Music Review: 12 Stones, "Anthem for the Underdog"
Release Date: August 14, 2007
Label: Wind-Up Records
· Official Site
by Paul Schultz
Published: August 14, 2007
It's been three years since Potter's Field dropped, and a flurry of changes for 12 Stones culminates in the release of their third album, Anthem for the Underdog. It seems like it's been a long time since singer Paul McCoy won a Grammy Award (“Best Hard Rock Performance”) for being "that guy" who sang opposing vocals to Amy Lee on Evanescence's break-out hit "Bring Me To Life". And where Lee seems to have regressed, 12 Stones shows signs of emerging maturity that seasons the new record with palpable progress from their earlier output.
Between albums McCoy, guitarist Eric Weaver and drummer Aaron Gaines have all become fathers. Line-up changes included hiring new bassist DJ Stange and adding former Breaking Point guitarist Justin Rimer. With all band members being natives of the Gulf region, their lives have been effected to varying degrees by destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. 12 Stones didn't set out to write an album based specifically on these experiences,
but the recurring themes of climbing back up after being knocked down would seem to be influenced by the storm's aftermath.
Before Anthem for the Underdog was even released, one of its songs served as balm for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. "World So Cold" originated as a song about a serial killer ("No, I don't believe men are born to be killers/I don't believe the world can't be saved/How did you get here and when did it start?/An innocent child with a thorn in his heart/What kind of world do we live in where love is divided by hate?"), but a tribute video surfacing on YouTube transformed the essence of the song from its focus on the murderer to the murdered.
Paul McCoy: Vocals
Eric Weaver: Guitar
Justin Rimer: Guitar
DJ Stange: Bass
Aaron Gainer: Drums
They seem to have dialed the aggression down a notch (with the notable
exception of the appropriately-titled "Adrenaline") with the typical
nu-metal veering off into latter-day Skillet territory. One thing I noticed with the first single, "Lie to Me", is McCoy stretching his vocal range to heights I don't recall him shooting for previously. The song itself is a middle-of-the-road rocker dealing with betrayal (a topic also factoring into the muscular "Games You Play"). The tunes traverse dark climes, but often optimism asserts itself before the song is over. The title track, in fact, could easily be the theme song of Katrina recovery.
Subtle Christian influences can be sensed throughout the disc, with “It Was You” probably the most overt acknowledgement of the source of redemption. Even so, the "You" could just as well be interpreted as a loving spouse. The universality of the lyrics are likely to reach a broader audience, with Christians ascribing "You" to be God. Power ballad "Broken Road" was co-written with American Idol finalist Chris Daughtry, and 12 Stones has toured this summer on select dates with Daughtry. One could easily imagine Daughtry singing this song and occasionally McCoy does
a pretty good imitation.
Anthem for the Underdog aims to be more radio-ready than any of its predecessors, but it still lacks a "hit-one-out-the-park" standout to really get them noticed. If it could succeed on the passion evoked in the music, 12 Stones would indeed break into the big leagues. As it is, they have musically grown by tweaking their formula in a way that bodes well for healthy career development.
12 Stones, "Anthem for the Underdog"
01. Anthem for the Underdog
02. Lie to Me
03. Broken Road
05. It Was You
06. This Dark Day
07. World So Cold
08. Arms of a Stranger
09. Hey Love
10. Games You Play
11. Lie to Me [Acoustic]