White Stones is the solo project of Martin Mendez, bassist for Opeth. It’s surprises me that he’d never done anything outside of Opeth. But I suppose it’s just as surprising that he is finally doing something. “Kuarahy” was an album that I was really looking forward to. The biggest question is “how much does it sound like Opeth?” The quick answer is that it does sound a bit like old Opeth.
Mendez is often overlooked when it comes to Opeth but he is a HUGE part of their sound and has been for many years now. So it stands to reason that some Opeth DNA will make it’s way into White Stones. “Kuarahy” is more like the old prog death metal of Opeth’s earlier days, just without the clean vocals. Mendez had intended to perform the vocals as well as bass and rhythm guitar. The problem was, he wasn’t liking how his vocals sounded.
Since he was tracking the album with his friend Eloi Boucherie, Mendez asked Boucherie to take a shot at doing the vocals. Boucherie is not only the owner of Farm Of Sounds studio but he also fronts his own band. Mendez loved what he heard so he had a new frontman. Vocally, he sounds a smidge like Mikael but he is more like a really dried out Steve Tucker. Yeah I don’t know. If you don’t like harsh vocals, Boucherie’s voice isn’t going to change that.
Ok so now that you’re up to speed on the band, what about the album? “Kuarahy” is book-ended by instrumentals that are good at setting the mood, both coming into and out of the album itself. I am not keen on tracks that aren’t actual “songs” but each are fine as part of the album as a whole. The album kicks off more officially with “Rusty Shell” which has a bad ass riff and awesome double bass action. “Worms” keeps things going with, yes you guessed it, quite a few KILLER riffs!
That’s what I love most about “Kuarahy,” that Mendez can really write a great riff. It would seem that he was a massive untapped resource in Opeth. That makes White Stones so incredible. This is definitely a tour de force for Mendez. The lead track off the album “Drowned in Time” has tremendous atmosphere to start the track which would not have sounded out of place on “Still Life” or “Blackwater Park.” And when this track kicks in, HOLY SHIT it kicks ass!
“Ashes” is another track that I love. The dissonance of the main riff is about as Opethian as it gets. “Infected Soul” is yet another track that I really like, especially since it has more of a proggy vibe to it. This might go without saying but the bass playing on this album is incredible. The guitar parts sit perfectly with Mendez’s fuzzed out basslines. Kudos to the guitar solos by Fredrik Åkesson of Opeth who handles all the solos except one (Per Eriksson plays on “The One”). Åkesson is one of my favorite guitarist so it just adds to my overall enjoyment of this album.
Going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I guess I assumed I would like it since Mendez is a very talented bassist. It turns out that he is also a great songwriter, master riff-ologist too. “Kuarahy” is absolutely essential for fans of the early Opeth days. It is not a copy of that however. But it is an alternate path that could have been taken. So now fans can have an alternative should they choose it.
4.Drowned In Time
9.Taste Of Blood
Release date: March 13, 2020
Label: Nuclear Blast