Earth, wind and fire...
Genre: progressive metal
At its worst progressive metal tends to be mindless ripping off of Dream Theater's iconic sound. At it's best, progressive metal is challenging, theatrical, epic, exploratory, genre-transcending and original. Although obviously inspired by the likes of Dream Theater, Speaking to Stone's "Elements"-album falls under the latter category.
With song lengths ranging from nine to fiftee minues, Speaking to Stones are a band who take their time in building up their songs, and they do not shy away from longer instrumental intros as in 'Wind'. With such long songs, Speaking to Stones have plenty of room for inserting a lot of different passages and sections into each song, which results in dynamic song structures. Even the epic power ballad 'Water' is kept interesting all the way through, and 'Earth' is like four different songs in one. The final track 'Quinta Essentia' is an epic track with a slight exotic feel and symphonic elements popping up side by side with both ballady and heavy passages.
The songs are generally based on relatively heavy guitar riffs accompanied by spacey, and at times symphonic keyboards, and a nice audible bass, played by Greg Putnam, that combines the edge of Steve Harris' energetic playing and the sophistication of Steve DiGiorgio's style. As mentioned the structures are dynamic and complex, interchanging between heavy metallic parts and quieter (sometimes acoustic) passages. While the musicianship is definitely very advanced (Mark Zonder has given a helping hand on the drums which is definitely preferable to programmed drums) and Speaking to Stones play music, which not everyone could pull off, things never get so technically advanced that even casual listeners cannot keep up. There are odd time signatures and the songs are, of course, long, so mindless followers of today's pop music scene will not be able to understand this music, but any independently thinking individual should definitely be able to follow and enjoy this album. Of course, the guitar leads are virtuosic, but they tend to - unlike some other prog metal bands - actually fit the overall music very well and do not come of as mere ego flashing.
While paying homage to the giants of progressive metal, Speaking to Stones have still produced a quite original and very enjoyable progressive metal album which is both focused and varied. "Elements" is recommended to any fan progressive metal.