Those familiar with The Stone won’t be surprised by the focus on winding guitar riffs that are as complex as they are bizarre, a trait that the band has used since their inception to distinguish themselves from other bands in the expanding black metal scene. Their unorthodox song structures shatter petty genre preconceptions like blast beats and ceaseless tremolo-picked riffs, recognizing that the genre is beyond these simplistic notions that went out of style shortly after the collapse of the second-wave Norwegian scene. Instead, we are met with infinitely progressive compositions and musicianship that, despite the chaotic nature of it all is painstakingly precise in its execution and contribution to the finished product. Such is the case with Teatar Absurda, an album that takes the advances The Stone have made in their sound since the release of Zakon Velesa and refines them to near perfection.
It’s almost eerie how well each and every riff works to further the overall atmospheric presence, one that is monolithic in scale and extremely potent. The chaos of complex riffing no sooner gives way to relatively simple and plodding strings of notes before shifting to a set of uniquely bizarre and unsettling melodies. The pace is constantly shifting in multiple directions, never settling on one course of action for too long, but then again never too brief to be labeled as spastic or disjointed. From the incredibly thick atmosphere in the opening “Gavranovo” to the brazen insanity of the closing title track, Teatar Absurda works its course in covering an incredible amount of ground without being dragged down by the near-constant shuffling in tempo and mood. The ability for the album to tie itself together via “Moj Grob” and “Nuklearan” is noteworthy, making it seem like everything going on is a part of a singular cohesive unit that must be seen as such.
This tendency for the album to appear as more than the sum of its parts is an admirable feat for a release that runs for almost fifty minutes with a total of seven tracks, its running time and track count suggesting an album that comes off as far more fragmented than Teatar Absurda actually is. The impressive drumming, courtesy of Honza Kapak who also produced the album, ushers in a fervent sense of chaos during the more intense tracks and a wandering plodding when the music breaks for a slower atmospheric moment. The impressively technical riffs by Kozeljnik are paired perfectly with Nefas’ growls and shrieks, providing brilliant fodder from which the album churns out its more unsettling moments, backed by the incoherent and often jumbling lyrics sang in Serbian that are both dense and deep in nature (thanks Nikola for helping me decipher the meaning of lyrics).
It’s easy to single out Teatar Apsurda as the best release in The Stone’s catalogue, one that is laden with already stellar albums. It is the very best of what the band has to offer, and leaves behind the few shortcomings that existed in past releases. What we are left with is the embodiment of what makes The Stone as great as they are. The infinitely complex and progressive song structures accompany musicianship and songwriting that is at the top of its game, all sewn into a neat package that is exactly the right length. If The Stone continue to release material of this caliber in the future, they will undoubtedly be propelled into the upper echelon of the black metal elite.
Teatar Apsurda is out on December 9 via Mizantropeon Records; pre-order it here. Follow The Stone on Facebook, check out their Bandcamp for previous albums. The title song of the new album can be streamed below.