Album Review: Stimuli Offers Stimulating Rock on They Are We

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Written by Greg Prato

The main problem I have with the majority of modern day rock bands is that they either sound exactly the same, or merely replicate their idols. As a result, it leads to little old me – and I’m sure many other rock fans – longing for such earlier eras as say, the late ’60/early ‘70s (the beginnings of hard rock/heavy metal), the mid/late ‘70s (punk rock/new wave), and the early ‘90s (grunge), when there seemed to be an overabundance of artists putting their own unique spin on the aforementioned genres. Thankfully, there are at least new a few bands today that don’t take the easy way out – as evidenced by the debut release by Stimuli, entitled They Are We.

Hailing from Oakland, California, Stimuli is comprised of members Jimmy Tomahawk (vocals and guitar), Tai Hake (bass), and Cole Andrew (drums). Musically, the trio sounds closely aligned to the art-metal-prog sounds of Tool, while vocally, Jimmy sounds at times similar to the likes of Ozzy Osbourne and Layne Staley. Case in point, the album’s first two tracks – the mysteriously titled “+x-“ and the title track – which contain off-kilter, rubbery guitar riffing a kin to Tool’s Adam Jones, and tricky percussive thumping a la Danny Carey.

But don’t get me wrong, Stimuli is not a Tool rip-off – “Sandstorm” contains some exotic middle eastern sounds, while both “Only Liars” and “Prize of Nothingness” are acoustic guitar-based and comes close to ballad territory (although the latter contains a drum solo at the end!). And another standout is a tune that a music video has been filmed for, “Ripple” (not to be confused with the Grateful Dead composition of the same name), which is probably the most “radio friendly” offering of the entire album – but doing so without altering their sound/approach much.

Overall, a very promising debut – as I for one am curious to see how the band builds on and branches out from this starting point in the future. And once more, kudos should be given to the lads for touching upon their influences, but also injecting in their own originality. Hopefully, more bands will follow in this not always easy but much more rewarding approach…