CD Review: Stonewall's "Worn"

The release of Stonewall’s second full-length CD in late 2013 was certainly a welcome sight and sound for all their loyal fans, who had patiently waited for the band’s follow up to their debut CD What If?, which had been released in 2008. Well, this reviewer is one of those fans and let it be it was all worth the wait!


Review by Joe Milliken * Photo courtesy of Stonewall

With tracks recorded at Subcat Studios based in Syracuse, New York and produced with Ron Keck, Worn is a more well-rounded collection of songs as compared to Stonewall's debut release, as Josh Parker (guitar and vocals), Philip Chiu (bass and backing vocals) and Ryan Young (drums and backing vocals) clearly show how they have progressed not only as musicians, but also songwriters and all-around purveyors of their art form.

The 12 tracks of Worn create multiple layers, vibes and textures throughout, revealing a diversity from Stonewall that quite frankly, raised this reviewer’s eye brows… in a very good way! Especially in the depth of songwriting, as it appears the main lyricist, Parker, reveals some inner feelings in a way that perhaps, was not apparent within the band's previous CD.

Perhaps not so much in the CD-opening “Make The Stones Bleed,” however, a heavy rocker in which the stones are thrown outward, clubbing you upside the head with striking riffs, biting lyrics and a rock-solid rhythm at the bottom. The following “Lost” begins to open things up a little more lyrically, seeming to wearily reveal some inner plight – or perhaps not – as the chorus shifts the identity from “they,” to “he” to “I.” All this captured around a sharp, biting guitar solo reminiscent of former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello!

The growling “Pawn” is a rollicking slab of metal-rock, followed by the hard-hitting “Ball & Chain,” which finds a groove in the vein of a Stone Temple Pilots-gone grunge. “Hiding From The Sun” is a stop-and-go rocker that actually sounds like it could have been an extra track from What If?... very cool! Then, “The Ostrich (Oblivious),” however, seems a little different… a quieter vocal tone and perhaps, slightly detached from the other tracks in some unique fashion. A great song featuring another killer guitar solo from Parker.

“Too Far Gone” smolders, building momentum while acoustic strums collide with guttural guitar riffs and riveting rhythms, then “Say Goodbye To Happiness” is an up-and-down affair, changing tempos around every corner. However, along with the rockers also come tracks such as “Sleeping On A Bed Of Broken Springs,” “Bad Dream” and the aforementioned “The Ostrich,” which adds different colors and textures to the proceedings, a lighter acoustic side which takes the listener in other directions… different territory, if you will.

The title track “Worn” is the pinnacle for this listener. An epic, beautifully hypnotic track laced with shimmering chords and cascading solos, floating vocals and fluid-yet-punctuating bass lines showing Philip Chiu at his delicate pique. The song captures an essence of pushing forward into another chapter and not letting go of aspirations, conveyed through an extraordinary vocal performance from Parker. “Don’t say it’s gone as far as it goes… I write this life out day by day… the days ahead you cannot say. The dream may be worn but it’s not over.”

“World Undone” is a memorable closing number with power chords to numb your senses, deep-and-dark lyrics (written by drummer, Ryan Young) along with some heavy drum fills that – as I close my eyes - evoke a vibe of Sabbath’s Bill Ward pounding out the time… until the music stops.

“I love this band,” the producer, Ron Keck recently told this reviewer. “Not only do these guys rock, but they also have the right attitude. I will not forget the great experience we had in the studio together… these are musicians that I also love to hang with.” Indeed, the positive vibes translate and shine in the music.

Stonewall’s performance on Worn clearly hits the mark and not only should their fans be thrilled, but a new legion of followers should emerge from the results. The recording is top-notch, the CD booklet is killer (complete with lyrics) and the energy and commitment from the band is clearly evident. The CD is also dedicated to our late, mutual friend (and producer of What If?) Doug Bashaw… icing on the cake.

Worn is available for download at iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody, or you can order a CD copy by contacting the band at stonewallnewengland@gmail.com or visiting their Facebook page.