Written by: AP on 04/01/2022 19:04:43

Everything about Bongzilla seems to be some kind of reefer inside joke, from their punny song and album titles to their since redundant quest for fweedom in a culture of conservatism and prohibition. And in keeping with their reputation as the most stoned band in North America, it was of course never up to question that “Weedsconsin” — a hazy, Iommic tribute to the trio’s home state and their first album in 16 years — should arrive on that holiest of days for a dope smoker: 4/20. Whether the three musicians got distracted and simply forgot they had a band to tend to is for anyone to guess, but the fact is their new record sounds like no time has passed since their previous full-length “Amerijuanican” came out in 2005. Though less angrily disposed than its predecessor, given that cannabis has been legalised in large swathes of the USA in the meanwhile, “Weedsconsin” still plays like someone accidentally hit the record button while the trio was hotboxing their rehearsal space.

“Have you heard, everyone’s talking about that herb?”, snarls frontman Mike ‘Muleboy’ Makela in the opening track “Sundae Driver” as he tips his hat at The Trashmen’s classic “Surfin’ Bird”, disappointed, perhaps, that cannabis culture is no longer a reprehensible thing on par with satanism as far as their home country is concerned. But in spite of his lament, his growls remain as noxious as ever, crepitating menacingly within the fuzz of guitarist Jeff ‘Spanky’ Schultz’s riffs that continue to sound like the blueprint for Sleep’s canonical “Jerusalem”/“Dopesmoker” album. Indeed, while that band is often credited as the ultimate stoner metal act, there is no denying the influence of Bongzilla’s début EP from 1996, “Mixed Bag”, on this style of music, and the trio’s languid rhythms, earthy tones, and propensity to arrange their ideas into endless iterations that above all sound like hazed out jam sessions, continue to shape their sound even today, 25 years later. You will thus not find any grand innovations on “Weedsconsin”, but if you consider yourself to be a disciple of the riff, the band has stacks of crunchy, rusty and reverberating chops to offer as they wade through their bogs of sludgy stoner metal with all the urgency of a sloth.

The band’s insistence on operating within the traditional parameters of the genre results in, well, a mixed bag, with both “Sundae Driver” and the closing track “Gummies” lacking flow and rendering themselves into amorphous blobs that inspire some shaking and shimmying by virtue of their groove, but fail to burrow themselves through my eardrums and into my memory. On the other hand, the muted and kaleidoscopic “Space Rock” fully lives up to both interpretations of its pun-struck title with a heady blend of sizzling riffage, blues touches and spaced out jams. And as the consummate highlight, the three-part “Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags” delivers in excess of 15 minutes of deliciously sordid, psychedelic sludge, full of shifting dynamics that unfold into a soulful, meandering instrumental segment taking up most of its running length, and eventually a mesmerising tribal drumming freakout to finish it all off. One might presume that these standout tracks came to fruition just as the trio’s highs were climaxing — just as their minds coalesced at that same green frequency and creativity just flowed out of them.

So why not load the entire album with such epiphanic songs? It feels as though Bongzilla simply copped out and rehashed (har har, get it?) some of their “Amerijuanican”-era material in order to flesh out the empty space around their newly created masterpieces so as to clock in an album’s worth of cuts, but as far as I’m concerned, it would have served them better to blaze out in that rehearsal space of theirs a little longer, jamming out a couple more of these stoner epics in order to earn their keep amongst the genre’s royalty.


Download: Free the Weed; Space Rock; Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags
For the fans of: Dopethrone, Electric Wizard, Eyehategod, Sleep, Weedeater
Listen: Facebook

Release date 20.04.2021
Heavy Psych Sounds

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