It’s make-or-break time for Stone Sour. They’re a decade into their second career now, having first trodden the boards as a club band before singer Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root made it big with Slipknot and returned to rescue them from obscurity. Audiences are familiar with the Stone Sour sound after three albums, and it’s time for the group to take a step up. If they stay where they were with 2010’s excellent Audio Secrecy, they risk stagnation.
Corey and Jim plus second guitarist Josh Rand and drummer Roy Mayorga (bass on this album is handled by ex-Skid Row four-stringer Rachel Bolan in place of the departed Shawn Economaki) have made the decision to release not one but two albums under the House Of Gold & Bones title, one now and the other next year. They’re aware, no doubt, that double albums tend to spell out the death knell for a band in the current climate, hence the delay between releases.
No need to worry, though: as with Audio Secrecy, Part 1 is a rich set of songs with enough musical and lyrical depth to satisfy most. Headbangers, relax: although this is rock rather than metal, there’s enough heaviness to keep your neck muscles worked out. The opening song, Gone Sovereign, puts its foot down and sets out their stall with conviction, featuring Corey’s snarled invocation of ‘Is there anybody here still left alive?’ plus a shred solo worthy of Megadeth at their finest.
This being a band who pride themselves on covering multiple musical bases, Absolute Zero is a chunk of mainstream radio rock with one of the big, full-fat choruses that Stone Sour have been delivering since they debuted back in 2002. The punchy A Rumor Of Skin is equally rambunctious: the closest to Slipknot’s patented diseased rage that we get on this album.
As if to remind us that there’s nowhere that Stone Sour won’t go, we move into The Travellers, Part 1, a heartstring-pinging acoustic ballad that would be a global Number One if there were any justice in this world, which there isn’t. The combination of plangent strings, riffs and almighty, singable choruses – always a winner – continues with Tired, another radio hit if ever we’ve heard one, but don’t get complacent. Stone Sour haven’t completely mellowed out yet; RU 486 is full-blooded commercial metal, on which Corey switches from his previous croon to a gargled roar.
This isn’t the perfect album for everyone, with My Name Is Allen and the album’s closing cut Last Of The Real chugging along indifferently – but between these two songs there’s an excellent trio of tracks. Taciturn is another convincing acoustic ballad, while Influence Of A Drowsy God is a slow-building rock epic and The Travellers, Part 2 a piano-driven anthem. It’s powerful stuff.
House Of Gold & Bones Part I will only reveal its depths after several spins, so you’ll need to invest some time in these stadium- sized songs to get the most out of them. Better still, see the band live – and make some room on the shelf for Part 2 when it comes out next year. Corey’s on a roll.