds is an album which manages to embody this kind of thinking, with the album itself changing multiple times throughout, appearing as harsh and grunge-like as one may expect one minute, yet gentle and fully atmospheric the next. Now that your appetite has been suitably whetted, it is time to delve in to how Stonebirds have managed to create such a unique and intricate album.
Listeners are greeted with the slow, methodical drumming style of Antione, accompanied by two guitars which weave in and out of each other in opening track “I”, a gentle and almost peaceful introduction. This eerie tranquility is soon shattered as a titanic wall of sound erupts into life as a huge and dominating sound which you cannot help but feel overpowered by. However, unlike many heavy metal bands, this powerful sound is not so much so that you feel pinned down or attacked, more so resembling a feeling of a wave of sound washing over you; strong, yet not unwelcome. “I” soon falls back to a quiet style of play, even quieter than it had initially been, before fading out into nothing. Melodic and melancholic, “I” acts in exactly the way that an introductory track should, offering a mere taster of what is to be expected throughout the rest of the album. No time is wasted however, as “I” is followed directly by second track, “Sacrifice”, which casts off the almost gentle melody of it’s predecessor, embracing a rough and gruff, angst-filled attitude, all the while maintaining the same scope of the music, making it feel staggeringly large.
Time truly is an album of rises and falls, resembling a roller-coaster ride where each time you appear to be at the most triumphant, loud, and boisterous of moments, a rapid decline soon appears, taking you swiftly back to a quiet anticipation. “Only Time”, one of the most rigorous and heavy tracks of the album, is an excellent example of what a rise would be, with the whole band seemingly giving it their all from the word go. The slow and heavily distorted riffs common to the doom metal genre dominate this track, second only to the gravelly singing of vocalist Fañch, whose unique voice resides above everything else with ease. The track opens with a moderate pace, almost quick by doom metal standards, yet the truly special element of “Only Time” is towards the middle, when the entire band slow down, unleashing an intensely weighty barrage of noise, with bassist Sylvain creating a sound which is seemingly deeper than which has ever been recorded before.
Time is not simply an album to be read about, nor is it one to be just listened to either; it is one which must be experienced and felt, as anything else would be an insult to Stonebirds. It defies genre definition, challenges normality, and pushes boundaries, showing a fearlessness in doing so. Definitely one of the most atmospheric and special albums I have ever heard, and one which I urge as many people as possible to become familiar with. Sit back, turn off the phone, and put on your headphones, because you are not going to want anything to come between you and Time.
Time is out now and available to download here.