“Crossroads” is the follow up release to the acclaimed “Blood Scent”. For those of you who don’t know STEMM they formed around 1998 with vocalist and guitarist, Joe Carafella, being the only constant member. They are most noted for their close work with the UFC but judging by their last three albums they must also be noted as one of the hardest working bands around. This quartet from Niagara Falls is pure metal to the bone, no nonsense, just a get down to business attitude.
“Crossroads” opens with ‘Salvation’, a pure tight metal sound from start to finish. Joe, Alex, Danny, and Mario have really hit their stride on this one. Even with departure of long time bassist Steve Crowl, there are no missteps in this opener. As with ‘Fleur de Lis’, the stage is set immediately for heart pounding, high energy celebration of metal. There is a balance of riffs, solos, drum rolls, vocal intonation and wonderfully crafted lyrics, second to none. There is not a slice of cheese on this sandwich, just good driving metal. It is obvious to the listener that every note and lyrical line was agonized and planned, the end result is a dedication to the craft that should be the envy of young acts around the world.
Then we come to ‘Smile and Wave,’ a rather intriguing title for a metal song title. A rather introspective song from a lyrical perspective. “As the sun starts to fade I’m thinking, tomorrow comes and the world was gone, would you regret what you have done, would you smile and wave”. This thought alone gives anyone pause. Capture that thought in a fantastic staccato of starts and stops in perfect time and you have easily one of the best tracks on the release. Well, until ‘Supernaut’ comes in…..funk interposed in metal, well why not. Somewhere in this track STEMM must have handed off their instrument to The Commodores, because somewhere in the middle there is nothing but a pure funk beat and guitar and damn if it doesn’t fit in perfectly with the composition. The opening beat and riff structure is almost a throwback to the 70’s classic rock style, and the solo is pure classic rock note structure. Take that collection of thoughts and to quote Chris Adler, “metallize it” and you have ‘Supernaut’. What a creative stroke of genius to manipulate these elements in a metal format, hats off to STEMM for taking the chance on this one, and it paid out dividends.
If you have never taken the chance on STEMM, “Songs for The Incurable Heart” and “Blood Scent” are both formidable releases in their own right. However, the growth shown in “Crossroads” as both men and musicians is tremendous. This is certainly the finest work the boys from New York have done to date. This is a must buy release, it is a great collection of well crafted metal and well thought out lyrics, its not often that you can find that combination in a band. Give these guys a try you wont be disappointed!