Leon : John Macaluso, a name that didn’t ring any of my bells, and yet the man has an interesting CV. His career began in the late eighties with heavy metal bands Powermad, TNT, and Riot, certainly not the smallest bands! Sometime in the early nineties, Macaluso switched to progressive metal and started the band ARK, which, amongst others, included super vocalist Jorn Lande. However, the man’s CV goes much further, he has played drums for Yngwie Malmsteen, James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Vitalij Kuprij, and Michael Romeo (Symphony X), and he also replaced Symphony X Drummer Jason Rullo on tour when he was injured. An impressive list, and this list will be expanded even more this year with his new band Stone Leaders, a collaboration between Macaluso and the three Croatian musicians Marko Karacic, Ivan Mihaljevic and Dino Jelusic (Trans Siberian Orchestra), whom he’s met and performed with during a drum clinic in Zagreb, Croatia.
According to the provided documentation, the songs were written by Macaluso, meaning that he had an idea, recorded the drums, and sent the tracks to the rest of the band for the actual content. This, to me, seems to be a strange way of writing songs but, according to Macaluso, 'Burn The Sun' by ARK is written in the same way and turned out to be one of my favorite albums. I must also honestly say that, while listening to 'Stone Leaders', I had to think about ARK a number of times because it resembles the band sometimes. In any case, I can say that the instrumental parts are equally as impressive as the aforementioned acts, one after the other impressive part is played, whether it’s on guitar, keyboard, or drums, all are equally impressive. Sometimes things go south with the vocals but singer Dino Jelusic knows very well how to sing and reminds me a bit of Jorn Lande, jealously good. That being said, you can have the best musicians in the world recording an album together, but that doesn’t mean that it will be a fantastic album. How is that in the case of Stone Leaders?
Let me be clear and say that the album is not bad at all, actually it’s pretty good, but I'm not completely blown away by it. I can’t explain properly what it is exactly, but I miss that one special little bit to really make it a fantastic record. I would be curious to listen to an album from these guys where they write the album together, as a group, maybe it is a little bit too difficult to write an album based on a drum track. Anyway, the album is definitely better than the average progressive metal album that gets released and therefore deserves a nice score. I can also recommend it to fans of ARK, the sound on the record will be somewhat recognizable.