STALA & SO. – It Is So (2011)

STALA & SO. - It Is So (2011)

It Is So. Simple, direct, to the point, and undeniably true. The first full length studio release from Finland’s STALA & SO is all of that and more.
This hard rocking quintet will be releasing their debut on September 9, 2011. Featuring ex members of Hanoi Rocks and Lordi, “Stala & So.” brings modern touches to music inspired by the hard rock scenes of the ’80s through the ’90s.
These guys can rock, whether performing gritty hard rockers, pop rock tunes or tear-jerker ballads.

Formed back in 1997, the band went by the simple name of ‘So.’.
Following their own unique sense of direction, So. became well known on the Finnish club scene for their upbeat and positive music, rolling influences together from The Sweet, Slade and T-Rex and blending in elements of Ratt and Dokken.
Founded as a ‘live’ band, So. learned right away exactly what it takes to entertain the crowds and have used their many years of experience to produce one of the finest debut releases of the last decade.
It is difficult to pick out the star member of the band, as each and every performer has their moment in the spotlight. Stala’s vocals are solid all around, but he does not stand alone. The harmony and backing vocals contributed by the other members are amazing and make this release a singer’s showcase.
The guitar duo of Sami J and Pate Vaughn seem equally comfortable doing acoustic passages or hot metal riffs. Nick Gore’s bass gallops along and pushes most of the tracks to where they need to be, while ably partnering drummer Hank.
Each and every song is tight and well done, making the band’s veteran status obvious. Teamwork, enthusiasm and a sense of fun are the keys here.

After a goofy spoken intro, the album kicks into high gear immediately with “Got To Believe,” a slick bass driven rocker that displays the band’s vocal talents right off the bat. This track features some great guitar work and solid songwriting, as well as a heavy dose of the energy that permeates the entire album.
“One Nite Stand” is the tale of a drunken evening and associated sense of regret, more of a hard pop-rock tune with a bit of sleaze rock rolled in. Neatly done guitars and an upbeat drum line make this one a toe-tapper.
“She,” a mid-tempo rocker, shows the band softer side and lyrical storytelling abilities.
Nice keyboards and a great rhythm line make “(Won’t Let You) Down Again” a winner. This ‘life on the road makes relationships tough’ story track features a great bluesy guitar solo.
The band turns it up to 11 with the high energy riffs and a bit of a Ratt style guitars on “Pamela” – a great sing along chorus with great vocals highlight this track, which was in the final round in the battle for a Finnish representative on Eurovision Song Contest 2011 in Germany.

As was the tradition in the ’80s and ’90s, Stala & So. present not one, but two rock ballads – the first being the amazing tear-jerker “Bye Bye”, easily the strongest vocal performance on the release with layers of music that build in power and intensity as the track progresses. This track could very well become the band’s breakout radio hit.
“Shout” starts off with a great brassy guitar hook and gritty rock rhythms, and this up tempo rocker quickly becomes the band’s guitar and bass show piece.
“My Happy Day” is a commercial rocker with a mellow tone, upbeat lyrics and a great bass & drum line.
Big drums, gurgling bass and rhythm keyboards give “Woman” a great mid-80s feel.
Nicely done acoustic guitars, heartfelt lyrics and incredible vocals mark the second of the ballads, “Spring Romance.”
“Everything For Money” kicks back up into true glam rock and wraps the album with some hot guitar licks before fading into the single chord outro of “E Minor”.

“It Is So.” is a refreshing and diverse collection of songs written over the span of the band’s long career and each of them is done with major attention to all details.
The engineering and recording of this album is absolutely jaw dropping.
Any band or musician that wants to make a good sounding album could learn quite a bit from the techniques used here. Any producer or singer who wants to know how to best handle vocals owes it to themselves to listen to Stala & So.
Somehow the album manages to be very crisp and clean, yet avoids the sterility of many modern releases. The vocals are well balanced against the music, the bass and drums intense without pounding, and the guitars and keys ever present without dominating.
The overall production values put this album among the best engineered CD’s of the modern era, a big surprise considering the album is self-produced.
There really are no negatives on this release – the closest one may be able to come is some odd word choices – nothing unusual for a non-native English speaking band.

Simple, high-energy tracks plus a handful of slow rockers, solid performances and amazing engineering make the now slightly renamed Stala & So.’s debut a must have for every commercial hard rock / poppy metal fan.
Don’t be fooled by the band’s look or tags labeled on them, this isn’t a sleaze group by any means. They play a style very close to other Finnish bands as H.E.A.T or alikes.
Recommended for too many reasons to list – simply get it if you like energetic and upbeat rock of any sort.

01 – The Show By So
02 – Got To Believe
03 – One Nite Stand
04 – She
05 – (Won’t Let You) Down Again
06 – Pamela
07 – Bye Bye
08 – Shout
09 – My Happy Day
10 – Woman
11 – Spring Romance
12 – Everything For Money
13 – E-Major

Sampsa ‘Stala’ Astala – Vocals
Sami J – Guitars
Pate Vaughn – Guitars
Nick Gore – Bass
Hank – Drums


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