Journeying Beneath the Scars| Posted June 11, 2012 Rock fans from the post-grunge era 10 years ago might remember that 12 Stones became one of the talked about names on the scene at the time. Their popularity grew through the release of three studio albums, boasting singles such as "The Way I Feel" and "Lie to Me."
After 2007's Anthem for the Underdog, the voice of 12 Stones faded into silence for a while. 2010 saw the release of an EP with the promise of a new album to come, but two more years passed until the much-awaited release of an album five years in the making.
For any fan of 12 Stones or of solid alternative rock in general, Beneath the Scars is well worth the wait. Charting in at a full 14 tracks and just over 50 minutes, this album is significantly longer than the majority of recent rock releases, but 12 Stones manages to keep the album fresh throughout so it never feels too long.
The album kicks off with one of the singles, "Infected." This song, as well as the lead single "Bulletproof" which follows, is a perfect example of 12 Stones at their finest. Both are anthems of defiance in the face of the odds. In "Bulletproof," frontman Paul McCoy sings the words like a battle cry: "I'm feeling superhuman, I'm invincible, I'm bulletproof."
"For the Night" is a softer tune, one of several on the album that leans towards encouragement. The lyrics call listeners who might be struggling to move out of the night. "Worlds Collide" is an aggressive track about a struggling relationship, expressing both frustration and a need to move beyond bad influences to find your own identity. The theme of struggling through relationships takes a gentler tone in "That Changes Everything," which stresses the need to look beyond ourselves and see the way others are hurting when a relationship gets rocky.
A beautifully solid moment on the album comes with the catchy "The One Thing," which is also one of the most spiritual tracks on the album. "The burning inside, it keeps me alive. I can't give it up, it's the one thing, the one thing I need," McCoy sings on the chorus, backed by an instantly memorable guitar riff. "Blind" demonstrates beautifully how an acoustic guitar can be used to add an incredible depth to rock tracks, a rich acoustic bed lending a mellow foundation to the tune.
As the album continues to unfold the themes introduced earlier grow more complex. "I'm With You" presents a haunting, darker-edged guitar tone, fitting for a track addressed to a suicidal friend. The earnest track pleads, "Would it change things if you knew I'm with you?" One of the album's softest moments also proves to be its most poignant in the heart-wrenching "Bury Me." "I dare you to make believe you're better now," the lyrics cry. "I dare you to bury me."
Few rock albums are truly complete without an anthem. That spot is filled here by "Psycho," an offering that relies heavily on its chugging guitars and a solid guitar solo to create an adrenaline-laced anthem ready for any arena. "Only Human" returns to a more typical alternative sound as it explores human imperfection and the need to be honest about our weaknesses.
"Someone Like You" is another of the darker tracks on the album. This weighty song echoes some of the themes of 12 Stone's older song "Lie to Me," calling out a role model figure who ultimately lets the singer of the song down. The final two tracks on the album explore two very different sides of relationships. "Shine On Me" looks at a relationship where the other person is like a light in the darkness. "Pretty Poison" explores the influences that destroy us. It could easily be applied to either a person or a vice: "Leave me alone, all the poisons inside my head."
Closing Thoughts: Beneath the Scars is a rare example of a rock album untouched by the recent electronic and hyper-produced musical trends. Any alternative rock fan looking for a dark-edged, raw rock album will be satisfied by 12 Stones' latest release, which stays true to their voice while still presenting some new material. Raw vocals, crunchy guitar hooks, and straight forward lyrics propel the album in a journey through some rough thematic waters, seeking to find hope and identity beneath the scars. This is one journey well worth taking.
It Could Have Been Great| Posted February 16, 2013
12 Stones latest album, Beneath the Scars, has a great hard rock sound that has been tuned and refined over the years. While this sound does yeild some great rock songs on the album, it just feels a bit boring and a tad generic. What's good about the album is that the lyrics are really straight-forward and can get dark during some songs. This is done to service the overall message of the album and it's done really well. The main problem with the album overall is the pacing. After the high octane opening the rest of the album falls into a pattern of ballad song and rock song until the conclusion. By doing this, it made the album kind of a bore to listen too. I like where the guys in the band are coming from and the straight up rock songs are really good, but the pacing of this album killed the excitement for me and made what could have been an above average rock album into just an average one.