We are in a time in which rock music of any kind is more and more replaced by other forms of music. Those that you can record faster, alone in a home studio and, to some extent, require fewer instrumental skills. However, there are some genre strongholds that remain standing… One of them: Stoner Rock!
Fans of the lower tuned electric guitars chased through bass amps have an almost spiritual relationship with swinging strings and curved manes. This does not necessarily require the desert, cacti and certain substances, as the Austrian representatives of the stoner scene prove.
Hardly any fan scene is more grateful, lively, and loyal than that of stoner rock. Concerts are always well attended, and people are generally fans of all the bands rather than just individual acts. At concerts, fans merge into a homogeneous mass hypnotized by heavy riffs, fully in tune with the music. Carefree celebrations of live music, part of which is dripping sweat and people being close to each other, as there has unfortunately been all too little lately.
In the following, the flourishing Austrian stoner rock scene will be presented with some other genre-related acts from the fields of heavy rock, hard rock, doom as well as psychedelic and progressive rock.
Fuzz-ten your seatbelt!
The crème de la crème of the Austrian stoner rock scene
The four guys from Linz, Austria, of Parasol Caravan – partly now rooted in Vienna – already had an almost cult status in the Upper Austria area before the release of their first LP “Para Solem” (Panta RE). The band is synonymous with awesome live-shows: they know how to savor the ecstatic moments of Stoner Rock, only to sprinkle their own touch on it with 70’s-inspired guitar solos. The highly American, powerful vocals – Americana and Country quietly say hello – adds the necessary catchiness to the four-piece, which gives the band a potentially much wider radius than many other stoner bands. An absolute benchmark of the scene.
That even a Tyrolean alpine landscape can lead to similar musical outpourings as Sky Valley is proven by some busy bands from the greater Innsbruck area, such as Mother’s Cake. They are more diverse than many other stoner rock bands and are not without reason one of the Austrian flagships in terms of guitar music export. Progressive & psychedelic rock, funk, stoner riffs, sprawling instrumental jams and a pinch of madness in the eyes of frontman Yves Krismer are the ingredients of their success. The latest album “Cyberfunk” (Membran Records) also shows that the trio is always evolving.
The Sahara Surfers from Tyrol with a name that conjures up the spirit of the desert – which has always been intertwined with stoner rock – with an ease that is unparalleled, despite the Alpine predominance in the immediate vicinity. Here, one fuzz lick uncompromisingly chases the next, until there remains not much in the auditory canals of the inclined listener except this certain wave on which the Sahara Surfers take you. Unfortunately, it has become quieter around the former pioneers of the Austrian stoner rock scene.
The Styrian Witchrider, distributed by the internationally renowned Fuzzorama Records, inspire with minimalist rock beats – described elsewhere in the past as Robot Rock – and a charismatic voice that always reminds us of the personified rock persona of the last twenty years: Dave Grohl. Accordingly, Witchrider enjoy high popularity in Austria and also beyond its borders due to their grunge’esque melodic catchiness partnered with danceable grooves.
Minus Green from Vienna know well how to create tension in their compositions as well as to make atmospheric changes. Although it is always groovy and rhythmic like classic Stoner Rock, they always turn into Post-Rock areas to let the instruments speak even more and to create a different kind of tension. Minus Green are definitely one of the longer serving cornerstones of the Austrian Stone Rock scene and still an invaluable addition to it.
The trio Savanah from Graz has become one of the spearheads of the Austrian scene in terms of energetic rock of the sweaty variety – wah-wah whipped guitar solos, echoing psychedelic instrumental parts and a fervent singer who sounds a bit like he comes “straight from the desert”. Savanah skillfully combine the most exciting elements of the stoner rock genre without getting caught up in it.
Another sound nuance is brought into play by the Viennese band Triptonus: with traditional drums and other instruments, the trip, which is already in the band’s name, is evoked with its very own sound colors, which do not compete with the rest of the rock line-up, but rather merge with it. Live, as a unit of six, they impressively conjure up a wall-of-sound that is almost impossible to escape.
Originally from Graz, Austria, Ultima Radio look a bit beyond the horizon of Stoner Rock: besides sprinkles of Progressive Rock and Crossover – with instrumentally quite adept parts – it is especially singer Zdravko Konrad who puts his own mark on the band. With a past in the singer/songwriter area, he knows how to contribute his charismatic vocals skillfully – be it classically by activating the vocal cords or all kinds of effect pedals, which are laid over the vocals.
Riffs, riffs, riffs
With the Viennese band Great Rift you almost have to ask yourself if they forgot the second “f” in their name, because here the riff rules! And uncompromisingly so. Here, influences from different decades of electric guitar music from blues to psychedelic rock to stoner rock merge almost chronologically into a homogeneous mass that is extremely impressive.
Yelled vocals, a concentrated drum beat, driven guitars. And above all: the organ! Ozymandias are one of the most exotic bands of the Austrian stoner scene. Besides the aggressive vocals, it’s the tone-setting organ that hardly any other band can keep up with nowadays. 70s organ ecstasy paired with 90s guitars and iconic 21st century hipster artwork works extremely well in combination. Ozymandias are a real addition to the sound spectrum of the Austrian stoner scene.
Swanmay from Linz really celebrate the genre of stoner rock with album titles like “Stoner Circus” (Independent Audio Management) and don’t necessarily wrap themselves in silence with song titles like “Dopechild” or “So High So Low”, but rather in clouds of smoke. Hymns to certain natural substances were already brought by bands like Black Sabbath with songs like “Sweet Leaf”, whose riff would fit perfectly into the repertoire of a stoner rock band. Fans of the genre get their money’s worth here: loud, full of energy and until you can’t take it anymore.
Mothers of the Land offer an old school sound. There is no over-production here, but you can still hear the people behind the instruments in the studio, which is quite fun when licks and solos duel each other to bundle up again and again in a wave that carries away everything above the neck.
Intra lacks a bit of dirt in the sound to really connect with flawless stoner rock. Nevertheless, the very modern and diverse interpretation of guitar-dominated songwriting acts very independently and becomes quasi “Intrapretation”: especially also through the self-confident and refreshing vocals of singer Bianca Ortner – modern rock with riffs from the stoner universe.
The five-strong Liquid Maze from Vienna deliver an eclectic sound construct with elements of stoner rock, art rock and alternative rock. Here, groove, complicated breaks and catchy hooklines of the absolutely radio-suitable singer give each other a hand.
An independent melange of hard rock, stoner rock and polyphonic male vocals is delivered by Animal Machine. If there were no instrumentation, Animal Machine would almost pass for an A Cappela group – a true unique selling point of the band is how all three instrumentalists raise their clear voices together and set an exciting counterpoint to the hard rock sound.
Weddings from Vienna with Canadian roots are not a wedding band, but deliver a mixture of grunge, stoner and classic rock, which stands out from the crowd especially because of the female and male vocals singing in harmony. Energetic rock music with a knack for melodies.
The Linz trio Timestone is a good example of how it often takes no more than three band members to master their instruments with finesse. The three of them know how to cover all frequencies and all kinds of stylistic corners – besides classic stoner rock passages, there are psychedelically touched moments again and again. Also a certain doom affinity with many dragging and ominous parts helps Timestone to an independent sound.
Les Lekin from Salzburg operate in a not entirely dissimilar way – here, the stoner references move increasingly into the background and the psychedelic touch gains the upper hand and unites with equally present post-rock influences to form downright trips. These trips are evoked at live concerts, especially through live visuals as a real full-body experience.
The Viennese Monsters Of The Ordinary deliver classic stoner rock of the brand rhythmic guitar work, rich sound and a hefty portion of groove. The overall package is raw, energetic and at the same time instrumentally on an appealing level – the last album called “Edelschrott” (“precious scraps”) is quite an appropriate description – wink wink.
The instrumental four-piece Sativa Root from Salzburg offers with tone-setting distorted bass guitars, sludge effect and hypnotic riffs, the perfect playground for listeners.
From the desert to the source of the kaleidoscope
When the members of a band call themselves Space Captain, Low Frequency Commander and Galactic Thrust Engineer and put a pickle jar with a caged cat flying through space on the cover of the artwork, the direction of travel is clear! Right?
In any case, the jam-heavy psychedelic rock atmosphere, which the band itself describes as “high energy space kraut”, is similarly creative as the outer image. As is often the case with trios, there is more room for flashy bass-guitar work, as is strikingly positive with Speck.
The Graz-based band Another Now has one EP called “The Great Journey To Outer Space” (Grazil Records) up their sleeve, and the name says it all. Synthesizer sounds and psychedelic chord sequences determine the sound.
Diamond Skull from Vienna, on the other hand, have a more straightforward approach and offer stoner and classic rock with a strong impact of the 70s and 80s. Especially the vocals of the frontman know how to please and refine the sound of the band.
Tentacula from Linz captivate with very unique vocals, which are rarely heard in the genre and make you think of post-punk as well as gothic rock. Under this engaging presence, a wonderfully lo-fi produced primordial soup of all kinds of set pieces from the most diverse rock genres is simmering.
Ryte from Vienna operate increasingly psychedelic and sometimes a theremin may contribute a twisted soundscape. Occasional vocal escapades make the band’s spectrum more lively, but ultimately the riff rules!
Dos Brujos from Graz are an exciting jam session project: the duo meets monthly in their own studio to simply and straightforwardly improvise what’s going on inside them. What’s going on in them is a spontaneous mixture of all kinds of electric guitar subgenres but always lively and instrumental. That the Styrians are bursting with creativity is shown by a project operating on a similar principle called II.
Psycho Toaster also have something to say about groove and know how to attract attention with a mixture of stoner rock and hard rock and skillfully American-sounding vocals.
Grey Czar from Salzburg combines groovy heavy and stoner rock with male choir, resulting in a pinch of madness. In a genre that often doesn’t look too far beyond the six-string fretboard, they are definitely one of the most unique Austrian stoner rock representatives.
Also rather unusual are Succopuss – here, besides bluesy parts, surf rock influences, a certain laid back atmosphere and a saxophone are waiting. Not least because of the wonderful smoky whiskey voice of the singer an absolute recommendation!
doom, guitar solos and the high age of the electric guitar
Little Hole Filled with roots in the Mühlviertel has been around since 1996, but the gentlemen with the broad and heavy sound had to wait a full 24 years for their first complete album. Hypnotizing vocals – which sometimes remind of a certain prince of darkness – and a sound coat with several metal references in the sound place Little Hole Filled at the harder end of the stoner scene, if not rather to be described as a doom metal band. In any case, they are sacral, powerful and worth listening to!
Avalanche really roll down everything that gets in their way like an avalanche. Located at the heavier end of the genre, one can almost speak of a sludge band and certain post-metal touches – not least due to the modern guitar sound of the Viennese band.
The Graz-based KRPL meander somewhere between noise rock, stoner rock and make all kinds of subgenres their own. Crisp rhythm guitars, a tight bass-drums combo and a tendency to step on the gas pedal fire up the adrenaline release.
With the Caged Wolves from Vienna the Stoner Rock is loosened up by a few doomy sprinkles or rather made tougher – but this definitely in a positive sense! In addition to a haunting voice, there are also quieter song sections again and again, which is quite good for the dynamics.
The Viennese trio Tokan has with “Teil einer vulnerablen Gruppe” (“part of a vulnerable group”) only one studio album to their credit, but on this one they dish it out like there’s no tomorrow. Guitar, bass and drums act in synergy and groove successively into nirvana.
High Brian from Graz breathe new life into the guitar solo, which has been relegated to the second row in the musical landscape, and provide solid and partly self-ironic psychedelic hard rock as backing for the manifold solos.
The Heavy Minds from Upper Austria already make no secret in their band name what they are in the mood for. Less stoner rock and more rooted in classic hard rock, the quartet impresses with a pleasant analog production, casual vocals and stylish guitar solos.
Liquid Earth take you as a listener on a real trip with different stops in progressive rock of the 70s, hard rock of the 80s and of course stoner and desert rock from the 90s to finally go their own way.
Besides the bands and musicians themselves, there are of course other players in the Austrian stoner rock scene that make it vibrant. Be it labels like Panta RE, Stone Free Records or Independent Audio Management that release the music or event series that are classic venues of the scene. Special concert series such as the Night of Fuzz or the already legendary Roadtrip To Outta Space at Arena Wien are worth mentioning here, as well as festivals such as the always idyllic Lake On Fire, the Stone Break or the Dome Of Rock.
Fortunately, rock’n’roll in the broadest sense as an attitude towards life is still evoked in Austria by some modern representatives of the stoner rock genre. Hopefully, the many active and internationally successful Stoner Rock bands will be able to perform live more often in the future. Because Stoner Rock ultimately works best live and loud!
Sebastian J. Götzendorfer
Translated from the German original by Itta Francesca Ivellio-Vellin