Corvus Stone Unscrewed Album Cover as reviewed on The Phantom TollboothUnscrewed maintains the quirky, self-aware, musical satire that characterizes the band’s previous material, and is a collection of radically transformed tracks from Corvus Stone I and II.

Artist: Corvus Stone
Label: Melodic Revolution Records (MRR)
Time: 13 tracks / 50:00 minutes

Koivu, Tench, Lindström, and Wolff – the musicians who comprise the core of Finland-based rock band, Corvus Stone – don’t strike me as the kind of gents to take much time off.  Back in the act once again, the group will release a new compilation album to the public tomorrow.  Unscrewed will be their third release to date, and it comes less than a year after last September’s Corvus Stone II.

The new album maintains the quirky, self-aware, musical satire that characterizes the band’s previous material, and is a collection of transformed tracks from CSI and CSII.  However, Unscrewed is more than just a premature “greatest hits” or a rehash of old material: of the 13 tracks included on this release, four are brand new songs while the rest are extensively remixed and re-imagined takes on compositions from Corvus Stone’s previous albums.  One of the biggest alterations the band made to these songs is drum work.  Colin Tench laments the fact that, when Corvus Stone released their debut album in 2012, Robert Wolff’s parts were buried in the mix.  The intent of retooling these songs was partly to rectify that oversight, but Unscrewed is also a “thank you” for fans – that is, those who have purchased either of Corvus Stone’s first two releases, to whom the album is free to download.  For now, the album will be a digital-only release, but the band have decided to evaluate by fans’ reactions whether or not it will see a later release in physical format.

Unscrewed’s first track is also its first new song.  “Brand New Day,” a 4-minute tune with an apropos title and a “chilling” video, is a chugging, guitar-based instrumental.  Tench’s overdubbed, double-tracked guitars give the song a powerful, beefy core, while Lindström’s bass lines and Koivu’s synth add atmosphere.  “Early Morning Call” was an instrumental track on CSII; now, re-dubbed “Early Morning Calls,” the song’s reincarnation features the added vocals of Sean Filkins (ex-Big Big Train) and Phil Naro (Druckfarben, KINGs), as well as completely retooled guitar parts.  When he contacted me for the promo, Colin pointed me specifically toward this remix, saying he thought I’d like it – “even though it has vocals” – and I must say that Naro and Filkins’ descant-style vocals filter nicely through the mix and pair quite well with a composition that otherwise had been somewhat lacking in substance.

“Joukahainen Without Chips” features Paul Marshall (an old cohort of Colin’s) on the drums.  Joukahainen is a character from a Finnish epic, the Kalevala, which consists of fifty parts (so Corvus Stone’s instrumental rendition of the tale is significantly abbreviated).  This track features Koivu’s organ, prominent bass lines from Lindström, and Tench’s gentle guitar lead throughout.  “Horizon” is a brief but dense little composition, clocking in just under two minutes in length.  Lighthearted synth forms the backdrop for Tench’s guitars to work against.

“Landfill” is the second track on Unscrewed to feature Paul Marshall on percussion.  Sparse though they may be, drum kit, afuche-cabasa, and cymbals collectively take a strong foreground to Tench’s and Koivu’s distant compliment, and the track concludes with an extended bass lick.  “After Solstice,” the next track, contains additional drums and percussion as well as extensive remixing.  The song has an overall minor tonality, but picks up momentum and fervor as it approaches the 1:30-minute mark.  Koivu’s organ and synth patches helm the composition, Tench adds Latin-style acoustic guitar to his typical, Whammy-bar-manipulated leads, and Lindström fills in all the empty spaces.

As in its original incarnation, the mischievous “Jussi Pussi” features the compositional insight of Stef Flaming, and stands as an undisguised nod to Frank Zappa.  This track is a brief but wild ride, featuring a wide assortment of percussion and strange interjections as well as a strong bass line.  “Scary Movie Too” is a reincarnation of CSI’s “Scary Movie,” double the length of its predecessor (7:38 minutes as opposed to its previous 4:21-minute version), and opens with a great pentatonic hook.  Just past its 4:00-minute mark, Lindström’s bass becomes the central driving unit, as guitars, keys, and percussion fall away in jumbled patches. The song rebuilds itself toward its conclusion, gaining unified momentum before grinding to a final halt.

“Petrified in the Cinema Basement” is a rhythmic, Latin-influenced shuffle with a pervasive backdrop of chimes and bass undertones.  “Lost and Found Revisited” is an extended version of CSI’s “Lost and Found.”  As in its previous incarnation, the track features Blake Carpenter as its lyricist and vocalist, and now adds Stef Flaming on additional drums.  This is a dark ballad, with mournful guitar, harpsichord patches, and militaristic snare rolls.

“Cinema Finale” is the 6:00-minute version of an 11:00-minute song, now characterized by re-recorded drums and tighter mixing.  This piece also features nice textural work: swelling synth patches undergirded by Lindström’s bass lines and complimented by Tench’s lead parts.  The final minute of the piece works through a warm, descending chord progression.  “Pack up Your Truffles” is a soulful, jazzy piece.  Tench’s playing on this brief piece often reminds me strongly of Roine Stolt’s, and the song channels a Return to Forever, fusion kind of vibe.  Unscrewed’s final track, “Moustaches in Massachusetts,” remains essentially unchanged from its CSI incarnation except for minor remixing.  Rapid and unrelenting, the song is one final example of Corvus Stone’s taste for rich layers of instrumentation and abrupt, disorganized halts.

I’ll stand by what I’ve said previously – namely, that Corvus Stone is a group of talented musicians who best display their abilities via their instrumental compositions.  In that regard, Unscrewed was a treat for me, because it predominately features those pieces.  That being said, Corvus Stone’s music remains an acquired taste, an eclectic blend of musical ideas that only these extraordinary gentlemen would have thought to combine.


Justin Carlton