The ‘90s were an exciting time period for Rock Music. Alternative Rock ruled the airwaves, with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and the Smashing Pumpkins rattling off singles one by one.
The sudden acceptance of Alternative came with a wider acceptance of Grunge and Stoner Rock—genres that have more in common than most people realize.
Narcosis, an Athens-based four-piece, understands these connections perfectly. In Leap of Faith, the band has crafted something that would have fit perfectly into the ‘90s, but feels right at home in Greece’s Stoner Rock scene.
Narcosis is heavy but catchy, and Leap of Faith is an exciting blend of musical styles. The band lists off heavy hitters like Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, and Alice in Chains as major influences, and those influences are evident in their songwriting and performance. Example: You’ll occasionally hear Kurt Cobain’s growl in vocalist Marios-Kostas Pappas’s voice.
But there’s much more here. On the contemporary side, we hear glimmers of Puta Volcano (fellow Greek rockers) and Witchrider (a band from Austria).
All these influences are packaged in an album with an incredibly high production quality. We highly recommend listening to Narcosis’s Leap of Faith on the best speakers you have. We initially listened to the album a few times on Bose Companion 2 Series II speakers, but (as we soon learned), these are ill-equipped to catch some of the album’s layers. When we played the album through some Sony h.ear headphones, we found that we had missed numerous vocal tracks on “Shifter.” As we listened through the rest of the album on the headphones, each song seemed to have new life in it.
This is where Narcosis diverges from your typical act in the Stoner Rock space. Instead of relying on bass-heavy grooves and retro production qualities, Narcosis transcends to create art.
On that note, we’ll also point that Leap of Faith is on the Made of Stone Recordings record label, a small outfit located in Thessaloniki, Greece—and one of our new favorite record labels. While small, Made of Stone Recordings has assembled an extremely talented lineup that includes our friends over at Honeybadger (the writers of Pleasure Delayer).
Before we jump into the full review, let’s take a look at the band. Here are the band members:
Marios-Kostas Pappas – Vocals/Guitars (founder)
Jon Toussas – Bass
Zois Giftopoulos – Drums
Kostas Pilarinos – Guitars (Note: Pilarinos was recently added and not featured on Leap of Faith)
Every musician on the album does an excellent job imitating the ‘90s. Get ready to grab your flannel.
Leap of Faith Album Review
Length: 48 minutes
Track 1: Shifter
“Shifter” starts by showing us just how much the band has matured since 2015. In the band’s 2015 album, Road to Infinity, Narcosis devoted itself to writing radio-friendly, hook-laden, guitar-driven Alternative Rock (with some Stoner and Metal influences added in for flavor).
Five years later, “Shifter” takes on a completely separate tone. While Road to Infinity was quick to start every song, “Shifter” opens with a minute-long drone of haunting sounds.
This is a hallmark of Leap of Faith. Many of the tracks on this album open with introductions fit for the beginning of a horror/thriller blockbuster. Once the mood is set however, the band rips into the melodies.
That’s the case with “Shifter.” Although those dark tones are woven into the rest of the track, it’s a fun, exciting listen—and part of that fun comes from reliving the music that made the ’90s so great. Narcosis lists Alice in Chains as one of their major influences, and that is felt throughout “Shifter,” but you’ll also find healthy doses of psychedelic and atmospheric influences. While bands like Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots were perfectly comfortable knocking you on your ass with blasts of distorted power chords, Narcosis has an edgier side that adds a layer of artistic maturity to their signature sound.
Track 2: Emperor
“Emperor” pushes us deep into the dichotomy of Narcosis.
And before we get any further, it’s good to have a quick discussion on Stoner Rock. One of the hallmarks of classic Stoner Rock is the exploitation of the riff. The composer crafts a great riff, then repeats it throughout the song. The repetition is a common songwriting tactic used across many genres of music.
The Stoner Rock influence is evident in Narcosis, but it’s not always overtly obvious. With Narcosis, the band is occasionally less focused on exploitation, trading it in for slower, gradual exploration. This makes for some interesting listening until the infectious chorus. Try to avoid singing along.
Oh, and buckle up before the song explodes into a raucous sprint around the 4:00 mark.
Track 3: Droids
Like many tracks on Leap of Faith, “Droids” doesn’t get its legs under it until the 1-minute mark. Once it does, however, it’s one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Track 4: Restless
“Restless” stands out for its playful, determined guitar work in the beginning of the song. The distortion is lowered so you can hear the delicate intricacies before the band roars ahead. Listen for the high notes in this track—they add extra energy and flavor.
Track 5: Leap of Faith
The title track opens with a beautiful, simple melody overlaid with a soft bass and gentle drums. But, as we’ll soon see, “Leap of Faith” is another multi-section song—a concept that Narcosis excels at.
The song erupts into a blast of guitars and layered vocals at the 2:15, but nearly falls into silence again by 2:50. A few seconds later, the song seamlessly transitions into a new section, this one marked by the march of a snare and a persistent bass and guitar. Brace yourself for a heartbreaking guitar solo
The song ends perhaps most hauntingly: in a void where the only sound is the dying creak of an old music box (or at least that’s what it sounds like).
Track 6: Creepers
As you might expect from the title, “Creepers” is creepy. The riffs, vocals, and instrumentation are unsettling, and the minute-long outro is a series of notes echoing into the void.
Track 7: Side Effect
“Side Effect” with an Alive-era Pearl Jam-esque riff, one that is light on distortion and has a slight southern influence. After a song like “Creepers,” “Side Effect” is a welcomed change of pace—and it does bring plenty of new sounds to the table. Pay close attention. “Side Effect” offers some new guitar tones and effects in the solo and throughout the rest of the song.
Track 8: Unknown Flavors
Narcosis saved the best for last, in our opinion. “Unknown Flavors” and “Poison Cup” are perhaps the strongest songs on the album, and Pappas has even gone as far as to name “Unknown Flavors” the band’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Interestingly, “Unknown Flavors” was born as a filler track, something to hold listeners over until the album’s next great song. Gradually, though, the song took on a life of its own.
Like so many songs in the Alternative movement in the ‘90s, “Unknown Flavors” is fun. The lyrics are simple and the melody catchy, so you can’t help but sing along.
Beyond that, however, is an interesting song structure that, by this point, has become one of the band’s hallmarks. “Unknown Flavors” has three parts: an instrumental opening (that lasts for about 45 seconds), the middle (which contains most of the melody and catchy lyrics), and the dynamic conclusion (which starts around 3:50 and continues until the song finishes).
Track 9: Poison Cup
“Poison Cup” is a fitting last track simply because it’s so different compared to the rest of the album. For one, it’s much cleaner. The guitar is clean, the bass is clean, and the vocals receive a little extra clarity without fuzz and distortion pedals overwhelming them.
Interestingly, the guitar work here is reminiscent of Carlos Santana, especially when we reach the guitar solo (which may be fitting, given that Supernatural was released in 1999).
The Pros: Lots of bands rely on formulas for their songwriting, and sometimes that works against them. But with Narcosis, the formula is fresh. Instead of the exploitation of a riff woven into a typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format, Narcosis leans heavily on a haunting intro followed by the verse/chorus/verse/chorus sequence followed by a third section marked by heavy instrumentation. It’s not used in every song, but it’s extremely effective when executed.
We mentioned the importance of listening to this album on the best speakers you have, and we’ll highlight that again now. There are so many layers to Leap of Faith that you’ll likely miss most of them on a first listen. This album does what great albums are supposed to do: It rewards multiple listens.
The Cons: There are some surprises in Leap of Faith, and we’re on the fence about them. There’s some fluff in “Creepers,” and “Poison Cup” is an outlier in style, tone, and composition that makes it feel separate from the rest of the album. To the band’s credit, however, it was wise to place such a track at the end.
Listen to Leap of Faith