If you didn’t know that stoner rock was a battle, then instrumental trio Stonerfront Nijmegen would like to inform that they’ve got the Dutch field covered. Actually, I’d doubt the three-piece, for whom the EP 3-Days-Desert marks a physical debut — pressed to180 gram vinyl and released through Fuzzmatazz Records — would even seek to make such lofty claims. Their ethic, rather, rests solely in the direction of unpretentious stoner rocking, riffs leading the way for thick, rolling, semi-psychedelic grooves, light touches of early Monster Magnet jangle making their way into the guitar of Remco Verweij while bassist John Munnich fills out a rich low end in locked march with drummer Peter Dragt‘s classic grooves, the overall result on the 20-minute EP’s three tracks resting comfortably somewhere between Kyuss‘ formative desert rock and Karma to Burn‘s straightforward riffy motoring.
Sounds familiar? It probably should, and if any of the above names ring a bell, it probably will. Stonerfront Nijmegen — who hail from, wait for it, Nijmegen — touch on some of the jam-mindedness that’s au courant in European heavy, and thanks to Munnich’s satisfyingly weighted tone, they have a bit in common with some of Elektrohasch‘s current set, albeit overall coming across as less fuzzy on the 9:10 A-side, “Stonerfront Nijmegen” or side B’s “Sector 11” (5:46) and “Sandchaser” (5:54), despite their tendency to wander. The two shorter tracks offer a better look at the trio’s sonic personality than the longer cut, though none of the three should prove a challenge to anyone with prior genre exposure. I’d be curious to know how someone who unfamiliar with Dave Wyndorf‘s ’90s exploits might hear the opening strum of “Stonerfront Nijmegen” or the siren sounding an alarm apparently meant to wake listeners up for the circling jam to come, but either way, Stonerfront Nijmegen seem more bent on interpretation than innovation in their ethic, and as the jams are suitably earthy and the vibe is cool, the wheel seems to have little argument in keeping its long-appreciated shape.
The interplay between Verweij and Munnich throughout all three cuts is high on the list of Stonerfront Nijmegen‘s assets, though it’s worth noting as well that Dragt‘s jazzy changes give them a likewise intricate foundation to build on, and that the drummer is just as pivotal in establishing the soulful stops prior to the six-minute mark as either of the other two. 3-Days-Desert may not be remaking the band’s stated style in its own image, but neither is it void of personality. The siren returns in the second half of the eponymous opener, and to tie it all together, a bomb drops at the end of the track, leading to the sandier climate of “Sector 11” on the next side of the album, a Sky Valley low end making its presence felt early into the jam that emerges to hold at a steady level where one might expect a build. If Stonerfront Nijmegen are missing their John Garcia anywhere on the EP, it’s on “Sector 11,” though few and far between are the singers who dynamic enough to keep up with the track’s variability of mood — a Garcia croon would do it; not much else. They do thicken out some in the second half, but it’s not like they’ve been rising musically toward a payoff, so really it’s just a heavier part written into the script, no more or less offensive than anything they’ve done to this point. Encouragingly, they go back to the central line of earlier in the track at the end, giving “Sector 11” a structured feel. This brings an added touch of context to the more classically motoring “Sandchaser.”
Less of the desert than of the speedway, “Sandchaser” finds Verweij again at the fore, but this time with chunky chugging riffs that touch almost on a rockabilly style, and subsequently a howling lead that, yes, Munnich answers back with a killer bassline, but moreover an unhinged feel that both stands testament to Dragt‘s ability to hold a song together and wants nothing for personality while also filling the space that vocals might otherwise occupy. In any case, Stonerfront Nijmegen — who first got together in 2008 but saw 3-Days-Desert come to fruition after lineup shuffles — would have some growing to do if they seemed remotely interested in doing it. As it stands, they might actually be better off in categorically exploring their influences with relaxed-atmosphere jams rather than trying to force progression into where progression doesn’t want to be, and if that’s the case, then these tracks at very least make the most of what sounds like a good time writing and recording, and taken for what they are, leave one with no real complaints. Further, the more I listen through, the less I find myself asking of 3-Days-Desert, which I’m happy to consider the EP establishing its own context and inviting the listener to approach it on its own level. It’s unambitious, but not without its own charm in part because of that.3-Days-Desert, Fuzzmatazz Records, Nijmegen, Stonerfront Nijmegen, Stonerfront Nijmegen 3-Days-Desert, The Netherlands