Like the previous installment, the third chapter in Ripple Music’s Turned to Stone series is framed as a challenge between two contenders for Stoner Doom supremacy. But while Chapter II saw Howling Giant and Sergeant Thunderhoof put forth their competition as a battle of wits between mythic swordsmen, Chapter III is the culmination of an ongoing meme war between Merlin and Wizzerd. It also operates on a similar template as each band is given a full epic track to put their best foot forward.
What makes this split particularly interesting is how each band goes about their section differently despite operating around the twenty-minute mark. Wizzerd’s ‘We Are’ takes a dreamlike approach throughout, bookended with gentle acoustics and atmospheric effects with a heavy-soft tug o’ war structure duking it out in between. The pitch-shifted vocal filters throughout further reinforce a disorienting yet adventurous vibe. It’s a very loose track that executes its scope in a very off-the-cuff fashion and works well to get the listener immersed in a wandering landscape that isn’t too far off from their previous jams.
In contrast, the amusingly titled ‘Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure’ has a more definitive sense of purpose and a linear framing. The first movement is of particular interest to Stoner Doom fans, simultaneously aiming to crush and disgust as a building Saint Vitus-esque stomp is accompanied by sarcastic vocals that air their grievances with the genre’s shallower and cliched aspects. But rather than devoting the rest of the time to this slow-motion takedown, subsequent movements pick up the pace with Disco-Funk breaks aplenty and Prog Rock flourishes that include bombastic keyboards and flute. This assortment of style jumps should come off jarring in a Mr. Bungle sort of way, but the way that it gradually develops each movement makes for a surprisingly palatable experience if you’re into what it has to offer.
Despite this split’s roots in a series of cross-promotional shitposts, Merlin and Wizzerd demonstrate that they each have something substantial to offer on Turned to Stone Chapter III. It’s refreshing how both bands approach the epic length format; whether you prefer Wizzerd’s freeform jams or Merlin’s meticulously nailing their theses to the House of Doom ala Martin Luther, the tracks come with a sense of unorthodox exploration. If we keep getting works of this caliber from these bands and others seeking their own paths in a similarly creative fashion, Stoner Doom just might make it out alive.
8 / 10