- reviewed by reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Apr
If only getting into the music business were truly as easy as 12 Stones makes it out to be. The young quartet comes from the rural town of Mandeville, Louisiana, a small suburb just north of New Orleans. After publicly performing approximately 12 times, their demo began to circulate quickly among fans and major record labels. Within 15 months of forming, 12 Stones was signed by Wind-up Records, the same label that has made Creed a superstar band. Soon the band members were on their way to Los Angeles to record their first album, produced by Jay Baumgardner (Alien Ant Farm, Papa Roach). 12 Stones was slated to be the opening act for the second leg of Creed's North American tour. Unfortunately, Creed was forced to cancel that tour since their lead singer, Scott Stapp, was seriously injured in a car accident just last week. Still, 12 Stones' first single, "Broken," is receiving significant airplay on the radio. Not bad for a band with three members under the age of 21.
Did I mention these guys are serious Christians? Whereas their labelmates in Creed are somewhat ambiguous about their faith, 12 Stones stands firmly on the rock of Christ. In many ways, they're like the mainstream band Lifehouse. For starters, three of the band members thank Christ first in the liner notes. Then there are the songs, which don't explicitly say they're about a personal relationship with Christ, but it's pretty clear where these guys are coming from. In "Broken," lead vocalist Paul McCoy sings, "I need to be broken / Take the pain away / I question why you chose to die / when you knew your truth I would deny / You look at me / The tears begin to fall / And all in all faith is blind / But I fail time after time / Daily in my sin I take your life." The song "Soulfire" expresses a similar longing to know God's will and his comfort: "Every morning as I wake to another day / I bow my head hit my knees and I begin to pray / I search for answers that I wonder if I'll ever find / Running circles in the mazes deep inside my mind."
Musically, 12 Stones plays like a harder version of Creed, Staind, or Stone Temple Pilots. Paul McCoy sings with the same throaty gusto as Scott Stapp, and guitarist Eric Weaver displays a similar level of talent as Creed's Mark Tremonti, skillfully shifting from elaborate solos to heavy-metal blasts. Add to them the explosive rhythm section of bassist Kevin Dorr and drummer Aaron Gainer and you have the makings of a solid hard-rock band that plays at close to the same level as artists 10 years their senior. Besides the popular single "Broken," I really enjoyed "Crash," "The Way I Feel," and "Soulfire," though most of the album begins to sound the same after awhile. The band strictly adheres to mid-tempo heavy rock for the whole disc, which I think would have benefited from a slow ballad or a fast-paced rocker. However, some listeners may be turned off by the heavy-metal sound; Paul gets into the same screaming/howling that you would expect from a band such as Living Sacrifice or early P.O.D. Considering how melodic 12 Stones is, I was a bit surprised they tried to straddle the fence between pop metal (Creed, Lifehouse) and serious hardcore rock (Zao, Stretch Arm Strong).
Nevertheless, 12 Stones seems to be off to a superb start, rapidly gaining a strong teen audience. The music is clearly geared for the younger crowd, to whom these guys can well relate since they're still pretty young themselves. The songs ask a lot of questions, occasionally hinting at the answer or pointing the listener in the right direction. For example, Paul sings on "Crash," "I feel like I've been 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." It's powerful and emotional, but ultimately positive — a clear alternative to the negativity so rampant in other similar-sounding rock bands. 2002 is shaping up to be a key year for rising new Christian artists who can viably cross over to the mainstream arena and impact our culture at large. 12 Stones earns a place among such artists with this strong debut.