We are always satisfied when new bands emerge, especially in countries that have not a strong tradition in rock and metal genres. Our satisfaction becomes even greater when these bands show promising signs that make us smile blissfully, despite the obstacles they have to overcome due to their limited local scene. That exactly is the case with Stonus, a heavy rock band from Nicosia, Cyprus, formed in 2015 by five independent musicians who wanted to become creative and have fun. Believe it or not, this band comes from Cyprus (though now based in London), a country that I wouldn’t classify as particularly active in rock and metal music.
So far, Stonus have gained some international attention, having released two EPs (“Supertrip” and “Lunar Eclipse”) and two singles. Their music, clearly influenced by the Greek scene and bands like Nightstalker and 1000mods, is explicitly stoner-oriented, with occasional glimpses of psychedelic / space rock and doom. Dirty, fuzzy riffage and exhilarating or trippy patterns motivated us to party with folks or levitate and travel to purple skies, making us eager for their debut album.
Our patience lasted till the first months of 2020, since “Aphasia”, recorded at the well-known Wreck It Sounds studio in Corinth, Greece (1000mods and Sadhus have also used it in the past), became available through the Italian label Electric Valley.
The Cypriots combine in “Aphasia” the elements that they used in their previous efforts, confirming the sound they wish to have: tons of hazy, fuzzy riffs, depicting clearly Nightstalker’s aura, enriched with carefully selected doses of Hawkwindian spacey phsychedelia and Sabbathian heaviness. However, their progress, compared to their EPs, is evident: songwriting has improved, revealing a confident band, despite the young age, who does not hesitate to expose different influences and tempers.
Stonus are a well-structured machine that either functions at full horsepower, offering cheerful moments of heavy, desert rock, or being idle, bringing at the foreground a psych aspect. Stonus know exactly when to step on the gas and when (and how) to decelerate, maintaining the audience’s interest throughout the album.
Their fuzzy grooves encompass the familiar, dirty, vintage aesthetics of the stoner tradition, built upon strong basslines that govern every track. Trippy, spacey parts add a feeling of a tranquil, spiritual journey, opening a door to meditation under the bright, Mediterranean sunlight. The use of analogue recording equipment delivers an original, organic and warm sound.
Frangoulis contribute with his vocals favourably to the final outcome, being a decent hippie child of Argy and Ozzy. Indeed, not only his voice does resemble our loving Athenian biblical figure, but also his way of singing (this is not bad of course). However, in the first vocal pattern of the homonymous song, you think that Ozzy emerges derisively behind a curtain, singing “Paranoid”.
“Awake” excels with its up-tempo pace, indicating from the very first moments the band’s intention. However, more psych/doom patterns follow later on. “Aphasia” features interesting transitions from mid to up-tempo rhythms, while “Mania” shows Stonus’s psych side, with heavy grooves, originating from Nightstalker’s “Use” era. A more space / rock playful attitude emerges in “Nadir”, where we come across a trippy atmosphere upon a rhythmic background. On the contrary, “Dead End” makes an antithesis to the two previous tracks, being more straightforward with its dynamic, in-your-face rhythm. Finally, “Ghost Town” adheres to Black Sabbath’s principles: slow, dark, spooky patterns, followed by a suddenly accelerated part that closes perfectly the album.
Overall, Stonus stoned us with an album of pure intentions that remains constantly pleasant and occasionally addictive. Two questions should be asked, with reasonable answers: a) “Is “Aphasia” innovative?” “Hell no!” b) “Is it entertaining?” “Hell yeah!” And this exactly is what matters in the end. With their debut, Stonus place themselves in an over-saturated genre, where we have heard everything, making a debut with dynamism analogous to 1000mods’ “Super Van Vacation” nine years ago. We look forward to their next step, wishing that they will prove more than promising.