Formed by guitarist Bad Brad and drummer Ryan Vikedal, arena rock band Stone Padre proceeded to recruit Tom Keifer and ex American Idol contestant Kendra Chantelle, whose R&B stylings were suited to the sound they were crafting. The band spent two years forging their debut album “El Camino” which was produced by Ryan Vikedal, who is none other than the former member of the multi-platinum band Nickelback. As an old coot that back in the day saw hundreds of concerts I still love the “crank it up loud and rock” approach to music that is especially crafted for wide open spaces and massive crowds. Raw and rugged sounds without the overblown glossiness that has turned rock into a Billboard-induced cloning machine. There’s some truly groundbreaking moments on here, some inspired songwriting, and a monster sound. And when the mood and groove perfectly fits the performances on the standouts, there really isn’t anything else like this on the market and few have the balls or the passion of Stone Padre.
Kendra Chantelle is a genuine, bona-fide front-woman. Her vocals on this album are simply incredible. The sound of this monster record varies from track to track as the guys (and gal) cram all the goodies they’ve come up with, into the mix. They show terrific talent and diversity in the songwriting, performance and production departments.
Stone Padre’s brand of unapologetic, balls-to-the-wall, female-fronted hard rock is somewhat of an anomaly in the modern rock scene. The music within the album’s run-time is driving, energetic, and even implements some well-needed diversity within the pool of mainstream arena and hard rock.
The writing on display is easily some of the most energetic and bombastic on the current circuit. The lyrics give off a snarling vibe, and while it may feel over-the-top for some, “El Camino” presents a level of edginess that is sorely lacking in the genre as of late.
Opening duo, “Boom” and “Wild InThe Streets” set an intense pace, showcasing Chantelle’s convincing bravado and effortless range over crunching guitar arrangements. Vikeday’s drumming is another highlight, reminding me of that old-school Bonham feel, and sounds huge as the backbone of each song. Bad Brad’s combination of stomping riffs and dexterous fills further complement the songs without sounding too flashy.
Chantelle’s dynamic voice and the song structure on “Taste” feel both familiar but surprisingly fresh. Stone Padre have an uncanny knack for breathing new life into vintage ideas and writing new material with a classic spirit. Such is the case of the grinding Black Sabbath aura on “Jade”, or the bouncy Van Halen swagger on “Wake up and Dance”, but it’s when they switch into that Ritchie Blackmore styled riffing flair on “Push”, that Stone Padre switch into overdrive.
Not to mention Chantelle’s vocals which by now has stepped up into an ear-splitting register on a regular basis. From this track onwards it’s all a downhill race for the band, as they are totally in their comfort zone delivering electrifying riffs and rhythms at will.
Kendra Chantelle’s voice tears a hole through the beat in “Lay Me Down”, it’s visceral, and it shows off her range almost better than any song on the album. She’s up-and-down, even a bit raspy on the verses, but returns to her power-rock, supercharged roots for the chorus. If, by this point in the review, you’ve noticed that I’ve focused a lot on Chantelle’s vocals, it’s because the rest of this album is as spectacular as I expected…but Kendra is, surprisingly, beyond spectacular in her rock n’ roll shoes.
Few voices in modern hard rock are as powerful and nuanced as Chantelle’s, and her pipes certainly are on full display on this album. “Spy on U” again unleashes her breathless transitions from her lower register to unbelievably high, in between, there is some excellent guitar work going on.
There aren’t many pure rock n’ roll bands out there anymore. Stone Padre show in each track that they are truly masters of their craft and pack a mean punch. None more so than on the hard-riffing “2 O’clock”. Finally the band wind the album down with the mid-tempo anthem “Make Rain”. Stone Padre prove them themselves to be a seemingly unstoppable force on “El Camino”, and a diamond in the rough of the modern arena rock scene. Who says rock is dead?