Brimstone Blues (Rebel Breed)
by Brian Varney
Sporting one of the more unfortunate names in recent memory, the Finland-based Stoner Kings are bound, thanks to said moniker, to be pigeonholed as “stoner rock,” a label which the band doesn’t deserve and, I’d imagine, doesn’t want.
Rather than following the path such a name would suggest, the band these guys remind me of more than any other is Backyard Babies. Squatting somewhere between the Babies’ G’N’R-damaged debut, Diesel and Power, and their 1998 supernova, Total 13, Stoner Kings mix glammy preening (ala Hanoi Rocks or early Crüe) with heavy riffing and bursts of hair metal melodicism. And just in case you missed these clues, they hit you over the head by starting “Stonehenge” with a coupla second lift of the drum intro to “Rock and Roll Part 2” (though they may’ve stolen it from Iron Maiden’s “Running Free”). So think of them as early Mötley Crüe with heavier riffs and more ass-end but without a flashpoint like “Live Wire” or “Looks That Kill.”
And well-intentioned though this may be (and is), it takes more than good intentions to make this sort of thing really cook. Backyard Babies were just another band until they were touched by the songwriting fairy and blapped out the stupendous Total 13. Mötley Crüe’s fine first two albums were chockablock with catchy tunes, but as soon as the songs went, they took a pretty quick nosedive (witness the meteoric freefall from the top-notch Shout at the Devil to the putrescent Theatre of Pain). If Stoner Kings aspire to such heights, they need to craft a few unforgettable songs. A new name would be nice, too.