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Sounds like … muscular hard rock in the vein of Saliva, Seether, Three Days Grace, and virtually every other band on Wind-Up's rosterAt a glance … Potter's Field is more accomplished than the band's debut, but the group hasn't yet developed a distinct voice in a rock scene overcrowded with soundalikesTrack ListingShadowsThe Last SongFar AwaySpeak Your MindLifelessBitterPhotographThree Leaf LoserStayWaiting for YesterdayIn Closing
If anybody has seen a flurry of exposure without the help of critical praise, costly radio promotions, and lavish music videos, it's 12 Stones. Their eponymous 2002 debut, one of a glut of rock releases at the time, became a sleeper hit not so much on the strength of its merits, but for indirect third-party associations—like major tours with Creed and 3 Doors Down. But the biggest boost came from frontman Paul McCoy's appearance on labelmate Evanescence's monster hit "Bring Me To Life." McCoy suddenly became that "mystery guy" in the song's video, dangling from buildings alongside Evanescence singer Amy Lee. Who was this guy, anyway? None other than McCoy, who eventually won a Grammy for his contribution, and his band's initial offering went on to sell over 300,000 copies.
Combine this with 12 Stones' rapidly growing fan base in the Christian realm, headlining tours with Pillar and Skillet, and scoring hit after hit at Christian rock radio, and you have a band on the verge of a breakthrough. While Potter's Field does build on the semi-solid foundation of their debut, it does so with reticence, never quite taking them over the edge. For one, they refuse to mess with their formula, with their riff-heavy soundscapes and woe-is-me introspection still taking precedence over arrangements or song structure. Production-wise, they have graduated to Dave Fortman, the same knob-turner who worked with Evanescence. But as with that alterna-goth band, the producer doesn't interfere much in the creative process, but rather plays off of whatever drives the band. Amy Lee loves minor keys, operatic choirs, and ghostly strings, and Fortman simply went along for the ride. Similarly, Field gives the impression that 12 Stones enjoys rocking, bouncing on the stage, and maintaining the same mood throughout, while Fortman simply nods and feeds their habit.
That's not to say the album doesn't sound good. One thing Wind-Up does best is make rock records that sound like rock records. In that respect, Field never wimps out and preserves its intensity and decibel level from beginning to end; those who like their music loud will find little to complain about. But those with an ear for changeability and new ideas will quickly get bored. Even after repeated listens, the album may still feel like a huge blur to some, since the instances where the band does something interesting are few and far between. Some might even find fault with the lyrics, which too often exude an air of teen angst and "my life stinks" sentiment. There are moments of veiled hope, as those in "Shadows" ("Just leave your hate behind") or "The Last Song" ("A life without You made me wonder why I'm here/Until I found You nothing ever seemed so clear"), but they are bogged down by the excessive down-and-out poetry.
There are exceptions. While the group never dared do a song in three-quarter time on their debut, over a third of the tracks on Field use this technique, and they come as a breath of fresh air. Of these, "Photograph" is probably the most distinct, as it's the only song to use acoustic guitars and soft strings. The lyrics also stand out, revealing a conversation between a troubled believer and Christ.
It'll be interesting to track Potter's Field's trajectory as time passes by. It's a palatable record by Christian rock standards, as it conforms to many of the genre's standards and is quite innocuous for the most part. But its future with mainstream audiences is the question mark. Alternative conduits are being far more selective with post-grunge rock, opting rather for the out-of-the-box likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Jet, and Modest Mouse when choosing their playlists. 12 Stones are nowhere near this level of innovation, but merely remain content with what they've done before.