On paper, The Stone aren’t particularly cult. They hail from Belgrade, Serbia, not the frozen mountains of Norway, they mix elements of Death and Thrash metal into their sound and worst of all, their new album Nekroza (Folter), the Serbian quintet’s 7th album (8th including one under Stone to Flesh moniker) has decent production values. Clocking in at around 55 minutes, it is a solid piece of modern black metal. As well as the genre necessities of blast beats, punk riffs and guttural screams, The Stone mix it up with other influences. There’s traces of thrash, death metal reminiscent of Behemoth, and moments even bring to mind early Motörhead records.
Opener ‘Kamenolom’ begins with an ominous soundtrack of horns before the blast beats burst in. But this isn’t a relentless dirge, there are constant subtle shifts in the riffs and tempo. It’s still raw, heavy and oppressive in a way that only Black metal can be, but has a real energy permeating throughout every track. There’s plenty of hammering brutality, but it’s tempered with more intricate and ambitious rhythms.
Vocalist Nefas’ throaty screams combine with ominous yet aggressive guitar work from Kozeljnik & Demonetras. One of the most surprising elements of the band’s sound are the excellent solos dotted throughout the record; ‘Košmar,’ ‘Sunovrat’ and ‘Crno Zrno’ are all graced with some searing and melodic guitar flourishes.
While there’s plenty of variety in terms of pace, there’s nary a dull moment. The likes of ‘Pesimizam’, ‘Dani Crni’ and ‘Lov na veštice’ are all quality, while the epic, thudding ‘Mrak’ slowly builds from a snail’s piece to all out thunder, complete with melodic solos. But the seven-minute title track is probably the highlight, bringing together the different elements of the band’s sound into one melting pot.
The Stone may not be regarded on the same level as Dimmu Borgir or Satyricon, but on the strength of this record they should be. Mixing the crushing with the melodic in a way you don’t often hear, Nekroza is easily one of the most enjoyably Black metal albums of the year.