Artist: Stone Broken
Album Title: Revelation
Date of Release: 22 April 2022
Do not adjust your Internet settings, I really am writing a review for a more modern hard rock album. It’s a rarity I’ll grant you, but every now and then, I’ll dip my toe in the water and see what’s going on in this particular niche. At the heart of this review is ‘Revelation’, the latest album from a band I knew literally nothing about a couple of weeks ago. The fact that they are from the UK gives me an extra incentive to check out Stone Broken too, as the quartet hail from the metropolis that’s Walsall. To be fair, it’s not a million miles away from the birthplaces of bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so flippant, especially as I call Suffolk home.
Enough of that, though, because you’re here to find out a little more about the music that finds itself on Stone Broken’s third album in a career that’s so far lasted a good decade. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Rich Moss, guitarist Chris Davis, bassist Kieron Conroy, and drummer Robyn Haycock, ‘Revelation’ is the fruit of several years of work, made longer and more arduous by the pandemic which struck at just the wrong time. As the accompanying press release states, though, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the band are happier with the final results than they thought possible.
I’ll leave it to your own judgement as to whether it’s a good or bad thing, but when listening to ‘Revelation’, I have a hard job to believe that the music comes from an English band. The music, right from the first vocals and guitar notes of ‘Black Sunrise’, has an undeniable North American sheen to it. This album is most definitely slick and polished, something that producer Dan Weller (ex-SikTh guitarist) can claim some credit for alongside the band themselves.
I can almost hear my soul shriek in despair at me, but I must admit that there are a fair few tracks on this album that I like, as well as a few others that I have grown to really like in spite of myself. So much of ‘Revelation’ could easily be heard on commercial radio, it’s that ‘mainstream’. But as I always say, ‘good music is good music’…ok, I’ve rarely said that, even though I should. But here is that classic test for me, because it is hard to deride Stone Broken too much because they have penned some quality material that I keep coming back to like a guilty pleasure. I may not always gravitate towards music like this, but I see the appeal and ‘Revelation’ is a thoroughly entertaining beast for large periods.
It all kicks off with the aforementioned ‘Black Sunrise’ and I find myself unexpectedly hooked thanks to a powerful combination that sees a cocksure hard rock swagger paired with some catchy melodies especially within the hook-laden chorus. It may have a whiff of commercialism to it, but at the same time, the guitars carry enough of a punch alongside the beefy rhythm section to ensure that Stone Broken don’t descend into what I’d refer to as ‘bland’ territory.
If you thought that the opener was catchy, just wait until you hear the immediate follow-up, ‘The Devil You Know’. It doesn’t feel quite as heavy as the opener, demonstrating more of a modern hard rock vibe with more overt electronics, but the chorus is another instant shot in the arm, impossible to ignore. The modern trappings come even more to the fore within the title track and it’s at this point that I should lose total interest, especially with the shouted ‘gang’ vocals to add to the horror. But I still quite like the song which sees the first vocal contribution from drummer Robyn Haycock, thanks to the catchy, slick songwriting. What Is happening to me?
The quality material just keeps on coming, beginning with ‘Make It Out Alive’, a song that starts as if it might be a ballad, but then offers some of the heaviest material so far with forceful, driving riffs at its heart. The verses are quieter though, more introspective affairs, and there is a ballad-like vibe to one of the most stunning choruses on the record, so my initial thoughts weren’t far off the mark. But if you want a full-on ballad, it arrives in the shape of ‘Me Without You’. I love and hate this song in equal measure because, on the one hand, it is a gorgeous piece of music complete with piano, acoustic guitars, and sensitive electronics for atmosphere. On the other hand, the central lyrics of ‘what’s the point of me without you?’ just drive a knife into my heart because they give voice to my feelings and my painful reality. Anathema, Evergrey, Katatonia…bands that I expect to reduce me to tears. But a relatively commercial-sounding hard rock band from the Midlands? I did not see that coming.
If I had one criticism at all about ‘Revelation’, it’d be that the latter stages of the album run out of steam a touch after such a tremendous start. That’s not to say that the music isn’t entertaining or poor because that’s definitely not the case. I just feel that there’s a little less magic in the second half as opposed to the electric first half. Songs like ‘Over The Line’ with its increased electronic element, or part-acoustic ‘Stronger’ are perfectly decent, but don’t light my fire in quite the same way. The latter comes too dangerously close to the dreaded Nickelback for my comfort.
However, Stone Broken are not quite done and ‘So Damn Easy’ catches my ears in all the right ways thanks to the interesting riffs, rhythms, the way it ebbs and flows effortlessly, and the duetted vocals of Moss and Haycock, the latter thoroughly impressing me whenever she appears thanks to her incredibly soft, smooth, almost ethereal delivery.
So there you have it. I have been seduced by an album that should never have crossed my path had I let my prejudices get in the way. As it is, there are a good handful of songs that have made a huge impact here, several better-than-decent songs, and one that has made a cynical, missile-aged, grown man cry. Kudos for that feat alone. All that’s left to say then, is that it doesn’t matter what kind of heavy music you consider to be your ‘thing’, you’d be foolish not to take time out of your listening schedule to give melodic hard rock band Stone Broken a chance. I did, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%
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