Album number two from the punchy hard rock quartet from Walsall, and the first for Spinefarm Records/Universal Music. A pretty big deal then? Being on a major label obviously brings its advantages, but at the same time, more expectations. Stone Broken have always had that ‘arena-anthems-in-waiting’ commercial side to their music, and with the might of Spinefarm behind them, they have ramped up the high-gloss commercial sheen. Debut album ‘All In Time’ is a few years old now, its blend of Black Stone Cherry-style speeding train guitars and British steel was quite refreshing, as most young British bands were influenced by Alter Bridge at that time. Fast forward a few years, and Stone Broken have many miles under their heels, as they become (along with Inglorious) the British band that promoters know will bring in a fair few punters of their own. The ‘go-to’ band, it seems. Album number two sees the band naturally evolve, and the BSC influences lessen. In their place come the influence of Canadians Nickleback and Theory Of A Deadman.
The guitar intro on opening track ‘Worth Fighting For’ might suggest a heavier approach, but as soon as the warm vocals from Rich Moss kick in, we’re in pure Nickleback territory all the way. It has a great groove to it, thanks to the precision drumming from Robyn Haycock, one of the most important aspects of the Stone Broken sound. The vocals from Moss are tailor made for American rock radio, and it will come as no surprise that the band will soon make their US debut on a tour headlined by Adelitas Way. ‘Let Me See It All’ is a perfect example of the mash-up of British/North American styles. The guitars are sharp and aggressive without being too heavy… heavy enough to know that live they will be in-yer-face, but not so heavy casual listeners will turn off. It has a smidgeon of a sleazy vibe… a classic pole dancing song, even. ‘Heartbeat Away’ is a strange one. Domestic violence is powerful subject matter (the song is obviously deeply personal), but it has a similar groove to ‘Lowlife’ from Theory Of A Deadman. If you weren’t actually paying attention to the lyrics, or knew the subject matter, you might actually find yourself singing along to the chorus, as it is quite upbeat. Quite unsettling really, but maybe that was the idea? After the by-the-numbers ‘Home’, the guitars on ‘Follow Me’ are very welcome, and the towering chorus makes its mark. It could be massive across the pond, if it gets picked up by radio. ‘I Believe’ you’ll either love or hate, depending on how you view huge, commercial rock, ditto ‘Anyone’. At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam, the lamb shanks should lap these up.
‘Ain’t Always Easy’ is a decent album, far from that “difficult second album”. It has both eyes firmly on the massive American market. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and it’s about time that a British band other than The Struts made a dent overseas.
Available now through Spinefarm Records, more details here.