WHITE TUNDRA – Honningfella EP

After spending a couple of years perfecting their riffs and honing a heavy, retro sound, Norwegian stoner rockers White Tundra unveiled their debut EP ‘Graveyard Blues’ in the middle of the 2020 global pandemic. Their weighty Monster Magnet/COC influenced sounds were a perfect compliment to a troubled time, and proved yet again that a tried and tested heavy psych/stoner sound could still impress when delivered with a lot of confidence and a few massive hooks. The title cut, in particular, with its chugging riff, gravelly vocals and rattling bassline – at times sounding as if a direct descendant of ‘Children of The Grave’ – set White Tundra on the road to stoner greatness, but ‘Freedom Fighter’ with its heavy and lurching anger suggested they’d have more to give than your bog standard stoner copyists.

Not long after the EP was recorded, the band continued to be hampered by a lack of gigs, but they trucked on undeterred, determined to bring more massive riffs to the masses. Guitarist Fredrik was brought into the fold and, eventually, a follow up appeared in the shape of the two track ‘Honningfella’ in June ’21.

It may be short, but at least riff-wise, ‘Honningfella’ makes good on all of the Tundra’s early promise. The title cut expands on previous sounds by kicking off with a deep and almost tribal drum sound, paving the way for a very Sabbath-oriented groove, which the musicians bring further up to date by tempering the obvious influence with a fuzzier counter melody and raw vocal from frontman Steven. What’s clear throughout this particular number is how well Steven’s heavy and rhythmic guitar work locks in with new guy Fredrik, but it’s often drummer Ola stealing the show with a weighty presence. An instrumental mid section really puts him at the forefront of the band’s sound by revisiting the intro and placing that groove alongside a selection of buzzing guitar leads. Factor in a crowd baiting “whoah” used extensively as a hook, and this becomes a huge track within the band’s growing arsenal. On the negative side, the recording is nowhere as crisp as anything from the previous EP; the guitars sound underwater, and the vocals – partly swamped by the huge riffs – actually make Steve sound more like a Max Cavalera clone. This is obviously not the band’s fault; it’s certainly a drawback of the limitations of recording during a pandemic, but there are still some great doom/stoner rock ideas lurking throughout.

‘One More Place’ features a much better production/mix, but retains a DIY charm. By adopting a stop start groove and filling the spaces with an ominous mumbling there is, perhaps, a slight southern rock influence creeping in – the core of the groove is very reminiscent of the fantastic 20 Watt Tombstone – but the shift doesn’t diminish any of the band’s intensity. This is one of those tracks where the heaviness is all; there is a hook, but the lack of clarity means the melody is stronger than the lyric, but it never reaches the greatness of the massive riff itself. These six minutes really drive Steve and Fredrik to do their best with an even heavier sound while bassist Gunnar can be heard fighting his way through with a warm, distorted buzz that gives the number a much fuller feel. There’s nothing flashy here, just bone crushing riffs. Despite belated arrival of a semi-bluesy lead break, in terms of pure heaviness and serving up almost timeless stoner metal, it really hits the spot.

Although short and sometimes lacking production values, ‘Honningfella’ offers potential fans a couple of very strong stoner workouts. Assuming you can handle the demo sound and are able to appreciate the music on its own merits, there’s definitely something here that cements White Tundra’s no frills approach to the genre. The stoner rock/metal scene may sometimes feel oversubscribed – its possible to discover two or three new bands every week – but these guys definitely bring something to the table. This release – and especially ‘Graveyard Blues’ before it – suggests that White Tundra might eventually join the UK’s 1968 and France’s MissingMile as an important fixture on the underground stoner/doom scene.

August 2021