Besides Extreme Metal Norway also seems to be a breeding ground for contemporary Rock & Metal bands with a modern, groovy sound. TURBONEGRO would be an easy example but there are of course many more. STONEGARD is one of those new bands and classifying them is not an easy task since the band puts little bits of tons of styles into a modern whole.
“Arrows” often switches between straight heavy Rock parts and more intense Metal parts with the common denominator being the vocals, which holds the album together. Sadly enough I’m not really fond of the singing on this disc. I will have to admit that the singing isn’t straightforward which might work for people looking for a unique vocal performance. The only comparison I can draw is Thomas Rosenmerkel as he sounds on EPHEMERA’S PARTY, with the important nuance that I love those vocals.
The guitar playing is pretty technical and at times seems like it will reach a climax, which does happen but not often enough. The fun thing about this album is that the riffs can even sound like they belong on an Extreme Metal record, yet because the vocals and rhythm section stay true to the groovier, more straightforward form it is hardly noticeable. That being said a song like “The White Shaded Lie” can get pretty heavy at some parts. It’s also one of the longer songs on “Arrows” which is a good thing as their shorter songs seem to lack something. I don’t mind 2-3 minute songs but prefer it if bands like MOTORHEAD or the RAMONES play them – for STONEGARD it doesn’t really work.
And like in most cases where I don’t really like the concept there’s always a song that’s completely true to that but that I still enjoy; in this case it would be “Barricades”. Again short but full of interesting drums and a vocal delivery that really works. The following soft song “Goldbar” is good too, but again too short. Other than that I can only conclude that most of the playing is fine; that they’ve got some good dynamics in the album but mostly the rhythms and vocals don’t do it for me. I can easily imagine people liking this however, mostly those who are searching for a modern and technical Rock/Metal album and aren’t afraid of a little odd structure and vocals. (Online October 6, 2006)