Review Summary: Unfashionably late, expectedly dated & foreseeably passable. In a word: Predictable.
Whatever happened to punctuality? It probably went out the window as soon as the phrase “fashionably late” came into vogue. But seriously, who the hell wants their train, plane or even a party guest to be late? If there was an off-setting pay-off, then maybe the wait would be worth it... But in most cases, the results are – in a word – predictable. Of course, in order for lateness to be annoying, the tardy subject must first be anticipated... Hence why most delayed album releases pass under the radar. While it may not have been the most anticipated arrival of either 2011 or 2012, the fourth LP from Louisiana rockers 12 Stones does not deserve to be let off scot-free. Initially scheduled for an August 2011 release, ‘Beneath The Scars’ (originally titled ‘Only Human’) was delayed until September... And then November... And then March 2012... And then May. Was the wait worth it? Predictably; Not really.
Closing in on five years after its full-length predecessor, ‘Beneath The Scars’ will undoubtedly appeal to already converted fans... But only on a sporadic basis. It actually gets off to a promising start with the energetically aggressive ‘Infected’ delivering an acceptable updating of alt-metal with a satisfying hook & sufficient edge. Lead single ‘Bulletproof’ and the irresistible ‘Psycho’ are a little more dated, but come off as fun and catchy in a nostalgic kind of way. As with most modern rock albums destined for airplay, the slick production of Skidd Mills (Saliva, Saving Abel, Skillet, Sick Puppies & Rev Theory) is a concern, as the punchy drums and razor-sharp riffs are polished to the point of sterilization. Only on ‘The One Thing’ and ‘Someone Like You’ does some moderate grit work in the bands favour. Not coincidentally, these two cuts also contain Paul McCoy’s most urgent vocals of the LP, a vibe sadly lacking elsewhere from this undeniably talented vocalist.
Where ‘Beneath The Scars’ stumbles is that as many as half of its fourteen tracks are nondescript tunes which simply do not distinguish themselves from the radio-rock pack. Predictably, these are predominantly mid-tempo cuts which verge into ballad territory, and it’s difficult to believe that the over-abundance of such songs is not a result of the album’s belated arrival. For the most part, Eric Weaver’s accomplished guitar-work lifts these tracks to at least a passable level, but the lack of variety ultimately helps to bury them as a collective whole, with strings being used too subtly and the lack of an acoustic cut bordering on mind-boggling. The only exception to the rule will be if the rather generic, but uplifting, lyrics happen to strike a chord personally, an occurrence most likely on the heartfelt ‘That Changes Everything’, a tune primed to soon be the soundtrack to your least favourite television series.
Disappointingly offering more of the same mainstream rock peppered with post-grunge that we have come to expect from the quartet, ‘Beneath The Scars’ provides insufficient boundary pushing and maturity. Furthermore, while the album does show more than enough signs of life to make it worth a listen, the frustratingly haphazard manner in which the hooks have been scattered throughout the LP fail to make up the deficit, leaving an album that simply comes off as nothing much better than competent. It's a real shame too, because 12 Stones have shown throughout their now decade long career that they are indeed capable of better. Couple that with the length of time it took for this release to see the light of day and one can only sum 'Beneath The Scars' up as unfashionably late, expectedly dated & foreseeably passable. In a word: Predictable.
Recommended Tracks: Infected, That Changes Everything & Psycho.