Review Summary: Bland, by-the-books radio-rock that neither offends nor particularly excites.
12 Stones are a radio-rock band from the South of the USA, whose career got jump-started in a big way by the WWE. The band’s brand of faux-agressive FM Rock perfectly fitted the current musical scheme for World Wrestling Entertainment, and from there to the band’s songs being used in several of the company’s videos, it was a very short step. Since then, the band has recorded and released three albums.
But do 12 Stones really deserve
it? Well, if their self-titled debut is anything to go by, I suspect they just got lucky. Without the push given by the almighty Vince McMahon, this band would most likely have faded back to the obscurity of a respectable, but unremarkable local career. It happens to hundreds of bands every year, most of which are better than 12 Stones, so why should they be the exception? Or more to the point, why did the exception have to be so boring
Now, don’t take me wrong. 12 Stones are by no means a horrible band. The band don’t do anything fundamentally wrong
in this album, but then again, neither do many of the bands condemned to a life of small-town fanboyism and little else. As an added point, most of those other bands at least raise some degree of interest, whereas 12 Stones merely rehash a formula that was already stale in the first place.
If the clichéd titles weren’t a dead giveaway already, the initial seconds of opener Crash
set the tone: a few acoustic guitars followed by pseudo-heavy riffing. Soon the singer’s voice comes through channelling Vedder and Kroeger, and we know. A mere few seconds were enough to assure those of us who still expected something a bit unique that, nope, we won’t get it. Instead, what 12 Stones deliver is a recycled concoction of Pearl Jam and Nickelback via Creed and Finger Eleven. Not necessarily bad, but insufferably bland and unoriginal.
While not as obnoxious as Nickelback or as annoying as Creed, 12 Stones never quite manage to live up to the stalwarts of the genre, either. The band lack the heavy stylings of Three Days Grace and the honesty and superior songwriting of Finger Eleven. What’s left is faceless, generic radio-rock, the kind that you listen to for three minutes on the radio, then forget forever. This is the type of band where you don’t even care to find out the musician’s names or backgrounds; it’s merely a passing distraction during a ride to work, or a nice background tune for a wrestler in a pay-per-view event, and that’s all it will ever be.
The first few tracks on the album are a black hole of both creativity and interest. The choruses try hard to get our attention, but the same-old, same-old riffs, vocals and lyrics contribute to our indifference and boredom. Things pick up a little on track five, Fade Away
, where the band shift their style slightly to encompass a certain Finger Eleven sensibility. The edgy riffs and falsetto on the word ”away”
bring that similarity to the foreground, and while the verses are as mundane and bland as all the rest of the album, the chorus is huge, and practically imposes itself as a standout. Overall, this is the first moment that makes us take notice of what is playing.
The heavy, Saliva intro to Back Up
and the mammoth percussion on Soulfire
keep that interest on high for a bit, but everything soon reverts back to usual. The next few songs are even less interesting than the first ones, with In My Head
and Running Out Of Pain
constituting the lowest of the low points in chorus-less unmemorability. It seems the album is all set to finish on a low note, but fortunately, there’s still a surprise in store for us. My Life
is the best overall track on the album, and it once again sees the band drift away from their usual sound in favor of something a little heavier and catchier. Again, the chorus is huge and satisfactory, and there’s even a ripping solo to top it all off.
The enthusiasm generated by this track is transported over to closer Eric’s Song
, where the surprise stems from the fast tempo. After so much mid-tempo blandness, it’s actually surprising to hear the band rev it up and show a little attitude. Overall, however, the song is not good enough to assert itself as a standout.
In conclusion, the band’s main flaw is their predictabilty and blandness. Musically, everyone plays it straight, and the singer even throws some Cobainisms in for good measure (Crash
, The Way I Feel
, In My Head
). Lyrically, the Christian message does not intrude or offend, with lines like ”and I feel like I'm falling farther every day/ But I know that you're there watching over me/ And I feel like I'm drowning, the waves crashing over me/ But I know that your love, it will set me free”
or ”you set my soul on fire/ You take me so much higher/Higher again/Thank you for it all”
could just as well be about a supportive girlfriend or relative than about the Big Man Upstairs. Also, unlike Creed, non-Christians like me will not be put off by the group’s beliefs, because they are never overtly preachy about them. Additionally, whenever the group inserts a solo or cranks up the enthusiasm, they sound good. What eventually does them in is the fact that they take absolutely zero risks, instead offering something that has been done to death – and better.
In the end, I don’t see why this band deserved to make it big. The WWE connection (odd, considering the group’s spirituality) would have been put to better use on a band that at least aimed to innovate a little, although that may have represented less copies sold for McMahon and Co. The impression one gets from this album is of a young band with potential, but afraid to assume the risks necessary to show and fulfill it. I thought of giving this a borderline pass-mark (2.5), due to the amiable nature of the band’s sound. However, Lillian Garcia and Paris Hilton were also amiably predictable and boring, with very few standouts, and they got 2’s. so sorry, 12 Stones – better luck next time.