Not your typical melodic/power metal album
Not having heard of this Swedish power/melodic heavy metal band before until listening to their latest album ‘Marching on Timeless Tales’, I was surprised to learn that StoneLake formed back in 1999 and this disc is actually album #5. StoneLake was created by guitarist Jan Akesson and vocalist Peter Grundstrom when the two reunited 15 years after a chance meeting at a concert and a few years playing in the same band together, called Whitelight. Patience has paid off for StoneLake as they have been signed by Massacre Records for the release of ‘Marching on Timeless Tales’ and it is their first major label since the band began, they had been previously signed with Metal Heaven.
With both musicians coming from 80’s hard rock/metal bands, it’s understandable to hear strong hard rock riffs and melodies in their music, however with their latest release (in which StoneLake consider it to be their most matured CD to date) there is more than just melodic heavy metal and hard rock influenced themes running around throughout the album. At times, it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly this band is going with numerous different styles ranging from power metal through to progressive metal and even symphonic metal to slightly confuse the listener.
Just exactly what genre you put StoneLake into is a task in itself, technically known as melodic heavy metal, that tag is justified, however the influx of vigorous power metal riffs and wails and hard-edged groove metal chords, combined with Dream Theater style atmospheric keyboard and guitar melodies; makes for an exotic, in depth and diverse listening experience.
Vocalist Peter Grundstrom is an interesting character I must say, as his vocals don’t automatically make you assume that he is best suited for power/melodic heavy metal. With a somewhat thick and raspy Swedish accent, Grundstrom sings in a higher pitch more so than typical singers within this genre. Able to reach the stratosphere when given the opportunity, most first time listeners would wrap a tag around Grundstrom’s voice, in which he would be better suited to an American east coast thrash metal band.
Aside from the forging of numerous metal genres, the other major highlight on the CD is the fabulous and creative guitar playing from Jan Akesson, who pulls out all the stops throughout each track, leading the charge with hard-nosed and powerful riffs, while adding a few solos here and there. Akesson also provides the keyboards on the album and does a great job with that too, adding another dimension and layer to their sound.
The down side here (and everyone knew this was coming), is the lack of originality with the songs. Although it’s hard to be fresh within the power/melodic/heavy metal genres these days (and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here), at least ‘Marching on Timeless Tales’ isn’t 100% completely copied from somewhere else where you catch yourself saying this sounds just like such and such. The other gripe is that despite the songs being entertaining, once the disc has ended however, there is not too much in terms of remembrance that would bring you to putting the disc back in the player later on down the track. That’s not to say the album is dull and bland, but some track don’t arouse excitement as consistently as others do.
The opening track, “Red Canyon” is one of the better tracks on the disc, fairly progressive in sound and nature, but with enough power chords to keep it ticking over; plus a catchy chorus to make it standout as a winner. The strangely titled “SnakeChild” is a short but very catchy homage to 80’s stadium rock, only with heavier riffs, while “Rain” begins slowly with a beautiful acoustic guitar before the groove-filled thunderous riffs and melody takes over and we are treated to a well executed melodic metal hymn.
“Lay Down the War” has an Edguy feel written all over it, from their ‘Rocket Ride’ album, another catchy however not overly heavy track; and the heavy bass and groove-tinged fist stomper “Give It Up” is easily the catchiest track on the disc, while also supporting a kick ass solo. Lastly, “Sound of a Whisper” is a blistering symphonic track containing fist pumping melody with bulging and bombastic guitar riffs that will get anyone’s head moving. With double bass fury along the way, “Sound of a Whisper” is easily the heaviest track on the album, not to mention the best (IMO).
In the end, ‘Marching on Timeless Tales’ is a quite good melodic/power metal release and will intrigue fans of both genres, particularly because the sound StoneLake produces here is not your plain black and white melodic or power metal. The infusion of prog, symphonic and hard rock elements will keep the listener occupied for quite some time; while guitar enthusiasts will enjoy the axe-handling on offer here as well. StoneLake don’t completely fit into their tagged genre, which means new fans can from either of the abovementioned genres, which is a bonus. Lastly, the increasing creative evolvement with this new album from their previous “standard” efforts is definitely something to look forward to on their next release.