Valley Of The Sun
For all of the distortion and noise the average stoner rock album possesses, most rely too heavily on the stoner part of the equation. Very few actually rock, that is to say they often lack the necessary soul and power that true rock ‘n’ roll should have. The best rock music makes the listener feel alive, or at least energized. Too often stoner rock leans too heavily toward the drug-laced psychedelia feeling, and while that isn’t always a bad thing, it’s nice to be reminded when a band just does the balance of stoner and rock just right. That band is Valley Of The Sun (great name for a desert rock group, eh?), who hails from the decidedly un-desert-ly Cincinnati. Volume Rock is their second release in two years, and it’s clear they’ve taken a pretty solid leap up with their sophomore record. It’s not life-altering, nor will it make you rethink hard rock in 2016, but, hot damn, is it a ton of fun to listen to.
Plus, it’s clear that Valley Of The Sun really understand how to work within the stoner rock framework. This is definitely an album that leans closer to all-out hard rock (with an emphasis on fuzzy distortion) than typical stoner tropes. The band is clearly influenced by Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden (and the soaring, soulful vocals owe more than a passing debt to Mr. Cornell), which explains why these songs have a bit more pep in their step than the average stoner jams. The band chose to record at Nada Recording Studio to emphasize their rock leanings, and Volume Rock does an excellent job at that. Songs like “Eternal Forever” and “Empty Visions” are exemplary ditties. It’s clear that the band had a ton of fun crafting the record, and that sense of joy permeates the album.
If it’s not clear already, Volume Rock isn’t a life-changing album, but it may go down as one of the best stoner rock albums of the year because it understands how to go full-throttle joyously. The album is the result of the band firing on all cylinders. It doesn’t hurt that there are honest-to-God hooks throughout, too. Ryan Ferrier is an excellent vocalist and is more than able to carry a tune. (Nicholas Senior)