Splits are a pretty great tool for cross-promotion with the power to introduce different bands to each other’s audiences, but they can also foster a competitive spirit. While such intentions are normally limited to fans debating which band is better, Ripple Music intentionally fans the flames with the second chapter in their Turned To Stone series. This particular split sees two rising stars Howling Giant and Sergeant Thunderhoof putting their Stoner Prog Metal skills to the test on Turn To Stone Chapter 2, as they depict a battle of wits between two legendary Japanese swordsmen. It’s certainly one of the more intriguing ideas for a split I’ve seen in a good while, reminding me of a similar treatment that Thorr-Axe and Archarus gave The Hobbit in 2017.
Things get even more interesting as the split just consists of two twenty-minute epic tracks, one for each of the swordsmen. This move puts both bands out of their comfort zones structurally as neither has ever released a song of that length before, but each finds their own way to adjust to the proceedings. Howling Giant utilizes the classic Prog Rock model as ‘Masamune’ consists of distinctly carved out movements in an overall suite while ‘Muramasa’ sees Sergeant Thunderhoof gradually fluctuating their riffs and dynamics in a more subtle layout. Both tracks are admittedly prone to meander at times but also allow plenty of time to soak in the atmosphere.
And with all this considered, both bands do a fantastic job of injecting their distinct personalities while accurately portraying the temperaments of their chosen swordsman. Masamune’s cautious characterization suits Howling Giant’s style well, as the heavier segments come with a sense of determined restraint that is reinforced by the extensive oceanic ambiance and melodic vocals. In contrast, Sergeant Thunderhoof takes a brasher approach indicative of Muramasa’s aggressive demeanor in the legend that sees a greater emphasis on fuzzed-out riff work with minimal spacy intrusion. At the very least, it’s a demonstration that bands aren’t guaranteed to sound identical to one another just because they have similar genre tags.
The victor in this clash will likely come down to the listener’s preference band-wise (Sorry Sarge, the Giant edges this one out) but Turn To Stone Chapter 2 is a strong display of Stoner Prog mastery. As a fan of both bands, it’s exciting to see them applying their individual strengths to a very different context than usual. The split takes a little extra time to get a feel for compared to their other works and might not be the first thing I’d recommend to an unfamiliar listener, but one can’t deny the powerful execution of its prestigious framing device. Seeing how the pair’s plans to tour together in 2020 were tragically sidelined, one can only hope there will come a time when they are able to take this battle to the live stage in the near future.
8 / 10