While previous offerings carried a notable punk presence and rougher audio quality, Stella Porta stands out for having a more diversity to the material. Yes, those roots can still be traced back to the style from time to time, mostly notably the starting track “Smoke Bath”. It reasserts this aspect immediately with the traditional two-step drumming and various hooks that play up a rebellious presence to the deeper, bass driven riffs and sandpaper-like shouting that paint a fairly basic sludge template. It’s just over two minutes, but it’s a good introduction to an album that only descends further into that sludge field with stoner elements that can be a bit more abrasive than your typical angsty attitude.
“Monolith” has a chemistry in the music that feels like you are being drifted along in flight in the calmest of conditions thanks to the smooth, relaxing music and rich bass presence. The only disruptions lie in the screaming vocals that act more like the cries of the winged creatures carrying you off to far away lands that become distorted the closer you get, changing the tone of the music to that of a tense hallucination while you crash back to the ground with an intensity suitable to Mastodon‘s Leviathan album. “Clandestine”, however, throws the deeper chords right in the listener’s face, shaking you from the state of relaxation you’ll eventually find yourself in with traces of hardcore turbulence and mystified hooks, the latter more in the solo that hits about two minutes in.
“Transcendence”, however, accentuates a subtle haziness, offering up the sensation of floating along the audio waves in a similar fluid motion as “Monolith”, weaving an image of anger and vices void of the rawer presence that made up most of Pig or Solus. “Haze” manages to keep this spirit alive for a while longer, though some of southern-fried stoner grooves of Eyehategod crash head first into the more violent High On Fire or previously asserted Unsane tactics earlier tracks took full advantage of. But you wouldn’t really expect that given the precursor track “Sky King”, though. The first half actually has more of a hostile early Beastie Boys groove presence. While it seems a bit odd, it does work to assert authority, even if it does come off a bit out-of-place compared to the rest of the release.
It’s obvious that some long-time fans of Bardus may not fully appreciate Stella Porta due to the evolution that the band has undergone since their 2013 album Solus, but its a growth definitely for the best. The band’s ability to jump from your traditional sludge values with bouts of psychedelics speaks volumes of the trio as a cohesive unit, leading to quite the addictive recording. Sure, there’s some room to further nurture that sound, but every track on here seems to be composed with care with more than just the basic building blocks of their stylistic shift already laid out. If you enjoy smooth flowing performances with the right amount of hostility, Stella Porta is something you’re going to want to check out.