18th December 2014 – Self-Released
02. Easter Island
05. Mary Celeste
06. God Shaped Hole
07. Final Thought
South coast quartet Stone Circle have been honing their craft for the best part of ten years, but now, four years after their debut album and following a summer of profile-raising live performances, they are ready to unleash their second, eponymous album. In a slightly unusual – albeit inspired – move, the album can be picked up free mounted to the front cover of this month’s Terrorizer magazine, if you’re quick.
Stone Circle is comprised of seven long and twisting songs that showcase their brand of progressive death metal. With an average length around the eight minute mark, they feature chunky riffs and throaty growls alongside quieter passages. The obvious touchstone for reference is clearly what could now be described as ‘mid-period’ Opeth - from Deliverance to Watershed – but alongside the Swedish godfathers, elements of Porcupine Tree, Gojira and Mastodon can also be heard.
Stone Circle’s sonic recipe comes together with best effect in second track “Easter Island“, with an almost neolithic groove that is practically guaranteed to get lips curling, some particularly effective pregnant pauses and some neat progressions to boot.
Vocalist Joe Ashwin switches fluidly between a credible guttural growls and more dulcet tones, and it’s clear that Stone Circle operate as a cohesive unit, with no elements either dominating or being drowned out. Guitar solos are sparing and tasteful, and the band have constructed a distinctive overall sound that draws on classic elements without sounding derivative.
However, Stone Circle do stumble a little in the composition stakes. A somewhat unfortunate byproduct of these long, multi-part songs is that none of them really stand out on their own. Especially in the latter half of the album, the track markers feel almost arbitrary and even after multiple listens it can be difficult to recall which section comes from which song.
So for all its promise, Stone Circle probably isn’t the bands magnum opus. However, it’s equally clear that the band have everything they need to produce something really very special indeed if they keep on moving down this path. But for prog-death fans, particularly for those still smarting over Opeth wandering further and further away from their heavy roots, there’s plenty in Stone Circle to be enjoyed in the here and now – along with the strong prospect of a broader spectrum of appeal in the future.
If you don’t get to the newsagents in time to pick up a copy of this month’s Terrorizer, Stone Circle is also available through the band’s bandcamp page on a Pay What You Like basis.