It’s rare to find a heavy band who is able to perfectly fuse a variety of genres. Far too often in the metal scene, bands rely on the familiar trope of "unexpected thing meets metal!" It makes for music that sounds forced and rarely goes anywhere. On rare occasions though a band emerges who is able to merge sounds in a unique and ambitious way. Such is the case with Bask, a North Carolina stoner metal band who infuse their compositions with prog and Americana. Their latest record, III, is the culmination of seven years of hard work. The sound they present is very much their own, a different and truly thoughtful approach to an oversaturated genre. It’s hard not to get excited about it.
The sheer level of songwriting skill that Bask bring to the table is stunning. The intro of the first track, "Three White Feet," proves this singlehandedly. Delicate and dancing guitar melodies intersect to make it clear that III isn’t just another Sleep-worshiping stoner metal record. On III, Pink Floyd-esque licks come face to face with monster riffs worthy of Queens Of The Stone Age. Nothing ever feels cobbled together, but rather as if the listener is being taken on a clearly thought out journey. As the band wraps the record up with the stunning vocal harmonies on the closer, "Maiden Mother Come" it is evident that taking the listener on a sonic quest was the goal the entire time. With inspired playing and gorgeous guitar tones throughout, it’s easy to start and then continue with the band on this epic adventure.
With all the creative risks the band took here, one might expect things to occasionally slip—they don’t. Sure, some tracks lean a little long. And yes, at times the Pink Floyd worship feels a little too heavy. With a band this good though, those flaws are more of an interesting quirk than a legitimate flaw. The real coup de grâce of the record though is it possesses some of the best guitar playing in stoner metal. On a track like "Stone Eyed," guitarist Ray Worth proves he is one of the most acrobatic and unique players in the genre today. The approach here is very different than many of the bands ‘rips and riffs’ peers and makes for compelling playing from what seems like another planet.
It’s strange to find a record that is identifiably stoner metal and still tastefully incorporates other ideas in a way that doesn’t seem hackneyed. Yet, the band never gives up their roots. When the group really sinks into heavier passages, as they do on "New Dominion," it is clear that they are still very much at home in the world of traditional stoner metal, honoring bands like Nebula or High On Fire. However, Bask have chosen to add a new layer. What unfolds here is aggressively forward-thinking. Bask simply executes on a whole other level than their peers. III is a record that can be thoughtful and anthemic all at once. It’s a record that elevates not just the band but the dialog around the scene as a whole. Without a doubt, it will dominate stoner metal fans' best-of lists this year.