Location: Brighton, England
Genre: Progressive/Melodic Death Metal
Released: December 7, 2014
Format Reviewed: .WAV (1411 kbps)
Feature: Global Conquest (recent releases)
By: Kris Kotlarik
One of the easiest ways to win me over on a critique for a metal album is to include a variety of instrumental passages in many different styles while maintaining a cohesive sound throughout. Stone Circle achieves this in spades. This is a record that has only seven songs, but averages a shade over eight minutes per track. That kind of time frame gives the band a lot of opportunities to create a unique sound for themselves, and they succeed.
I was rather puzzled by the first few minutes of opener “Beekeeper” to the point where I thought I was in for a rather unpleasant experience. Including the sound of buzzing bees is all well and good, but it doesn’t do much to contribute to the track’s atmosphere. The next two minutes or so also feels a bit uninspired to me. But after that is when I started becoming really engaged; a three-minute buildup that sounds like it could have come from Pelican or Intronaut explodes into a Gojira riff with some extremely harsh growling. From here on out, this album is excellent.
“Easter Island” is the best all-around track here. It begins with an airy introduction before building into a solid melodeath tune. The solo at the 5:00 mark is nice and effective, and the ending does a solid job of building up once again into an increasingly aggressive instrumental. The other tracks are generally good and have some standout moments; “Sentinel” is especially memorable for a bridge riff at around 3:00 and its soothing melodies towards the end. “Chains” has a powerful clean vocal-driven chorus. There is a kickass bass breakdown in “Mary Celeste” that is worth checking out.
While “God Shaped Hole” is not one of the stronger songs here, there’s a 40-second section starting at 5:00 that is impressively strong and heavy. The transition to that section might be even better. The closer, “Final Thought,” is mostly memorable for its long, proggy and mellow introduction, perhaps the most poignant example of this band’s capability to write with both finesse and aggression.
The production on this record fits really well with the band’s sound, and the bass frequently stands out in the mix. I consider this group, that formed in 2004, to be on the rise.
Overall: One of the more diverse metal offerings of 2014, and a good one at that.