Released: 2003, Johanna Kustannus
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
Re-mastering these classic albums with special liner notes by one of the band members of this semi-legendary band is, without a doubt, quite an achievement in the history of Finnish Heavy Metal. Stone was one of the first Finnish metal acts that truly impressed me, mostly because of their ability to churn out extraordinarily technical Speed/Thrash Metal. The band released four studio albums, a few 12” EPs and one live album during their much respected and praised career.
Stone’s self-titled album was originally released in 1988 and for many Finnish metalheads it was an eagerly anticipated debut album. It was a real head-start for the worldwide coming of Finnish Speed/Thrash Metal and inspired many youngsters in Finland to grow their hair long and form their own Speed/Thrash combos. The guys recorded their ten song debut in one week, but it still wasn’t really rushed. All the songs were recorded at the studio as live takes with a real relaxed feeling, since the band had played those same songs on their gigs dozens of times.
The band’s technical, tight playing was what really made a huge impression on me the debut. The skilled guitar duo of Latvala and Jalkanen was a perfect match of very technical and sharp 6-string guitar mastery. These fellows impressed me by churning out tasteful riffs on such songs as “Get Stoned”, “No Commands”, “Eat Your Pride”, “Real Delusion” and “Brain Damage”. All these songs had something truly intense, totally relentless and aggressive in them. It was no wonder Stone’s uncompromising and well-executed metal appealed to and won over many metal fans.
The only thing I wasn’t that pleased with on the debut was Joutsenniemi’s vocals. They weren’t that engaging and were even rather monotone at times. Despite this, I got sort of stoned by listening to this album hundreds of times back in the day and it still sounds as fresh and excellent as it did the day it was released in 1988. Without exaggerating a bit, Stone’s debut album will remain as one of the most important albums in the history of Finnish metal.
A year later the follow-up album NO ANAESTHESIA was unleashed. NO ANAESTHESIA could be considered as the band’s finest work. The album introduced a more advanced sound, one that was more ambitious and hungrier. The guy’s playing got more technical, the songs structures featured tricky tempo changes and overall the songs were much more interesting compared to the debut.
There is no filler, only killer among the eight songs on this release. NO ANAESTHESIA begins with a very patriotically inclined intro called “Finlandia”. Following the intro is the furiously intense yet melodic cut “Sweet Dreams”. Next up is a heavy and effortlessly thrashing song called “Empty Corner”. The rest of the album is extremely catchy from beginning to end: “Back To The Stone Age”, “Concrete Malformation”, “Light Entertainment (Good Old Times)” and a totally ripping closing tune, “Meat Mincing Machine”. I know I got my long hair tangled countless times due to some intense headbanging sessions at the band’s gigs.
During the next two albums Stone lost a tiny, but vital piece of the magic that was captured so well on the first two albums. This was probably because the band became more progressive and a little too ambitious.
COLOURS was Stone’s third studio album and was the first album to feature guitarist Markku “Nirri” Niiranen (formerly from Airdash). Jalkanen was fired from the band due to some conflicts inside the band and this probably had something to do with the changes on COLOURS. According to Joutsenniemi’s words in the liner notes, COLOURS was a bit darker and a way more serious album musically and lyrically. COLOURS wasn’t as straight-forward an album as the band´s first two records. Of course, the usual fast-paced, more traditional Stone sound was still very much present on COLOURS (eg, “Stone Cold Soul”, “Empty Suit”, “Spring” and “Meaning Of Life”), but then again songs like “White Worms” and“Friends” represented Stone’s drive to explore outside the relatively limited Speed/Thrash Metal genre.
Stone´s forth and last studio album, EMOTIONAL PLAYGROUND, was the hardest album to swallow for the fans of the band. The band clearly wanted to expand their sound even further, trying to achieve something pleasing for themselves without caring a bit about what the public might think. EMOTIONAL PLAYGROUND is a more mature, more experimental and, above all, a more ´genre-free´ album. Luckily the band didn’t forget their Speed/Thrash Metal roots completely(eg, “Last Change”). I guess it was good for Stone they called its quits after this album though, kind of running out of ideas to carry on. All in all EMOTIONAL PLAYGROUND is a damn enjoyable album, but it lacks the sparkling, uncompromising charisma and relentless joy that were so successfully captured on the previous three albums.
After the band split up, their label released a double live album simply titled FREE. FREE covers some of the best songs from each Stone’s four studio albums. The sound quality of FREE is relatively good for a live album, and you can actually hear the audience roaring every now and then between songs. FREE is also the most energetic live album that a Finnish metal band has ever released, so that´s an achievement in itself, I think.
As a golden tip, if I were in your trousers, I would act fast while these re-issues are still rather easy to find. But keep in your mind, time will not be on your side forever.