Traditionally best-known for its seaside resorts and being the home of murder mystery goddess Agatha Christie, the south-west of England’s most mysterious secret may well be its growing rock underbelly.
The latest example of the English Riviera’s stream of new rock bands is Torbay hard rock trio The Stone Angels, who have, they tell us, been described as “the south west’s best keep secret.” The band began life as a duo of Dan Hughes (vocals and guitar) and drummer Sam McIver, who released a debut album and went out on a national tour back in 2016, then added bassist Nathan Hughes last year and followed it up with an excellent EP self-titled last month.
As Dan tells us: “With the addition of a third member to the band as of early 2017, we’ve explored new genres and sounds to create a product different from our debut released back in 2016 when we were a duo. We’ve teased a few tracks live to our fans and the response has been great, so far.”
They’ve honed largely heavy rock style but mix things up nicely in a sound they describe as “ambitious, big and catchy” and inspired by “life experiences, politics, sex and conspiracy theories” that’s epitomised in the new EP.
It kicks off with a big blast of heavy rock riffs then drops into a laid-back verse with synthy vibes and a cheeky bass line in opening track To The Light. Bursts of guitar chords kick in then gradually builds up to a big energetic chorus of “I gotta feeling that’s growing inside of me, Get me to the light give me strength to fight, I keep on running towards the light” with big chords and synthy sounds in support. A funky solo takes over and drops into a slightly rockier rendition of the verse, then a cool key change for a more synth-infused version of the chorus drops into a dirty guitar riff outro.
More of the same comes in Animal, which opens with a big blast of guitars then drops into a fun verse of guitars mirroring the vocal melody. Then a big rocky chorus kicks in with the somewhat raunchy vocals “I’ll take you down like an animal, Jump all over your body ’til the night falls, Make you scream for more just to see that, I will take you down like an animal.” A second chorus gives way to a smash of guitar riffs, a cheeky bass line, drum solo then a big guitar solo that leads nicely into a final blast of the chorus.
They mix things up slightly in Fear, opening up with a capella vocals that are soon joined by darting guitar riffs then diving into a synth supported, simple yet enjoyable chorus of “Take your fear, Take your fear, Push it deep inside your mind, Push it deep inside your mind, Take your fear, Push it deep inside your mind, Push it deeper.” It gradually builds in intensity, with synth sounds nicely complementing driving guitar chords.
Next is something completely unexpected, as they drop a heavy rock version of The Human League’s Don’t You Want Me on us. It works, it’s a classic and it’s catchy. The EP closes out with a complete change of tack, with a laid-back, catchy ballad Set Me Free.
The Stone Angels sound is pretty eclectic, as evidenced by the heavy rock prominence through to the Human League cover. As Dan puts it: “Jimmy Page writes a riff, Faithless add their part, Flea has some contribution and is topped off with groove-funk inspired by Jamiroquai. Or listen to it and analyse it yourself.
“All three of us have vast music tastes. We have our roots in rock such as Led Zeppelin. However, we all listen to different artists from the likes of Muse, The Killers, Queens of The Stone Age, Imagine Dragons, Royal Blood, John Mayer. We try to bring elements of all our favourite artists into one sound.”
The Stone Angels excel in big catchy rock tracks doused in dirty riffs and the occasional twist of synth. They’re another band to add to your list of south west rockers that already includes the likes of Hypophora, Witterquick and The Experimental.
The Stone Angels will be out on tour over the next couple of months, kicking off at the Stag & Hounds in Bristol on Saturday (8 September) and taking in Nottingham, Sheffield, Torquay and more. More info on all their upcoming gigs is here.