|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Stonefuze|
|Record Label: CMS/Sweden||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 55%|
|Running Time: 40:01|
Sweden’s Stonefuze came together in 1989 while initially under the moniker Cornerstone. The group got its start as an acoustically flavored southern rock unit only to switch to blues heavy rock prior to recording its 1993 full length debut Dust. Returning with the more polished sounds of Flying Gasoline in 1995, Cornerstone headed in a heavier and rawer direction on Jesus Rides Harley Too (great album title) three years later. After going on extended hiatus and permanently changing its name to Stonefuze, this talented four piece unit regrouped in the summer of 2008 by putting out its self-titled fourth album overall and first on Christian Music Sweden/Rivel Records.
Stonefuze, by far the groups heaviest and most intense effort to date, delivers a straightforward and no-frills hard rock sound certain to appeal to fans of F.OG., Spittin Jonah, Resurrection Band, Heartcry and Jesus Joshua 24:15. The albums first three songs - the energetic “Alive”, heavy duty “Apocalyptic” and aptly entitled “Fire And Flames” – prove without a doubt Stonefuze can compose a song with a solid chorus hook. Mid-tempo tracks “Motor Music” and “Redeemer” (two as muscular pieces as you will find) are equally notable as it the upbeat metal anthem “Loud Guitars”. The doom influenced “Unknown” represents by far the finest examples of the bands songwriting skills. That said, the album ultimately falls within the erratic category in that for every quality number there is a filler track - “Pollution Solution”, “Just Do It”, “Pour Some Love” and “Grinding” come to mind – that in the end forces me to hit the skip button.
Kent Franklin brings a gruff and scratchy mid-ranged vocal style. Performance wise, his delivery, while perfectly complementary to the gritty style of hard rock presented here, can trend towards the heavy handed and overbearing. All in all, I cannot help but think things would have worked out better if he had taken a bit more of a smoother and even approach. It is on guitar, however, that he best exhibits his abilities. Forming as solid a guitar team as you will find with Mattias Holm, the two combine for a prevailing rhythm guitar sound along with some very spirited work on lead guitar, the likes of which “Motor Music”, “Redeemer” and “Unknown” prove in no uncertain terms.
Production represents another area of improvement worth noting. While the group has captured a near perfect rhythm guitar sound, an all around muddiness prevails over the mix. The albums low end, for instance, comes across flat with the drums failing to project the clarity that they should.
Up-tempo, energetic and catchy as all get out, “Alive” proves a fitting album opener. The song, racing tirelessly its full three minute length, joins a resonating chorus with the bands propensity for the all out guitar driven. It is obvious that “Alive” – with its lyrical statement of “Kill yourself to be alive! Kill yourself to be alive!” – is talking about dying to self.
“Apocalyptic” slows down the pace but proves every bit as solid. The song starts quietly before a pounding rhythm guitar takes over, initiative gradually building until the jagged scene explodes for a catchy chorus upheld by harshly driven backing vocals. Kent Franklin’s vocal approach here kind of reminds me of Josh Kramer (Saint).
“Fire And Flames”, as aptly entitled a track as you will find, also heads in an up-tempo direction. Introduced by several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, the song muscles its way ahead unrelentingly prior to breaking out for a chorus carried at a hook laden upbeat tempo. You will be challenged to keep this one out of your head.
“Motor Music” might not be the albums catchiest piece but its weighty low end and bands robust performance puts it over the top. The song stands out with its snarling guitar riff and technical impetus, charging ahead in full fury until culminating for a chorus repeating the phrase “God loves motor music!” six times in decisive fashion. An edgy stretch of lead guitar highlights a composition that can best be described as biker rock at its very best.
The album starts to slip with “Pollution Solution”. I find the song to come across a bit heavy handed as a result of an overdone chorus in which the backing vocals are laid on way too thick. That said, the band does deliver a strapping rhythm guitar sound – thick, forceful and in your face – and more lead guitar on the keyed up side of things.
“Redeemer” is another monster of a track. Aggressive is the first word the song brings to mind, amalgamating an overpowering atmosphere with a chorus that, for a lack of better words, just plain dominates with its dogged impetus. Ironically, “Redeemer” settles down for an instrumental section beginning to a quietly played guitar that gives way to an emotionally charged guitar solo.
“Just Do It” can best be described as no-frills and back to basics hard rock. Unfortunately, I tend to pass here in that the song brings a slight repetitive feel, failing to deliver that notable chorus hook that might keep me coming back time and again. “Just Do It” does, however, include some lead guitar on the bristling side of things.
I have mixed feelings about “Pour Some Love” as well. The song establishes a driving environs during its verse portions – a slamming rhythm guitar commands the forefront of the mix – but gives rise to a disjointed feel for a chorus lacking that prominent hook capable of grabbing (and keeping) my full and undivided attention (kind of like “Just Do It”).
“Loud Guitars” ranks with the albums best. An up-tempo metal anthem, the song is pure excitement as it rollicks its distance in showcasing a chorus nothing less than huge – “Give me some good music! Give me some loud guitars!” – with the guitar based grit the band is best known for. This one reflects the potential of Stonefuze in no uncertain terms.
“Grinding”, the albums fourth skip button out of eleven tracks, does not do anything for me. Musically, the song moves in a melodic based heading with an upbeat feel, but fails to bring anything in terms of a standout chorus or melody that would prevent my attention from wandering. “Grinding” does, however, deliver a line for all the ages:
Ashes to ashes
And dust turns to dust
The soul lives forever
But metal, metal will rust
“Unknown” closes things out in doom-metal fashion. The song begins to an ominous ringing of bells followed by a trudging guitar riff, the inauspicious environs sustained as it slowly slugs its way ahead before decelerating even further for a plodding chorus buttressed by swarthy backing vocals. I enjoy how “Unknown” closes out its last minute repeating its chorus as a portent lead guitar highlights the backdrop.
It is without a doubt that Stonefuze has its moments musically in that “Loud Guitars”, “Unknown”, “Fire And Flames”, “Loud Guitars” and several others are worthy of repeated listen. Nevertheless, I end up hitting the skip button a few too many times while the areas of production and lead vocals both could use improving upon. All around, my impression is that Stonefuze is a talented group capable of putting together a solid composition; on the other hand, I would like to encourage them to strive towards more consistency in all areas of its performance next time around.
Track Listing: “Alive” (2:49), “Apocalyptic” (4:35), “Fire And Flames” (3:33), “Motor Music” (3:05), “Pollution Solution” (3:43), “Redeemer” (4:00), “Just Do It” (3:06), “Pour Some Love” (4:07), “Loud Guitars” (3:17), “Grinding” (3:46), “Unknown” (3:59)
Kent Franklin – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Mattias Holm – Guitars
Samuel Gustafsson – Bass
Mick Nordstrom - Drums