Sound — 3
Having landed on a handful of film and television soundtracks in their earlier years, recent activity for 12 Stones hasn't been as widespread. After finishing their first record deal with Wind-Up Records (which helped get frontman Paul McCoy a featured spot on Evanescence's massive single "Bring Me to Life"), they signed with Executive Music Group for their fourth album, "Beneath the Scars," though a series of delays plagued the album's release, being the longest period between albums for the band.
Once again, it would take five years and a new record label for 12 Stones to release their fifth album, "Picture Perfect." Despite that long waiting period, though, the band only shows interest in sticking to what they know. The post-grunge/alt-metal style that was all the rage when they first formed is still what they're exclusively using now, with fewer elaborations compared to their previous album. Most songs offer little more than a simple lead riff (heard in "Save Yourself," "Memphis," and "Hey Man") or a fit-to-form guitar solo (most notably in "The Killing," "Blessing," and "Time") to distinguish themselves from one another.
The ballads on "Picture Perfect" stand out a bit better by wielding more melody, like the acoustic/electric guitar force used in "Nothing To Say" and "Lerlene," but the ending acoustic-only ballad of "Hello Suicide" is as drab as things can get. In other cases, 12 Stones just take pages from other post-grunge bands - "Voodoo Doll" uses a country-tinged rock sound similar to Black Stone Cherry, and more damningly, the triplet-rhythmed bridge riff in the eponymous song sounds like the band ripping off the Three Days Grace song "Riot."
Lyrics — 7
If there's any redemptive quality for "Picture Perfect," it's McCoy's lyrics being more substantial than the formulaic songwriting. Focusing on overcoming negativity, McCoy addresses the struggle on both personal levels ("Will you save me from this misery / My hate killing everything good in me" in "Nothing To Say"; "Now this picture's getting so much clearer / A broken man inside the mirror" in "Save Yourself"), and more significantly, calling for change on a grand scale regarding societal inequalities and ending the apathy towards it in "Memphis" ("Get in line, accept the outcome / Feed the rich and rob the poor / Tell ourselves it's not worth fighting for") and an appeal to triumph over xenophobia and bigotry in "Time" ("If our fears and hate keep growing / We'll never shift the paradigm"). Though McCoy also has moments of repetition, whether it's the "chase your dreams" line appearing in "Lerlene" and the eponymous song, the "wake up" saying in "Memphis" and "How Long," or the one-verse/one-chorus monotony in "Hello Suicide," his lyrics overall are the more interesting part of the album.
Overall Impression — 4
12 Stones may be sticking to what they know in "Picture Perfect," but for album number five, more of the usual has much less impact, especially when following previous albums that did more than the usual. Leaning on a post-grunge/alt-metal sound that shows no attempts to do more than the bare minimum of a well-worn formula, the result is a stale sound that has some moments that are adequate at best, moments that sound like echoes of more popular rock bands, and plenty of forgettable moments. Overall, "Picture Perfect" feels like 12 Stones phoning things in.