If metal seems like an increasingly fractured and divided scene, there are still bands that eschew the usual subgenre laziness in favour of going for the heavy metal jugular. Their sound undeniably recalls the likes of Pantera, Mastodon and Clutch, but Stoneghost have forged something new, exciting and gloriously heavy from their influences, resulting in a debut album – New Age Of Old Ways – that is as refreshing as it is bollock-squishingly monstrous.
“Stoneghost is relatively new; we were called Snakebite for a few years before that. We hated that name!” laughs frontman Jason James. “We sound a lot different now. We were doing it for so long, but eventually it became a job that we weren’t enjoying that much, so we changed the name, stopped worrying about what we sounded like and it came out like this, and we’re well happy with it! There are no restrictions, no boundaries.”/o:p
Freedom brings both rewards and responsibilities, of course. As brilliant as their debut is, Stoneghost were not immune to occasional lapses of common sense while piecing their first record together.
“I was going through a massive Soundgarden phase before we made the album and there are rehearsal recordings where I was doing horrible, high-pitched and out-of-tune singing, which was me trying to be Chris Cornell,” he recalls. “It was rubbish, but we worked it out in the end!”
Masters of gnarly, muscular grooves and choruses that practically leap from the speakers to bellow into your face from millimetres away, Stoneghost have pulled off the neat trick of sounding familiar and fresh, tapping into the essence of heavy metal and wringing vitality from its core precepts. It would, of course, be easier to jump on any passing bandwagon, but this band are clearly not interested in toeing the line.
“A lot of bands seem to categorise themselves and then stick to their chosen subgenre,” says Jason. “We don’t write a song and say, ‘That’s not us!’ If we like the riffs, then it’s us. Let everyone else pigeonhole you. Don’t do it to yourselves, otherwise it ain’t honest.”
It’s been a while since a band from London made a significant impact on the global metal map, but even though they have one foot planted in the countryside, Stoneghost are shaping up to be the capital’s greatest metallic revelation of the year.
“I love that there’s such a rich and dark musical history in the UK, especially in London,” Jason concludes. “You can go back centuries, to grimy medieval times, and there’s a lot to it. But we’re from Bromley, so we’re part country boys, part South East London. We’re a London band but we grew up around fields and cows. Bromley’s in London and Kent… it’s confusing as hell!”
NEW AGE OF OLD WAYS IS OUT NOW VIA MASCOT/o:p