Bewilderment I’ve always thought is an unusual word. I can’t exactly explain why, but I’ve never felt overly compelled to use it in general conversation. According to the Oxford English dictionary, the definition of the word bewilderment is the state of being puzzled or confused at events that have transpired. Out of context, if you happen to be followed by an identity known only to you as Stalin, you can only be bewildered as to how this occurrence came about in the first place. After all, Stalin, the man himself, is one of the most divisive figures in modern history, as well as a hip-hop artist also from California apparently. So, just who or what is Stalin? That too is a subject of bewilderment. Although the facts are they are a rock band, there’s at least two of them and they have an interest in cult, stretching to occult paraphernalia, a box to define their sound or style doesn’t quite seem to fit them. Elements of bands in sparse amounts you can claim make up the fibre of their already distinct musical output, but aside from a background reminiscent of the school of grunge, they really are a beast of a unique breed. Whether progressive doom backed by eerie chimes in the distance, sludge dirges with a wistful piano break or the quiet-loud waiting game leading in a wave of devastation, Stalin does it with a beautiful yet slightly twisted flair that few bands are capable of. This is none more apparent in their possibly most accessible work California, in combination with the NSFW music video. Bass becomes a big focal point in the track, grinding the surface of sound into an uneasy meeting between yourself and a presence of unsettling intentions. Guitar opens the dialogue, a rich, almost lamenting series of notes expressing a tone of remorse, but not overbearingly so, kind of hinting that there may be an agenda more untoward than let on. Impressions from one of the most original vocal styles I’ve heard in years suggest that too, playing from sinister whispers, to soulful innocence, to crooning with a hint of deviance, to full-blooded screams, even foul-mouthed spoken word gets a look-in, all from the mouthpiece of an incredible talent. With a trance-like drum pattern, all of these pieces slot together into a tenebrous, evocative exhibition, leaving the listener on tenterhooks the entire time. The ending of four furious tapping and skin-bashing bursts into just ambience, the pounding of toms and yelling thought-provoking slogans is surprisingly powerful, not to mention relatively irregular in this kind of music. Unashamedly different in execution by unnervingly talented musicians, Stalin are not just a band, but an experience, an experience that keeps you guessing and rewards perseverance with a blackened take on reinventing the modern rock formula. Music for the masses they say? You’re damn right it is! Masses that have to hear this band.
Stalin are kind enough to be offering the majority of their recorded output on Bandcamp on a pay-what-you-want basis, which I’d recommend go looking at and supporting them. My words might make a little more sense if you watch the music video, which I’ll remind you is NSFW. You were warned. Oh, and they have a website to go look at too. Make sure you do that.
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