Stone – No Anaesthesia – 4.5/5
The Finnish metal scene seems in no short supply of people willing to complement it for their consistency, competency and ever so slightly unique style of doing things, but their origins always seem to be overlooked. I once was once told that almost nobody outside of Finland has ever heard of the local legends that formed 'Stone,' and the younger generation of Finns seem to have forgotten their heritage as well; for all the talk of Children and Bodom and Amorphis, nobody realises that actually their beloved bands owe a lot more to Stone than they realise. In fact, they would go on to elevate both aforementioned bands; the drummer Pekka Kasari arriving in time for Amorphis' “Elegy” - the start of a new direction for the band – and the guitarist and chief song-writer (along with the bassist/vocalist) cited as Laiho's inspiration, Roope Latvala, making waves with his debut in Waltari's first Orchestral offering “Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! A Death Metal Symphony in Deep C” before joining Bodom himself.
But if you think that's impressive, bear in mind as you start your exploration of this progressive thrash gem that kick-started the Finnish metal scene that the musicians responsible for it were barely old enough to drink when this was recorded. It may never race off in a frenzy, content at remaining relatively mid-paced in its aggression but this is not without reason; at no point does it feel like tracks blur, the hefty bass bombastically crashing with an almost thick Sludge-like tone; thick and meaty riffs are given the time to groove, develop and shift with the gradually fluctuating tempo's, but perhaps most importantly of all it allows for such a variety of styles to emerge. When the twin guitars start firing off like a lost Coroner solo it's given all the more impact coming from the slow epic passage that preceded it. Riffs are thrown about haphazardly and can change at a moments notice but it never feels out of place or unintentionally jarring, rather progressing over time, as of course all good prog should.
The production sounds undeniably dated – it is nearly a quarter century old after all – but still feels impeccable, everything just given a slight coating of dirt, sounding as though it's just walked through the abyss just to kick you in the ass. The drums seem to know exactly when the music needs to change pace and with a fill and a flurry morphs the track for the rest of the musicians to follow; the vocals remain oddly accessible to those not a fan of the Exodus train of thought, retaining much of their clarity and still demonstrating their Traditional Metal origins as was common for the time. But above all this is the twin guitar work from Roope and Markku; rarely have I heard such a perfect marriage of technicality and melody; epic chorus lines with shredded solo's, the duelling guitars intertwining to create something awe-inspiring. These teenagers helped inspire an entire generation of music and today their influence is felt all over the world, and after giving this a spin it isn't difficult to see why.
Highlights: Sweet Dreams, Empty Corner, No Anaesthesia, Light Entertainment