By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Stew's newly released EP, Harm & Ease, is not what it initially seems. The record's five tracks clock in at almost 40 minutes—longer than many full-length albums.
The band, however, wastes no time getting started: A forceful, growling bass line plays for a few bars at the top of the first track, "Chuck." The intro on its own is a rave-up, and when the entire band kicks in a few seconds later, the listener can almost envision white knuckles gripping the instruments as a choir of crazed howls serves as a backdrop for the remainder of the fast-paced song.
As the tracklist progresses, the psychedelic metal influence becomes increasingly apparent. The foundation of the second song, "Backstory Criminal," is a heavy riff that sounds like it's been swiped from an unknown Black Sabbath song. Stew's raw energy keeps the record moving at breakneck speed, but then it slams on the brakes for the EP's title track. "Harm & Ease" starts in a slow psychedelic dirge. Simple melodies are sung over drummer Joe Hardy's trance-inducing tom toms. A single bass note is held for the entire seven-minute song, which shows their ability to do much with only a little.
Clearly, this is an EP meant to be listened to in entirety. The way the songs transition from aggressive to sleepy and back proves to be the most effective route to showcasing the outstanding title track.