Most heavy metal leaves me feeling sort of dizzy and confused– like a duck that has been hit on the head with a tennis racket. I have a very hard time losing myself in it, because while the imagery and sound usually seem aggressive, I detect very little actual bad juju coming from 99% of the metal bands I hear. To be perfectly frank, most of it gets completely mired-down in the desire to be as heavy as possible, and thus we end up with 10,000 bands with singers who sound like a muppet who is having a particularly bad bowel movement mixed with tuned-down guitars and spooky album art that usually looks exactly like the last ten fucking metal album covers you have seen. Not only that, but let’s face it– most metalheads are really, really nice people– even fruitbats like Watain aren’t running around and decapitating cats or raping grandmothers in the ear while they sleep.
So when you look at the cover of the newest Stonecutters album, what do you see? Spooky stuff. The songs have titles that evoke spooky stuff; pentagrams, death, madness and blood. However, that is where the similarities between Stonecutters and a vast majority of their competition ends. You see, Stonecutters can play. They rip. They shred. They are masters of techniques and song structures from every era of Metal, and they basically use every weapon within their disposal to fucking throw down a merciless rain of blows on your stupid fucking face. While other bands try to be the heaviest, Stonecutters just attack, attack, attack with their instruments, and their weapons not only have weight, they also are bristling with sharp spikes. Some bands wield the mace, but Stonecutters are a Morning Star; crushing, cutting, stabbing and puncturing.
This is an art that seems to be lost on a lot of contemporary metal acts, but this band pulls stuff off that most would dare not attempt. One minute they are pulling off synchronized melodic leads straight out of Jailbreak-era Thin Lizzy, and the next they are thrashing away with a frightening precision; drummer Johnny Wooldridge can do anything required of him, and with unrelenting energy and attack. Bassist Kevin Redford acts like an outboard motor for the guitars, seemingly pushing them endlessly forward like a man firing a machine gun from behind the lines of infantry.
Ah, the guitars. Many metal bands with a drummer as stellar as Wooldridge really don’t have to do much, and actually sort of phone it in, but Brian Omer and Nick Burks can do anything and everything they want; they literally are masters of their craft. Any type of interplay that you have heard from Iron Maiden or Priest is basically shit-stomped into almond butter by these guys. Read that last sentence again. The tones that they employ somehow mix the classic 70’s Gibson tang of Ace Frehley and the modern crunch of bands like Uncle Acid or Visigoth, but their skills always serve the song. If they wanted they could show off all day, but that is not what they are interested in; the combined power of all the instruments is what they are after, and if you don’t like the results, you don’t like Metal.
Brian Omer’s vocals? Fucking stellar. Equally influenced by classic hardcore punk and Slayeresque howling, how the fuck he throws out all that energy from his guts while his hands are flying all over the place is beyond my ability to comprehend. The sheer amount of boundless energy that Stonecutters put out is mind-boggling– for the crowd to work as hard as they do they would level every place they play. Instead of the usual fakey-evil malarky, Omer just shreds his fucking larynx like he is gargling Exacto craft knife blades.
I find most heavy metal to be half-assed and based upon evoking certain moods instead of kicking out the jams with as much energy as possible. Anybody can put on a spooky costume and wave around an upside-down cross, but not many bands seem to just grab on to the implements of war and attack, attack, attack, attack. Stonecutters do nothing but relentlessly attack, and they do it with surgical skill. Again, if you don’t like this you don’t like Metal and you can go back and listen to your old Linkin Park records and throw gang signs at your bedroom mirror.