This material could be divided into two rough categories: the more groove-based songs, and ones that are more psychedelic/proggy. A bit proggy, a bit alternative, whatever you want to call it, I dig it.
Bassist Justin Chancellor, known for laying down the low end on many a Tool album, shows what made him such an attractive addition to Maynard and crew. His skills are evident from beginning to end, but his fellow band mates are just as effective on their respective instruments. Vocalist Simon Oakes sings in a no-so-aggressive fashion, with his British accent often unmasked by his whispery delivery.
While this album may have been written in the 1990s, the material definitely channels the spirit of 1970s, forgoing many of the clichés of 80s rock and metal. While quite heavy and aggressive much of the time, the overall atmosphere is more subdued and calming.
Quite an interesting collection of songs:
“Spasm” is a rather psychedelic number, having a strong vibe of Justin’s future employer, though more emphasis on the rhythm section than the guitar. “Naked” brings up the aggression with its strong energetic guitar riffing juxtaposed with its otherwise laid-back vibe.
They band shows off a notable prog rock influence with their cover of King Crimson’s “Cat Food”, which is faithful to the original while still sounding transformed and modernized.
“Velvet” has a definite alt rock/metal tone, with its powerful transition between soft and aggressive passages and some rather unusual guitar sounds and effects. “Dougal” reminds me a bit of Soundgarden from a musical standpoint, relying on low-tempo heaviness and the presence of screeching lead guitars. The heavy and experimental “Burn” follows.
“Signpost in the Sea”, probably the softest number here, is driven by its odd, almost uncomfortable melancholic atmosphere. “You Lied”, which would later be covered by Tool, dips its toes back in prog rock with bit of a post-metal atmosphere. Both are among my favorite songs on the album.
“Don’t Make Me Your God” may be the catchiest tune of the lot, vocals synchronizing nicely with the fairly straightforward but effective riffing. The title track, which closes the album, has such a haunting atmosphere created by echoing lead guitar work by Ben Durling and effective transitions between heavy rock and a verse that seem inspired by folk music.
Giving Birth To A Stone is a great album, and should please fans of prog rock, alt-rock/metal, or post rock/metal. There’s a little bit for just about any type of rock fan out there.