As the stoner rock scene continues to split, we find bands more and more eschewing the metal-friendly grooves of Red Fang and Weedeater and venturing closer to Ty Segall territory: murky fuzz rock that owes but a scant nod to the likes of Sabbath and isn't particularly concerned whether their music is both loud and heavy. Power trio Netherlands (from New York, of course) work an oppressively weighty riffing strategy more often than not on their third platter, Audubon, but there is a sense of gleeful abandon in frontman Timo Ellis' vocals that borders on pop more than heavy metal (Torche is the only other comparable band that springs to mind, and even that is a very loose comparison).
Ellis' riffs – capably supplemented by Zach Eicherhorn's take-no-prisoners drumming and Ava Farber on "synthbass" – are the group's bread and butter, their crushing majesty offering a playful counterpoint to Ellis' near-falsetto vocal histrionics. The singing is likely to throw many a listener off initially, but give it a chance: Ellis grows on you, and never over-commits to the "nudge nudge" sense of absurdity. This theme of childish anti-profundity is brazenly manifested in song titles like "Elephuck" and "Alien Pussy", but the lyrics themselves seem to be kind of an afterthought… Netherlands are just here to rock, not to tell you who to vote for for president.
And rock they do, in a series of mini-jam sessions that nearly all clip short at just under the three-minute mark. Fans that are most likely to find themselves risk averse when it comes to non-metal can find the heaviest material with "In Cyan", "Thrombosis", and the Melvins sludge of "Elephuck". If you're willing to dive right in and engage in the band's more experimental efforts, check out "Dots" and "L.M.M.". Ideally, though, Audubon is a consistently strong effort that shouldn't need any qualifiers to put it over. Three records in, Netherlands is likely to be 2016's version of that band that everyone pretends they've been listening to all along, lest they have to admit that something this potent and immanently accessible has eluded their crate digger radar up until now.