And it Stones me

Everybody get UltraViolent at the Deering Grange
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  July 2, 2007
Seven Stones

Ultra Violent | Released by Seven Stones | at the Deering Grange Hall, in Portland | with By Blood Alone + Dour + Trebuk | 6 pm July 7
I worry for the young. I’m 32 now, and can make statements like that. I worry that kids in college, their lives filled with tracking down the hippest blog and mind-boggling video games and their various MySpace and Facebook accounts, don’t have time to sit around in their dorm rooms with the lights out, a good buzz, and jazz, progressive metal, and jam cycling through their stereos. Do any of them take the time to listen to Mingus’s nine-minute “P***y Cat Dues,” the 20-minute “Mike’s Song” dished out by Phish in Madison Square Garden on New Year’s 1995, or Dream Theater’s 23-minute-plus “Octavarium” without saying anything? With no television or video game device running?

God, I hope so. Otherwise, bands like Seven Stones don’t have much of a future. Very much disciples of the prog-metal era symbolized by bands like Dream Theater and Pantera, and to a lesser extent prog-rock bands like Rush and Yes, Portland’s hepta-rockers offer the kinds of time changes, cohesion, and volume that can only be best experienced as part of your full attention.

If you’re stoned.

Yikes. Did I write that? I’m showing my age again. Obviously kids today are too smart to indulge in mind-alerting substances, especially while studying vigorously at increasingly expensive centers of higher education.

Of course they don’t need to be high to appreciate the Stones’ debut album, Ultra Violent, to be released at the Deering Grange on July 7 (that would be 07/07/07, and butting right up against the Live Earth shows across the globe - and the LabSeven show at the Big Easy). Any music fan should dig an opening track like “Martyr,” which floats in like Enya, with Middle Eastern chanting, then pops you in the face with machine-gun guitar. Frontman Stepan Matoian swallows his vocals a little, and they could be higher in the mix, but they’re agile and varied enough to get across plenty of mood with lyrics of the ilk: “Pray like a sinner/Die like a saint.” You won’t be surprised by hints of grindcore and some impassioned vocals that don’t quite get to the level of hardcore. A stellar drum roll from Gary Marston closes the song, ripping through the left and right channels.

Marston also plays with the pop country artist Jeff Caron, who hails from Nashville. This pleases me to no end. Metal doesn’t have to be a lifestyle choice, you know.

I’ve always though country and metal shared a weakness for the ballad, actually, and “2 & 8” is a classic metal sap-track, opening with the sound of thunder and rain and moving from slow and dark to upbeat and operatic. I’m not completely on board with the chorus, which gets a little contrapuntal, possibly not on purpose, but there’s a nice transition out of a verse that’s slow and plodding to one in double time, and Matoian channels Scott Weiland (not intended as an insult). The 7:40-long song gets more melodic around the 6:00 mark, with a nice recurring riff higher up the fretboard by Tarantino fan Mr. Pink, then transitions back to the ballad, drops a final “Now you see/you don’t feel right,” and just ends.

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