When one thinks of stoner rock, the things that quickly come to mind are groove laden fuzzy guitars, thumping mid tempo drumming, fat bass work and otherworldly vocals that can go from relaxed to wailing in the space of a single verse.
As with all musical genres there are always a handful of acts that stand out from the pack that become the standard for all that follow. Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Tumbleweed and Sleep are but a tiny selection of bands that represent the very best of the genre, and I believe Atlanta based band Royal Thunder should stand shoulder to shoulder with the aforementioned groups.

Since forming in 2004 by guitarist Josh Weaver, the outfit have gone from strength to strength, and with their latest epic release, Wick, the quintet is at the top of their game, firing on all cylinders.

The monumental 63 minute album opens with the slow and brooding “Burning Tree.” it suitably conjures up a tripped out, opium induced fuzz that makes you feel like you are drifting through a hazy fog that’s equal parts relaxing and menacing.

The track plods along in the most excellent way possible for 5 minutes and sets the stage for one of the best songs on the album, “April Showers.” A mid tempo rocker which features some lovely melancholy guitar work from Weaver and absolutely soaring vocals from Mlny Parsonz. Honestly, the woman is a banshee. She sings with such a strength and presence, and there’s so much emotion laced in each of her words, she could be reading out a grocery list and you’d believe she’s wailing out the Ten Commandments to a congregation of loyal followers.

The rest of the album showcases the bands incredible knack for writing longer tracks without losing the listeners attention, and they all feature Parsonz incredible vocal deliveries which are full of grit that can slip from vulnerable to screeching with great control. It’s hard to pick standout tracks when they are all uniformly of high quality, but I’ll single out a few.

The track “Anchor” is a slow hard rocking jam that has some great Led Zeppelin inspired riffs and vocal deliveries, while the title track “Wick” is a slow lumbering classic stoner rock song which features some tasty no nonsense drumming from Evan Diprima and yet another soaring chorus full of emotion delivered with gusto by Parsonz.

The up-tempo “Turnaround” is a great bouncy short stab of emotionally driven rock delivered near the end of the record which manages to cram in some nimble drum fills and a nice guitar solo before finishing up to make way for the album closer, the 6 minute epic “We Never Fell Asleep.” It’s another slice of heavy stoner rock that soars with a deeply emotional sounding core and moves at the speed of a runaway glacier. It picks up the pace for a relentless middle section before we are left with Parsonz singing soulfully completely on her own (and some overdubs for good measure), which closes out the album with style and class.

Royal Thunder is a band that just keeps getting better and better, and this album proves that they are here to stay. With excellent releases such as this, one hopes they will continue on for many years to come.