Stoneflower are set to release their new album Finally on 15 May through AOR Heaven.
I really wanted to hate this album just from my personal dislike of vocal competition TV shows like American Idol, Idol (insert your country), The Voice, and others aimed at generating “instant music stars” from hopefuls who often do not possess the genuine talent to make it on their own once their series is over. Why is that relevant to Stoneflower with this album? That is because of the change of vocalists for this album.
This time around the band has added vocalist John Masaki who was also part of Norwegian Idol (2013). As I noticed that, I cringed a bit before playing the album since I haven’t been exposed to Stoneflower or Masaki before. After 18+ years of these shows being on TV and other variety shows as well, there are very few vocalists from any of these shows I am interested in listening to. I can count less than 10 vocalists that I even remember the names of simply from the lack of being impressed. To say I was not motivated to review this album would be an understatement.
As I hesitantly pressed play the first single Gonna Let You Go started to play with a slowly rising intro the track punched through with a strong guitar riff and interesting keyboard arrangement, then the vocals. Ok, it was not as bad as I thought it was going be, intriguing enough to keep me listening. But would it hold through the entire listening experience? Yes and no. There were a couple of tracks that just did not work from inconsistencies with the vocals and then just odd arrangements that didn’t work for me. Those where Calling All Stations and Shivering Hands.
Much to my surprise there were some tracks that I really enjoyed, that I can safely say where really great tracks. For me I think that strongest tracks on this album are Believing, Fall, Finally, Gonna Let You Go, How Does It Feel and Kaylee. The other remaining tracks I felt were nice as well and added to the cohesion of the overall album.
My justifications for the two tracks I felt didn’t work is this. Calling All Stations started out with power but then suddenly dropped to a slow tempo and as the first verse of vocals came in there seemed to be a struggle on vocals that didn’t sound great, once you get past that and into the bridge the tempos comes back up and a mix of melodies that bring the song together, but once again that strange drop in tempo and struggle on the vocals resurfaces. This track was confusing and was hard to get into.
Shivering Hands also had a strange arrangement with the vocals as well as the music. The first verse of vocals was such a distraction that when the song makes it into the bridge it’s almost like two different songs. Just after the chorus ended, the song transitioned back to that odd vocal arrangement. These were some of the same issues I had with Calling All Stations. It’s like one half of the track is enjoyable, big and melodic, then flavorless.
Believing was one of my favorite tracks on the album. It had me instantly thinking about Toto. Very reminiscent of older Toto tracks and just had layer after layer of musical elements that were really enjoyable and with the vocals the track came together nicely with a great push and pull of softness and power.
Fall is my other favorite track. It’s a vulnerable ballad track that let’s Maskai’s vocals shine and show depth. It wraps up the album and allows a close the listening experience.
In summary: Nine of eleven tracks are very enjoyable. There’s a great mix of music complexity, layers of intricate melodies, singable lyrics, powerful and unexpected solos, and lastly I surrendered to the Maskai’s vocals as he proved he’s more than an “Idol Star”. I think he’s with the right musical project that fits his vocals. It gives him the ability to present strong and powerful vocals while also letting his vocals be completely vulnerable and stretch his vocal range to hit the high notes. I think this band is going to have one of the more surprising releases this year as new listeners discover who they are and hear Finally.
Skivbolag: AOR Heaven
Bästa låt: Believing, Fall, Gonna Let You Go
John Masaki – Vocals
Svenn Huneide – Bass, Vocals
Tom Sennerud – Guitars, keys, vocals
Geir Johnny Huneide – Drums