On their last tour, the tagline for the mighty Stoneburner was “industrial music like a goddamn firestorm,” and the live show lived up to that claim. The music of Steven Archer’s tribal-industrial setup Stoneburner is mechanical aggression with a sense of urgency, melodies to make one move their ass, not because they want to, but because they have to because the World Wolf itself is in pursuit. The project’s last album Apex Predator was a statement record, their first as part of a proper label, and now that statement is revisited with The Great Filter, a seven-song EP that isn’t finished kicking the listener’s teeth in, as if the listener is pre-Bloodline Roman Reigns and the music is Braun “I’M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU YET!” Strowman…
Perhaps I got swept up in the pro wrestling analogy, but the point is, The Great Filter, named for Robin Hanson’s potential solution to the Fermi paradox regarding extraterrestrial life, is an assault on the ears in the best ways.
“Narcissus” kicks off proceedings with a hearty bassline and Stoneburner’s signature layered vocals. It’s a powerful way to open the EP, barreling forward for a four-plus minute opening salvo that flows seamlessly into “Fair and Balanced.” Vocally, Archer is all over the place, with talk-sung, almost rapped verses before the refrain and command of “put your hands up,” almost making this song a spiritual successor to “Sellout” from the Apex Predator album. It’s an anthemic “all hands on deck,” with lyrics talking about the corrupt and warmongering nature of America, with the throughline being that it may be time to wipe the slate clean, as Archer sings in one of the earlier verses.
“Hard Crash Necropolis” feels like a love letter to Nineties electro-industrial, taking things in a dancier direction with elements of noise and a stronger sense of rhythm. Of everything in this EP, this might be the most club-friendly track, while remembering where it came from with the harsher electronic flourishes and features. Things go from dance to destruction with “Corvomancers,” a staccato-laden industrial rocker with loads of reverb and echo, making for a dreamier backdrop for the palm-muted guitars and Archer’s multiple vocal tracks to soar through. This song will definitely make my regular listening playlists before long.
Spoken word samples and acoustic guitars set “Generation Loss” into motion, haunting and shambling like the shell of its former self the America that Archer sings about has become. Elements of doom metal help to amp up the dread in this song, and while it wouldn’t be the first song I would show someone to introduce them to Stoneburner, it is one that appeals to me as a fan of metal music and of industrial music, as well as of things that lay just left of center. The title track is an abrasive and challenging one, though it would almost certainly get a dance floor going if given the chance, at least until the final third of the nearly five-minute track, in which pianos and different noise samples dominate the conversation until the fade.
The EP goes home on a cover of Psychedelic Furs’ “The Book of Days,” and this nod to the English post-punk group is a faithful one. While the original article has a bit more muddiness and grittiness to it, the Stoneburner rendition features a bit more of a dreamlike quality, a slightly more fantastical feel despite the heavier use of guitars than in the Furs’ version. It makes sense for Archer to give this late-Eighties classic the Stoneburner treatment, and it finishes off this seven-strong sortie that is The Great Filter on a high note.
My first introduction to Stoneburner was the Red in Tooth and Claw EP back in 2020, and every release I’ve heard since has only gotten stronger. Steven Archer has been in the music game for decades and is showing no signs of stopping, and we should feel blessed that that is the case. I don’t normally like doing superlatives or “best of the year,” but this is an essential listen, especially for the industrial fan that likes the music to beat back occasionally.
The Great Filter is available now via COP International.