Nine Stones Close is the band that guitarist Adrian Jones started as a solo project when he moved to The Netherlands. His first album St Lo received critical acclaim and inspired him to record the following album as a true band. Traces (2010, see review) was recorded with British musicians, like keyboard player Brendan Eyre and super vocalist Marc Atkinson. Two years later, One Eye On The Sunrise (2012, see review) was presented and here the band saw Dutch musicians Peter Vink (bass) and Pieter Van Hoorn (drums) performing alongside Adrian Jones and vocalist Marc Atkinson. The latter two albums are still impressive in my eyes, especially due to the very distinguished sound of the vocals.
Four years later we can conclude that there were some major changes in the line-up; Christiaan Bruin joined the band as their keyboard player and Peter Groen replaced the previous Peter on bass, but the change that has the most impact on the music definitely is Adrian (Aio) O'Shaunghnessy taking over the lead vocals.
Leaves turns out to be very different from Nine Stones Close's previous music. Due to the change of the vocalist, the musical atmosphere has radically changed. Changed so much, that the die-hard Marc Atkinson aficionados might turn away from the Leaves album. Which is absolutely the wrong choice; natural progression has taken Adrian Jones and his band to what they are now and progression also could mean significant changes in music. The five song album; Leaves still has significant elements that defines Adrian's music, his guitar playing still sounds very relaxed and Adrian does have the ability to play nice stretched notes and most of all, he contributes to the song, over showcasing his technical skills, which he absolutely has. What changed, obviously are the vocals. Irish Aio takes the music to the more alternative side of progressive rock. Listen to his vocals on the almost thirteen minutes lasting composition Goldfish, a song that fuses the aforementioned guitar playing with Alice In Chains. The ghost of Lane Staley wanders all over this impressive song, filled with stylistic soundscapes and mesmerising guitar. The other songs also hold nice combinations of the intense, rough sound of Aio's voice, combined with Christiaan Bruin's psychedelic soundscapes on the keyboard and the recognizable sound of Adria's guitar. Although the music still is quite relaxed and smooth, the vocals give the overall sound a sharper edge, something I think will work out perfectly when Nine Stones Close decides to go live.
In the end, I think Leaves is a natural step in Nine Stones Close's story, the change of vocalist does affect the overall sound and Adrian's compositions have changed with this fact, without going too far beyond Nine Stones Close's distinguished own sound, they have built over the years. As someone who loved the previous albums, I definitely had to get used to Aio's voice during my first set of listening sessions, but when you are open and take away a step from the previous music, you will discover the beauty that Leaves hold.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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