6/20/2007 - Review by: Etiam
Stonegard - Arrows - 2006 - Candlelight Records
|Track Listing1. Ghost Circles|
4. At Arms Length
6. The White Shaded Lie
10. Darkest Hour
In the wake of America’s tidal wave of attitude-driven hard rock bands that crashed ashore in the early 00’s (Breaking Benjamin, Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd, et al), it was inevitable that more aggressive, quasi-metal spin-offs would find their way to the surface as well. Some are successful, Priestess being a recent example, others fail (or should have, such as Chevelle), and still others are like Stonegard—lodged between both camps but lacking a foundational handhold in either.
Stonegard are a Norwegian group, a double-edged sword in this instance, as they are immediately putting them into exalted metal company but also a local hard rock market significantly less developed. Perhaps this community is what has inspired Stonegard to blend some metal into their hard rock, which does produce some moments of earnest success. However, it becomes clear soon enough that Stonegard considers themselves a metal band, not a rock band, and this is where the issues arise. While certainly heavier than the average rock band of today (e.g. louder drums, darker guitar tuning, some ‘screams’), Stonegard are undeniably the black (or white, as it were) sheep any metal bill, and their attempts at serious heavy metal feel like affectations more often than not, in the end.
If Stonegard were fresh-faced 20 year olds from the ‘Deep South’, they would be a perfect investment for an American mid-level label looking to generate some street cred. With ‘Arrows’s aggressive production, riffing that balances catchy melodies and heavy metal hooks, and impassioned vocals full of backwoods charm and twang, Stonegard clearly have a wide array of talents to utilize and are certainly more dynamic than many of their peers.
Yet, the moments where Stonegard try to sound the most metal are the ones where they stumble the most; it is instead songs like ‘At Arms Length’ or the well-crafted vocal harmonies of ‘Darkest Hour’ that are their most earnest and thoughtful. The awkward attempt at blasting on the title track, for example, is disorienting rather than inspiring, and the breakdowns in opener ‘Barricades’ will alienate more than they attract. Ultimately, ‘Arrows’ simply isn’t appropriate for a metal market. No matter how Norwegian or how long-haired and wifebeater-and-wristband clad this quartet is, few metal fans will be duped by the vanilla ‘Arrows’.