It sounds like an interesting combination, but new Lion Music band Speaking To Stones makes it work. Comprised of four talented musicians from New York, their strength lies in crafting melodic songs that should normally be on the radio and contain a good dose of progressive elements, often heard on earlier Dream Theater albums as well as Enchant, Wolverine, King's X, and Soundgarden.
Being a professional vocal coach, the band's singer Richard Fink IV is going to impress lots of fans with his smooth delivery and rich tonal range. At first he reminded me of a cross between Chris Cornell circa Superunknown and DC Cooper during the late 90's, but the references got more and more vague with each listen. I've had this disc for a few months now and Fink's singing style gets only better. His tone is crystal clear, but he also goes for aggressive screams in certain spots, as on the end of "My Final Sin", one of their longer songs, filled with both acoustic and electric guitar components, a distant piano theme, moody synth work, and fabulous vocal harmonies. Also, on the ten-minute progressive rocker "Shallow", which starts out as an instrumental song a la Dream Theater, Fink belts some serious high screams, adding a unique grit to his voice. The bass on this song is quite heavy, hence the King's X comparison, and both the guitar and keyboard arrangements are first class.
As much as I love and praise Fink's vocal abilities, kudos also go to guitarist Tony Vinci, who wrote and arranged most of the songs. Vinci is a fantastic player: his tone is to die for, pristine and incredibly smooth. While technically flawless, he focuses on crafting more compact titles, rarely breaking five minutes' running time, and indulging himself with long, overblown solos. That said, each track does possess a great solo, be it the much effect-laden "Still Life", noteworthy for its versatile vocal production and strong instrumental passage, or the heavier "Down", which is one of the most progressive metal tracks on the album. Vinci filters spooky guitar sounds through thick bass lines in order to mix with gentle keyboard patches and funky rhythms. His soloing on the opening cut and the acoustic ballad "Waiting for..." are some of the best I've heard recently.
Also close to AOR and radio-friendly songwriting, there are some great acoustic ballads on the CD, the second one being my favourite for Fink's spine-tingling vocals at the end. "Rescue Me" has also a darker mood to it and Fink actually reminds me of Wolverine's Stefan Zell here during The Window Purpose album. Fans of Enchant should love Speaking To Stones because they also have one foot in prog and one in AOR, therefore touching upon elements of Marillion, Dream Theater, and Fates Warning, as well as more keyboard-driven acoustic ballads a la "Close to the Sky" and "Nothing".
I'm not too fond of the cover art - it looks a bit amateurish which made me think the production wouldn't be quite up to par either. I was greatly mistaken, however. The sound is great, especially the drum sound, considering it's programmed and I would have never believed it unless a friend of mine told me.
- Still Life
- Rescue Me
- Waiting for...
- My Final Sin
- Close to the Sky