Album: Living Creatures
Genre: Experimental, Progressive, Metal
For fans of: A Lot Like Birds, Dance Gavin Dance, Exotic Animal Petting Zoo
Sin City’s experimental/post-rock/metal amalgamation, Stolas, have released their debut album, Living Creatures; a whirlwind of aggressive technical prowess, spontaneous structure, and guest vocal star power. If you’ve ever played Paper Mario or even Guitar Hero, you know that star power is where it’s at! Combining these aforementioned elements with interestingly fitting artwork by Ernest Castillo, Stolas have crafted an impressively well-rounded debut album via Blue Swan Records.
To begin, we’ll briefly discuss the five guest vocal contributors, all of whom could be (or likely have been) compared in the sense that they have somewhat similar vocal styling and are connected between only a few bands. All involved are (with any personal bias or impartiality aside) fantastic additions to Living Creatures. Each guest properly accentuates their given track as their own band (current or former) is very similar in style (E.g. Hail The Sun, Dance Gavin Dance, A Lot Like Birds). As friends of the band, they were obviously easy choices, but they were accurate ones as well.
Living Creatures opens with a ferocity, tearing into your ears with “Thief & The Hourglass.” With only the opening to this first track, you know almost immediately what you’re in store for with this debut. If you think the album is going to let up at any point, apart from a brief breather of an intermission, you’re going to be mistaken. Chock full of chaotic guitar shredding, angsty vocals, precision drumming and glassy jazzy breaks, Living Creatures gets off to a sensational start.
Following the solid starting point, “Circuit Theory” is perhaps one of the funnest tracks on the effort which stands out with a different, smoother, almost dance-inspiring vibe and super catchy chorus. This is the first track to feature a guest vocalist, this time being Donovan Melero of Chico, California’s Hail The Sun. Melero’s voice is so sexy. I can’t imagine that he doesn’t get compared to Anthony Green on the daily, as much as I hate to make that comparison. His contribution fits seamlessly here, and ultimately helps make “Circuit Theory” one of my favorite tracks from Living Creatures.
Despite having so much added vocal talent to their debut, Stolas prove that they can certainly fair well on their own in tracks like “Time & The Sun” and the longest offering, “Destroyer.” Both songs display a lot of what Stolas have to offer and show serious potential for such a youthful group. Both vocally and instrumentally, “Destroyer” spans an array of styles and sounds with flawless flow, making for one of the best tracks on the album.
The last four tracks from Living Creatures all feature guest vocalists, creating a block of experimental rock who’s who fangirling. Beloved favorites Kurt Travis, Tilian Pearson, Jonny Craig, and Cory Lockwood all give 110% in their verses/sections, giving beautiful reminders of their own works in A Lot Like Birds, Tides Of Man, Emarosa, and Dance Gavin Dance, respectively. The album ends on a heavy note and its most aggressive piece with help from Cory Lockwood who takes it to the next level. “Captured Light” wraps things up nicely and makes you want to listen through the album again immediately just to get back to that point but having experienced all its other glory along the way.
Living Creatures is about as great of a debut as you can hope for in such a young band with its only real afflicting weakness being spoken word-like poetry readings in some moments. While they’re not necessarily bad, they seem out of place, primarily in the interlude, “The Greatest Illusion.” That track itself could be omitted altogether leaving an uninterrupted flow in Living Creatures that could ultimately render it nearly flawless. This minor nitpick aside, the album is truly impressive and an incredibly fun listen for fans of any of the bands mentioned in this review. If this effort is indicative of what’s to come in Stolas’ future career, be prepared to have your mind blown to bits if they can manage to evolve even above this. Living Creatures, as of now, has found a spot in my developing “best of 2013” list.
Review written by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter