To get the most inevitable, awkward facts out of the way, Joe Preston used to be in Earth, he used to be in the Melvins, he used to be in Men's Recovery Project and he used to be in The Need. Now, there's something called Thrones. From Olympia, Washington, Thrones' roster features just Preston and a sequencer, but don't dare call this a solo project: This is as real a band as it gets.

"Solo project" is a useless phrase anyway, especially here, because it suggests that anything that one might do alone is inferior. The only good reason to mention those other bands in reference to the mighty Thrones is Preston's unmistakable, overwhelming bass. Listen to Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars Live, the newly released EP of old Earth recordings, and it's unquestionable that the Preston Bass (and it needs to be capitalized) is the backbone of the Earth sound. Same goes for the Melvins, who made their best records with Preston. But that was ancient history. And to add to the confusion, there is also a Thrones doppelganger band called Mancampus, which is known to pull some wild stunts, such as chasing audience members around with a broom. Billed as Mancampus Lite, they coincidentally emerged from a three-year sabbatical a few weeks ago in an Olympia basement. No one was terrorized, however, to much disappointment.

There's no way to avoid talking about the Thrones' genealogy. It comes down to the fact that no other music being made now or 10 years ago sounds like Thrones or works as well as Thrones does. The sludgy, mutant metal sound is spooky and heavy but insanely listenable. On record, Preston plays every instrument; live, everything is preprogrammed except vocals and bass--and it's shocking how full the results are. Preston's Bass (maybe it should be in all caps) fills in the holes left by the prerecorded drums, and it leaves us wondering why we ever listened to guitar rock. It's a shame that Thrones haven't put out more records--the last output was 2000's excellent Sperm Whale EP--yet that's no reason why Thrones should be as overlooked as they are. Seeing anything by the sum of its parts is pretty ineffective, but even by those standards, I can't think of anything like it.



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April 21

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