Formed in the early 2000s they came up in the wake of nu-metal and the era in which so-called 'post-grunge' became a mainstream genre. Bands like Our Lady Peace (who had already broken through), 3 Doors Down, Three Days Grace, Nickelback, Creed, Staind, Hoobastank and Papa Roach were a couple of the other names that often appeared in the RIYL lists 12 Stones appeared in. And it makes sense because 12 Stones has that edgy alternative rock sound that evolved out of the grunge and nu-metal bands from the 90s and flourished in the early 2000s. While the genre has lost some of its popularity and at least a part of the bands mentioned above have shifted towards a more mainstream pop/rock sound, 12 Stones stayed true to their core sound throughout their records and found placement on several high profile movie soundtracks.
A few years ago the band released an EP called "The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday" which brought back some of the unbridled energy and happy-go-lucky attitude from their debut, which was both refreshing and believable. On "Beneath The Scars" the band picks up where it left off.
Infected kicks in with an angry protest against the way the world is being run and how we're going about things. The words and the music fuel each other and this brings the sentiment across very well. The driving and distorted Bulletproof is supposed to convey a message of strength and invincibility but to me the strength lies not in its words but in the music. It really embraces the post-grunge/nu-metal sound of the late 90s and early 2000s that brings this band's identity to the foreground.
On For The Night you can really hear McCoy's vocals as the music is toned down a step and as the song evolves into a powerful rock anthem you hear why 12 Stones is such a good band because they really are the masters of the rock anthem when they set themselves to the task. The passion and sheer conviction with which they present this song is exemplary.
The album continues to mix typical grungy alternative rock songs with power anthems in a similar fashion. Songs that stand out are The One Thing where McCoy's powerful vocals Weaver's guitar work bring together 12 Stones' strengths; the Staind-esque Blind which shows a softer side of the band that comes across surprsingly well and would actually have a shot on the radio (in the same way Staind and Hoobastank used to have radio success).
When we go down the latter half of the album we hear the band's power on I'm With You, rock balladry on Bury Me and the surprisingly infectious Psycho which could be a huge underground rock radio hit. Only Human borrows some melodic lines from the 80s and incorporates them into 12 Stones power anthem antics which is another great move by the band (note the excellent guitar work!). Someone Like You once again features the band at their prime with their core sound and melodic qualities that are rivaled only by few others in the genre. On top of that the lyrics of betrayal and deception are relatable and emotionally charged.
The personal inflection and reflection on Shine On Me makes for an incredibly inspirational track that is easy to relate to and it showcases the spiritual side of the band while album closer Pretty Poison brings back the venomous intensity of the album opener. This time the rage isn't turned onto everything and everyone else but it is kept more personal. The track will mean something different to every listener which adds to its strength.
What strikes me most on "Beneath The Scars" is that the band is more balanced than ever. The lyrical content has gone up again and though it may not be as direct as it was on their first two records it is clear that they have found their own after their split from Wind Up records and the influx of creative control over their own product has led to a record that reflects the way the band wants to sound and brings back their identity as an alternative rock band with a spiritual side. Up to now, their debut was probably their most impressive record but after hearing this new record I think it's safe to say the band has produced their finest work up to now.