Martin Mendez, best known for his work as Opeth’s bassist and incredible contributions to the band has now come into the limelight with his own band White Stones. Musical expectation aside, the idea of a Martin Mendez band is a pretty appealing idea, to begin with. Lo and behold the debut musical offering by White Stones- ‘Kuarahy’.
Now it would be awfully wrong of me to try and give a rundown of this record if one were to expect an Opeth side to this record. Pardon me while I indulge myself while doing so. ‘Kuarahy’ does sound like Opeth but with a difference. It’s weird but imagine trying to recall the band, and your memory sort of begins to fade while trying to recall the band’s music but the music continues to play in your mind, fading out with a ton of groove. The sort of music that you cannot quite place a finger on but you know is surrounded by an air of familiarity that is neither entirely nostalgic nor completely misplaced. All of this but the fun kind. ‘Kuarahy’ resembles this experience if you were to associate it with Opeth. On one hand, this is an unfair association. ‘Kuarahy’ is its own thing- jumpy, groovy and dark.
Jumping right in, the album opens right up with the title track- setting up a dark and atmospheric vibe to the album that breaks into soft yet effectively establishing melodic sections, it is a short instrumental intro that opens up the follow-up track “Rusty Shell”. “Rusty Shell” does take you back to an Opeth of nostalgia and of a simpler time (if I may) with the screams, screeching solos straightforward rhythmic sections. “Drowned in Time”, “The One” and “Guyra”, is super tasty songs filled with oodles of delicious riffs with the choicest chord progressions that make the song catchy almost right away. At this point, if you liked one of these, it is pretty easy to get into the groove with the others. Unfortunately, regardless of the musical complexities at this point, the album is almost reducible to something with straightforward expectations. I guess this works with some folks but it does take away the surprise element all too soon. At this point, “Ashes” comes as a welcome surprise with its intricacies in constructing vivid textures in the second half of the song. The leads and the melody of the song make it a worthwhile stand out from the rest of the album so far. Things get more spaced out and open with “Infected Soul”, the slow progression of the music does get back to the sound so well established at this point. Oh, do watch out for the fun bass work on this song. Wonderful work on the rhythm sections. “Taste of Blood” starts out slow and eventually opens up to a wall of sounds that seem to experience an endless construction with the riffs’ building on each other to keep the music together. Mildly chaotic but still pretty straightforward and enjoyable. The album comes to close with “Jasy”, a sentimental sounding track that also stands out from the rest of the album. Of course, there are bits of the song that take you back into the album but these are pretty much sidelined. It’s the atmospheres, the melody, the deep percussion and the rhythmic elements that take the center stage here. A chill and ambient close to the album.
‘Kuarahy’ by the Martin Mendez band White Stones is an interesting band. There’s a sense of an old blackened prog metal vibe that comes with the music coupled with Mendez’s wonderful songwriting. It’s got a groove, it got the dark tones and its prog. A pretty good combination. The bass sounds spectacular on this record and so does the rest of the band. The music does not sound like the typical run of the mill modern metal production. Put it this way- imagine an old school sound but much more refined with a fresh approach to bass tones within an old school setting. This isn’t meant to be an experimental album nor probably carve out new frontiers in prog music. The album is really decades of musical maturity coming together in one place in a comfort zone that works. White Stones will have its loyal takers because the music caters to an ambiance of blackened or death prog nostalgia. On the other hand, the album does feel like it sits within one narrow identity sans surprises or moments of epiphany. This isn’t to say that there is no sense of a musical direction because there is and it is solid. This is a fixed sound and you’ll know it when you hear it, and odds are if you are old school, this is your jam.