Stone Gods - Bristol Fleece & Firkin
I've been thrown in a bit at the deep end here, as Stone Gods are a pretty unknown quantity. Sure, there's a couple of songs on their MySpace site, but for a band who has three very high profile members and a whole album in the can they aren't letting much out. The three high profile members are Dan Hawkins (guitar), Richie Edwards (Guitar, Vocals) and Ed Graham (drums) – all of whom used to be in a little English band called The Darkness. Well, The Darkness are no more, and with the addition of Toby Macfarlaine on bass they have become Stone Gods, a much heavier breed of animal all together.
I notice that on the venue ad poster the band are simply credited as “Stone Gods”, with no mention of “Ex-Darkness” or any of that stuff. Obviously they are pretty determined to put the past to rest, although there are a couple of Darkness branded flight cases at the front of the stage. These are soon turned around by roadies, and the place begins to fill with curious punters. It's the first night of the first tour proper, and although not bursting by any means the venue is well populated. The only downside is the fact that the bands t-shirts are totally shit, but you can't have everything, I suppose.
First up are Scottish wannabes Serpico. These Al Pacino fans make an impressive start, their power rock bringing to mind the likes of Therapy? Or The Wildhearts. Vocally, they leave a bit to be desired, but the overall effect stirs the dandruff from a few audience heads. Unfortunately, from here on it all gets a bit samey, with similar songs following one another and yawning replacing headbanging. Listening to them, I get the feeling that there's just something, well, missing from their sound. Okay, so they have a song called “Fuck Paris Hilton”, but in the end it just isn't enough to raise them above the huddled masses.
When Stone Gods (or is it The Stone Gods? I'm really not sure...) take the stage, there's a big wave of love from some of the crowd. These, I imagine, are people who used to love The Darkness and can't believe their seeing three quarters of them in what is little more than a pub venue (but a good one, mind you). Anyone expecting spandex and jingly pop Christmas songs is severely thrown out of their daydreams as they belt into “Burn The Witch”, a storming song that owes more to Black Sabbath than Queen. Without pausing for breath, the equally metal “You brought A Knife To A Gun Fight” is unleashed, with Richie looking totally at home in front of the microphone, even if he does look like he's escaped from a Hillbilly family reunion.
Although the first two songs are unashamedly metal, Stone Gods are not just a full on mad guitar band. The into double works well to let people know that this is definitely not a continuation of The Darkness, and after everyone's got that message the band trot out a bit of bar room boogie with an intro that sounds suspiciously like Status Quo's “Caroline”. Elsewhere there are a few songs that definitely remind me of The Darkness, although having said that I can't imagine Justin Hawkins singing the likes of “Start Of Something” (more Sabbath inspired gloriousness) or “Don't Drink The Water”, a song that requires the audience to shout “Oi!” a lot that sounds like one of the better Wildhearts songs, which is a Good Thing. Later on, Richie is given a chance to ease off on his Gillan-esque screams on the ballad “Lazy Bones” and the Darnkess-lite “Start Of Something”, a song that totally confuses people by going all Metallica in the middle.
At one point, Richie takes a breather and thanks the audience for “Taking a punt” on a band that has no product. The volume of appreciation tells him that there isn't anyone here who regrets the decision. Even with the two encores, Stone Gods hardly scratch fifty minutes, although in that time they play only original material. They mix it up like no other band I've seen, throwing Sabbath, AC/DC, Quo, The Wildhearts, Little Angels and, naturally, the Darkness into one big melting pot. This could have backfired messily, but for me the ever changing styles make the gig more exciting and entertaining. The band played brilliantly, with Hawkins and Edwards trading licks, solos and happy looks like men reborn. Stone Gods may not have the pop sensibilities of The Darkness, but this is a band that will surely find their own niche in the metal world. Go and see them now, even if it's just to say you were there at the beginning.
Review by Alan Holloway