Direct Hit! (Cough Cough Cough)
In the robust field of marijuana science, the Holy Grail is a smooth hit that allows for massive inhalation of THC, with a minimum of throat irritation from heat and smoke-borne particulate. Stoner metal isn’t that much different. The idea is a maximally rich stew of thick instrumental tones and novel concepts to take the already piqued imagination on a journey of revelations. LP Stoner Justice, an expansion of a previous EP release from Oakland outfit Connoisseur, seems like it would be acutely aware of these desires and how to fulfill them. However, somehow the blunt gets passed the wrong way, and lit with a butane torch; the hit that Stoner Justice delivers is too unrefined to induce much more than a jittery high inaugurated with a fit of painful coughing.
The product smells dank at the initial unwrapping. “Circle of Heads” is awesome, thunderous crust punk that could very well throw elbows with His Hero is Gone, Trap Them, Masakari, Cursed and other luminaries. It’s only after, during the 55-second “Pot Hole,” that suspect rolling techniques begin to emerge.
As a commenter noted on similarly theme-driven (and humor-centric) metal band Puig Destroyer’s Bandcamp page: “Honestly, it’s the lyrics.” It’s the lyrics on Stoner Justice as well, but in this case they’re all wrong! Connoisseur’s words and phrasing are woefully on-the-nose. There’s no poetry in them and they damn near ruin the whole album. It’s the dirges that really harsh the high, the first of these being “Full Blown Marijuana Addict.” Over a shamelessly repetitive, crawling riff, vocalist Carlos howls lyrics like “He only cared about the weed,” “His blood was pure THC,” and “Now he’s smoking the big bong in the sky.” There’s no tact here, and the lines are just screamed out in simplistic succession without any vocal flair. Other forehead-slapping lines include “I smoke so much / That I think I’m turning into marijuana,” from “I am the Weed,” and “Free your lungs, free your mind,” from “(Destroy The) Smoke Machines.”
It’s not that a band shouldn’t write silly songs about marijuana, it’s that those songs should have some sense of being clever, or funny, or multi-faceted, or touching, or surprising. Tankcrimes labelmates Cannabis Corpse have done a wonderful job of this, where the song and album titles alone (often weed-themed puns on originals by Cannibal Corpse and other death metal groups) are enough to elicit sincere chuckles – “Lunatic of Pot’s Creation” from Beneath Grow Lights Thou Shalt Rise, for example.
It’s a real bummer about those draggy dirges, because Connoisseur are very strong in other areas, especially their crust punk and grindcore. The puff-puff-pass of 19-second “Machinegun Grenade” and two-minute “Orc Summer” will make you want to rise from your cloud and jump around (being careful not to knock over the bong of course). And frankly speaking, not having the lyrics front and center increases their appeal.
Closer “Ashes” is a doomy, audio manipulation job uncannily reminiscent of “22 Going On 23” by Butthole Surfers. Aside from making a woman sound ridiculous, the song shows a band still exploring their own capabilities. It’s hard not to like Connoisseur, especially when they are showing what they can do on the faster end of the musical spectrum. It’s also hard not to notice the middle school-level concepts and long, self-indulgent stoner-jams that are holding them back from true impact. There’s some good stuff in the bag that is Stoner Justice, but there are also whole great big nuggets made of stems and seeds. Hopefully next time the band increase the potency of their lyrics and sprinkle some dynamic keef onto their longer songs. Otherwise, it might be time to find a new dealer.