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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Stone Mob- Amazing Band, Amazing Guitarist, Tragic Flaw By Andrea Whitlow

Stone Mob is an incredible band with a big problem.  Their music is original, innovative, and fun and they have been challenging the status quo of boring three-chord rock music with their unhinged, yet super technical style.  This is mostly due to Stone Mob’s guitarist Blaine Kaltman who, given the press he has been getting, requires little introduction.

The “Shred Master General” is bar-none one of the best guitarists on earth.  Unlike other “shredders” who are a dime a dozen, playing the same stale mix of  sweep picking and hyper fast scaler techniques, Kaltman has come up with something entirely new.  The riffs he plays are a breath-taking mix of speed, power, soul, and creativity.  He is backed up by an extremely competent rhythm section.  Andy Hamburger’s drumming is powerful and flawless and Eric Scott lays down a heavy bassline that holds together the high-energy frenetic barrage of music Stone Mob is known for.  On their studio recordings, singer Doug Masterson does a good job of keeping up with such a talented band.

Stone Mob also puts on an energetic live show.  There are several live videos on their Facebook page.  They are worth watching, if nothing else, to see how talented Stone Mob’s instrumentalists really are.  It is true testament to their abilities that they are able to reproduce exactly what they play in the studio on stage- especially while jumping around which Kaltman is also known for.  Watching a Stone Mob live video, it becomes clear these guys don’t use smoke and mirrors.  They can play everything you hear on the album live and they do it with energy and style.  However, their singer is the tragic exception.

Masterson struggles to hit the notes he sings on record making it obvious he is getting quite a bit of help from the studio.  He is frequently out of key and worse, he often gets lyrics wrong which is the most basic function of a singer.  He even botches the words in a live version of the Black Sabbath classic “War Pigs” which is insulting to the fans and, given Sabbath’s influence on the hard rock idiom, downright sacrilegious.  (The performance, however, is awesome).

Watching Stone Mob live I am reminded of the age-old debate: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?   David Lee Roth had great charisma and sounded good on albums but live he was inconsistent and sometimes disastrous.  He would mess up lyrics, and often sing out of time and off key.  Hager on the other hand was able to recreate his studio performance live, never disappointing the audience.  He had the better voice, the better live performance, and was the better singer.   This comparison is especially appropriate given Stone Mob is very much like Van Halen in that they are a super talented band with great song-writing and an innovative guitarist.  It is a shame their singer is not in the same league when it comes to the live performance as the rest of his band.

When Van Halen replaced DLR with Hager they soared to new heights and achieved greater popularity, more critical acclaim, and their first number one single.  Stone Mob is a fantastic band worthy of a singer who can properly front their live show.  Hopefully in the future they will find one.  Because then this powerhouse of rock would be unstoppable.  

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