The Phantom Tollbooth

Artist: Tables of Stone
Label: Independent
Time: 46:36 / 11 tracks

A bi-lingual bunch from the Canadian capital have started making some waves south of the border, and beyond. I had the pleasure of catching these folks wrap up a night on the second stage at the Inside Out Soul Festival, and put them on my list of up-and-comers to watch. Their debut album, Engraved, has already earned them a fair amount of recognition and a few Canadian Gospel Music Awards.

Tables of Stone's music ranges from effects-heavy modern rock, to more conventional rock, and almost to the brink of circa 1990 pop metal. Their sound is not particularly unique, but neither is it particularly derivative. It just seems like they are covering ground that has been done before, bringing to mind various different bands often within a given song. For instance, the opening track, "Choose to Live," brings to mind both The Kry and DC Talk (since Jesus Freak) for starters.  The second track, "Illogical", reflects clear Jars of Clay influences, and features a pre-chorus that could be right at home on an early Kings X album.

Although they are not ground-breaking, they do the job and do it well. The clean production, both in sound and in message, brings the vocals to the fore, which is one of their strong points.  It is evident from their music, both recorded and live, that these guys really want to communicate on a spiritual level. Their well-crafted songs flow well, carry the listener along for the ride, and certainly get their message across. Here their similarity to other bands serves them well, providing a diverse palette from which to work, and a certain familiarity and accessibility with which to draw in more listeners.

Though seemingly quite at ease with acoustic treatments and plaintive ballads, Tables of Stone shine most when things get loud and electric (their use of guitar effects is--well, particularly effective). The pogo-kids will be pleased, and they offer plenty of great, anthemic choruses for singing along. This band will certainly have a solid youth following for a while to come, and, God willing, will direct that into Christ-following.

By Titi Ala'ilima (11/12/98)