Revelation is so much more than just an album title to Stone Broken.
For the West Midlands, Walsall-based four piece – comprising vocalist/guitarist Rich Moss, drummer/vocalist Robyn Haycock, guitarist Chris Davis and bassist Kieron Conroy – it definitively sums up a re-energised musical direction born from a collective desire to push themselves as both musicians and people. And, with this newfound sense of creative empowerment, the band embarked on a quest to write that better song, capture that inspired recording and deliver a unique production. It heralds the start of a significant new era.
“When we first started out, our goal was to write songs that people would leave gigs singing – we wanted our music to get stuck in people’s heads,” explains Moss. “But this new album was about something more, we wanted to take risks and challenge ourselves to raise our creativity, sound and production to a whole new level.”
It’s fair to say that none of this would have been possible were it not for Stone Broken’s new creative partnership with award-winning producer and former SikTh guitarist, Dan Weller (Enter Shikari, Holding Absence, Bury Tomorrow). Spinefarm Records put the band in touch with Weller back in early 2019, and both artist and producer hit it off right from the get-go.
“Dan came to Walsall, which is brave,” laughs Moss, remembering their preliminary first hometown meetings. “We talked for hours, not even about music, but just life itself. We got to know each other on a personal level, and then we also realised that Dan really understood what we wanted to do. He connected with us as people and we shared a similar creative vision. He really unlocked a lot of things for us, and I don’t think that we would have ended up with this record, at this particular time in our career, without Dan.”
That’s not to say that the path to Revelation has been an easy one. In fact, after diving into the first phase of pre-production back in November 2019 and happily looking forward to what the band thought would be a “very straightforward, traditional recording session” with Weller, the coronavirus pandemic arrived and unexpectedly put a halt to things, leaving Stone Broken with half-completed material. “COVID-19 happened, and we were all meant to go into a three-week lockdown,” remembers Moss. “We all thought, ‘That’s fine, we can deal with three weeks of this, no problem!’ But as we all know, it never really ended, and we became concerned about how we were going to finish the record.”
During this period of enforced re-evaluation, says Moss, Stone Broken were “challenged” to stay positive and carry on writing more material. Never mind what they already had in the bag – what else could the group come up with? “It was a blessing in disguise,” admits Haycock. “It gave us time to look at the album and our process, how it was shaping up and to make some pretty important detailed calls and judgements. We carried on writing and ended up coming up with what we consider is some of our best stuff.”
Working remotely with Weller between Walsall and London, the band shared lots of new ideas, experimenting with aspects of electronic sound design, fusing different strands of their more straight-ahead hard rock with darker electro elements – something Moss and Haycock had long wanted to try. The enforced stasis of COVID and remote working triggered a renewed period of creativity, resulting in the emergence of several defining new songs such as Black Sunrise, Revelation and The Devil You Know, all of which helped set in motion that lofty new direction the band had been searching for.
With the creative bit between their teeth, Stone Broken eventually decamped to their Walsall rehearsal space where they assembled a makeshift but yet COVID-friendly recording and post-production set-up from where they started the final stages of finishing their album.
“When you’re writing and in the creative tunnel, you get that feeling,” smiles Haycock. “And we had that and more with our new songs. It was just: ‘Yes – these have to be on the album.’ We simply couldn’t ignore it!”
With a renewed sense of purpose, Moss was also determined to spend a lot of time reworking the approach to his lyrics and delve deeper into that process. Though fans have always been drawn to Stone Broken’s meaningful songs, this time around he challenged himself to be more adventurous – and even as he calls it “cinematic” – while not altering the deep, personal messages at the band’s beating heart.
“It was hard for me,” he admits. “That’s where some frustration came about, worrying that it wasn’t good enough. Up until that point I’d been able to tell stories effectively that people have held onto and related with, but I knew I needed to find a new framework to be able to put more of a wider vision in the listener’s head.
“We haven’t held anything back on this record,” Moss continues. “I don’t think we’ve been scared to face any topic, and we’ve been more true to ourselves than ever before. It’s also the hardest I’ve ever worked on vocals in my life! Dan really pushed me to the limit.”
One of the more exploratory and exciting elements that Weller introduced into the production was the deliberate use of Haycock’s ethereal vocal tone as a featured arrangement in certain key tracks. The drummer, who often sings backing vocals live, found herself required to extend and challenge herself as a singer. “It was scary having to perform these vocal melodies fully on my own, but it was still awesome,” she says proudly. “We wanted to explore everything and unlock any new potential within the band.” Adds Moss: “I remember when we sent Kieron a mix with Robyn’s vocals, he literally said, ‘Oh, did you send that out to a session singer, did someone else sing on it?’ And I thought, ‘Wow, if we can surprise our own band member then we’re onto something here!’”
So, too, will Stone Broken surprise their own listeners: from the undeniable infectiousness of the electronic-infused title-track, to the raw, pounding attitude of Black Sunrise, to the goosebump-inducing beauty of Me Without You, this is a kaleidoscopic album that will offer more with every listen. Between Moss’ soaring vocal delivery, Haycock’s angelic tone, the band’s typically powerful guitar riffs and a subtle electronic sound design – all set to a back-drop of pounding grooves – Revelation sees Stone Broken storming into rock’s big leagues.
“There definitely is a new energy,” enthuses Moss.“Everyone is super-pumped on the record, which is amazing. It’s a breath of fresh air, and we all feel energised. We set ourselves a goal on this album, and we feel we’ve just smashed it; it’s as though we surpassed what we ever thought we could do.”
Revelation, then, is an album both for Stone Broken fans and for the band themselves. And between the enforced COVID break and these exhilarating new elements they’ve incorporated into their music, the band and their Broken Army are ready to take on the world.
“We’re just four human beings who love playing music, and chances are we’ve been through some of the things you’ve been through including having COVID!” says Haycock. “When it comes to our fans, we’ve got each other’s backs, and they’ve got ours. It’s very family-oriented and special relationship. We want to help people, and make sure they don’t feel like they’re on their own.”
Haycock’s conclusion is perfect: “Stone Broken has finally arrived.” Welcome to the beginning of their greatest chapter yet.