Album Review :
12 Stones - Beneath the Scars

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Artist: 12 Stones
Title: Beneath the Scars
Label: Executive Music Group
Release Date: 5/29/12
Reviewer: Lee Brown

Tracklisting:

  1. Inflicted
  2. Bulletproof
  3. For The Night
  4. Worlds Collide
  5. That Changes Everything
  6. The One Thing
  7. Blind
  8. I’m With You
  9. Bury Me
  10. Psycho
  11. Only Human
  12. Someone Like You
  13. Shine On Me
  14. Pretty Poison

Everyone has those moments in life where they can remember exactly where they were when something important happened to them. For better or worse, one of those moments occurred for me the first time I laid my eyes upon the “Broken” music video by a (then) new band called 12 Stones. The song drew me in like gravity and literally drove me that instant to the store to buy their album. By the time I first got to “The Way I Feel,” I was hooked. 12 Stones provided this interesting mix of angst, passion, faith, and failure with a sound that was both hard and soft rock at all the right times and in all the right places.

So what do you get when you fast forward exactly one decade to a time where 12 Stones is free from their former label (Wind Up) and is reunited with their original drummer? You get a band that shows an interesting mix of angst, passion, faith, and failure that blends elements of both hard rock and soft rock to mixed results. You get an album sure to produce a few radio-friendly tracks that displays a core faith in God upset by the trials and tribulations of a “World So Cold.”

Both musically and theologically you get a mixed bag with Beneath the Scars. On the one hand you have faith-filled messages of songs like “Shine On Me” and “The One Thing” that proudly proclaim messages such as “In this dark You are my light.” On the other hand you have the aforementioned “angsty” songs like “Pretty Poison” and “Someone Like You,” that leave you with messages like “leave me alone, all the voices inside my head. Pretty poison… go away, go away,” and “How can I love if I hate all of you?”

The themes of the album are also very much focused in on the human level throughout. Where bands like For Today would begin with God as the primary force and musically explore how He interacts with man, 12 Stones clearly begins with how man interacts with the world, himself, and (yes) God. While this is not something shameful in any way on the band’s part, the effects this has on the overall message are certainly felt. It is, to put it one way, turned in on the self rather than turned outwardly towards something greater. Songs such as “For the Night” most clearly show this effect where the message of “the world was made for you,” meant as an empowerment to the listener, fall short of messages like “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

The listener will also find the dichotomy in tracks like “The One Thing,” which powerfully states “It’s the truth I must find… The burning inside that keeps me alive” and “Someone Like You,” which is quoted above. The first song very much reminds me (thematically only) of Project 86’s “The Spy Hunter,” where the second feels more like P86’s “S.M.C.” or “The Sanctuary Hum.” Once again, it’s that signature blend of faith and angst that produces these divergent themes.

Musically Beneath the Scars ventures out in two primary directions. You have the signature 12 Stones hard, fast, and intense tracks like “Inflicted,” “Bulletproof,” and (to a lesser degree) “Psycho” on the one hand. On the other hand you have much softer fare like “For the Night,” “That Changes Everything,” and “Blind.” On the faster and more uptempo songs, fans are treated to exactly what they’ve come to love in 12 Stones with Paul McCoy’s crisp and impassioned voice. On the more downbeat songs, however, the band almost sounds like they were taking lessons from Lifehouse prior to recording; even to the point where the vocals could blend at times.

Don’t get me wrong, Beneath the Scars does have some great songs on it. The album opens with two fantastically raucous tracks in “Infected” and “Bulletproof.” The latter many have already gotten a taste of almost a year ago when Only Human was scheduled to be the band’s next album. Despite its age, “Bulletproof” may still be the best song on the album overall. The theme is solid, the music is the right fit for the message, and you can’t deny the passion in Paul’s voice.

Among the more uptempo songs on the album “Psycho” will likely get quite a bit of play just due to the party anthem/ battle anthem nature of the track. Fans of the band’s 2007 song “Adrenaline” will find a nice home in “Psycho,” although there are moments when the instrumentation seems a little off. In closing the album, however, we find “Pretty Poison” which ends 12 Stones latest venture on a distinct down note.

Overall: Through their many setbacks and label issues, 12 Stones is back in a big way. Beneath the Scars is not a perfect album, but it brings with it that signature charm that 12 Stones has perfected over the last decade. Fans of their past work will likely consider this an instant buy. Those who are unfamiliar are best to sample “Bulletproof” for the best of their harder edged material and “Shine On Me” for the best of their softer sound. Both sounds mix into an interesting blend that produces a very distinct, very 12 Stones flavored aroma.

RIYL: Skillet, Red, Lifehouse

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