I’ll admit, the last time I listened to any form of Stone Sour was back in 2002, when I was a mere teen. The song was Bother, released with the Spiderman soundtrack. It is a sad, almost self-indulgent song, which perfectly reflected the boy-man Tobey Maguire’s struggle depicted in the movie. I even recall a glimpse of a Spiderman mask ring, catching the light as the camera slowly panned around Corey Taylor’s fingers. I also remember Inhale, which had a video depicting the band as homeless men, which had me somewhat befuddled.
With a decade passed, and the occasional lapping of Slipknot hitting my ears, I expected a hybrid of the two, with less angst and more a reflection on growing older, and perhaps wiser, with an appropriate amount of riffage to keep the whole thing metal-friendly.
So opens House of Gold and Bones, Part 1 of 2, with 12 songs to deliver, before serving up a second dose in 2013. The band have touted this as a concept album, something I’m always wary about considering the general cohesion of bands, and the idea of just one theme is often a far-fetched dream. It opens with Gone Sovereign, which delivers everything you’d expect, a great build-up of vocals and power chords into an explosive bridge that pans out through the rest of the song, with a lashing of a guitar solo. It’s promising and satisfying. Lonely echoes round it off, moving into another heady and guitar-driven track, Absolute Zero, and the great hook line it delivers: I’m not the devil, but I won’t be your hero’.
Then rather suddenly, the album becomes all too predictable. A Rumour of Skin is clearly a breakdown track before moving into, dare I say it, the soft acoustic and violin track The Travelers, Part 1. There’s something very 80s about this whole song, a screaming throwback to Guns and Roses. Halfway through the track I’m honestly expecting Slash to start on wailing on his guitar, his hair whipped by a conveniently placed giant fan. Part 2, the second last track on the album, doesn’t help redeem this notion, instead lathering on vocal effects that I would expect from a kid messing around in Garageband.
There’s no doubt that the years have definitely helped to fine-tune their sound, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything revolutionary or new about this album. Instead, it harks back on every metal album before it, with a lot of the songs falling by the wayside and into the just plain forgettable. Sitting back hoping for something to grab you, you are left with the desire to thumb through your Dad’s old hair-metal collection. Taylor’s lyrics still read like an isolated teenager, an enemy to the world, rather than being triumphant over his demons and any sort of broadening bought on by his experiences. This dark and depressing theme would have worked marvelously for me as an outcast teenager, but just feels cringeworthy sitting here in my mid-20s.
That being said, the heavy bass tracks and throaty growls you get thrown in tracks like Last of The Real and RU486 are something to admire: the kind of songs that throw concerts into chaos with flailing limbs, and the right amount of sound equipment so that the band’s thrashing on stage crawls inside and beats your heart for you. This album will be an amazing addition to the band’s live set, but without the atmosphere and fear of being socked in the face by a stray fist. It just falls short of being anything truly remarkable.