…and from the ashes of the beast came The Stone Gods, and they did lay waste to the land.
The “beast” from whose ashes that the Gods rose was The Darkness, an extremely talented band who were looked upon (either fairly or unfairly, you decide) as a novelty act. They split in twain, with singer Justin Hawkins forming the very Darkness-sounding Hot Leg. The rest of the band (guitarist and brother Dan Hawkins, drummer Ed Graham, and bassist Richie Edwards) stuck it out and renamed themselves The Stone Gods. Edwards, a fine singer in his own right, dropped the bass and became the frontman. New member Toby MacFarlaine was brought in on bass.
The lead single “Burn The Witch” was shocking in its metal ferocity. This was not expected from 3/4 of the Darkness.
What made this band special is twofold. First, the undeniable writing talents of Dan and the band, proving that Justin was not the be-all and end-all of the Darkness. Second, the voice of Richie Edwards. He truly has his own unique voice, something unusual in today’s soundalike music scene. It is part Bon Scott, part Halford, with a little bit of early raspy Joe Elliot thrown in, and 100% awesome. As a frontman, he was no Justin, but who is? (Nobody!)
The band stuck solidly to a hard rock/heavy metal direction. Ed Graham’s got his trademark cave-man drum fills, and it fits like a glove. Dan’s guitar howls and shrieks like a thing possessed. Above it all, Richie wails. These songs rock. Some, like “Defend or Die” and “Burn the Witch” are scorchers. Others are hard rock classics. Three tracks in particular fully qualify as Darkness-level rock anthems. “Where You Comin’ From”, “Start of Something”, and “Wasting Time” each boast numerous hooks and arena-level choruses. A track like “Wasting Time” has suitable weekend-ready lyrics.
My friends have all joined the rat race
It’s all suits, shirts and novelty ties
I’m not a fan of retirement plans
I refuse to change my way of life
Just about every song here is a winner; no losers. It is important to note, however, that the album takes a turn for the lighter around the halfway point. Indeed, the first three songs are a pure metal bludgeon. After that, a few early-Def Leppard moments are thrown in (“Making It Hard”). However it is never out of place, never too soft, never embarrassing. It is simply a good time. A well-rounded rock album with fists-a-flying, then a smoke break, and then some ass-kicking. If you’re wondering why it sounds so good, I blame Canadian engineer Mike Fraser, who just nailed it.
Shortly after the album’s release, Ed Graham departed and was replaced by Robin Goodridge of Bush fame. That’s him in the video for “Start of Something”. This great lineup recorded a yet-to-released second album. But the Hawkins brothers could not be kept apart. Robin returned to Bush, and the Darkness have enjoyed a very successful second era with brothers Dan and Justin back in action together once again.
Dan has indicated that the second Stone Gods album will eventually see release. If so, then this debut truly was the “Start of Something”.