There's some curiosity for Stone Sour to be releasing a new album at a time when the entire world points it's concerns and thoughts towards another certain band hailing from Iowa. Yes, the state's favourite son Corey Taylor is returning with his "other" band with the start of their most ambitious album series to date at a time when people are only concerned with seeing Corey put his leather mask back on and play in Slipknot. I don't want to be critical of people for having this mindset. Ever since buying my ticket for next year's Download Festival, there hasn't been many other bands at the front of my mind, since you know, I'm going to be seeing the band that first got me into metal who I've wanted to see since I was 14 years old. That and with the final release of Slipknot's Antennas To Hell Greatest Hits Set, everyone is now expecting new material from the band.
So indeed, lots to say about Slipknot, less to say about Stone Sour, which has officially been demoted again to "side-project" status despite being releasing fourth album House of Gold and Bones Part 1, an album billed by Taylor as sounding like Alice in Chains meets Pink Floyd's The Wall and serving as the first part of a major two part concept album. But even if this album gets less attention than previous releases it will go down as one of the finest works of music that Taylor has done out of Slipknot, in some cases even bettering them.
The earlier material of Stone Sour is still great but when you hear it, there's always a sense of restriction, a sense that this band is purely in operation for Corey Taylor and guitarist James Root to show off a more sensitive side to their work in the 'Knot. But now, it seems that House of Gold and Bones is playing out with no holds barred, unafraid to lay down an extra amount of density and adrenaline yet to be found within the Stone Sour body of work. Unlike previous singles from the band, Gone Sovereign and Absolute Zero don't sound like obvious ready for radio airplay singles but fit in well as album pieces. And with monolithic chugging blasted out by Root and fellow six stringer Josh Rand on these singles, this is an album that really shows straight away that Stone Sour can be truly heavy in ways unheard of from who may have been their fellow peers in the big ugly post grunge scene.
And so exists an awareness from all the band of their requirement to do something bolder and more challenging in the face of adversity, that a post grunge band shouldn't be able to convincingly become a legitimate modern heavy metal band in one album, but with soaring melodies that hit hard along A Rumour of Skin and RU486, boasted further through the growling vocals of Taylor completely different to those executed in Slipknot, there's no denying that this is how heavy metal was meant to turn out in this modern day and age with a voice of pure anger edging it onward.
While the band may have only now become heavier and more metal based than their post grunge contemporaries, they've always been equipped with more class, and this album is no exception. It's seen in the recurring performance of The Travellers with wonderfully layered soundscapes awash with grand sweeping orchestras that gives the album the sound of a film score that surely lures the listeners into the swelling melancholy of the album and it's concepts.
But the most apparent theme on this album really is that of doom and despair, of the type that Alice In Chains effortlessly planted into rock music for all kinds of bands to rip off poorly. Not here though. Tired and Taciturn are both layered in absolute misery with melodies that drag listener into the veins of Taylor's sorrows. And with Taylor's heart rendering vocal performance, the music is a force of pure empathy and beauty.
I suppose this is what makes it a shame to see Stone Sour being billed as nothing but a "side-project" for Corey Taylor and Jim Roots. It's apparent that they've put just as much of their hearts and souls into this creation of pure excellence as they have into Slipknot yet the individual power of the band is yet to be recognised. However, House of Gold and Bones Part 1 shows itself off as the band's boldest and most accomplished albums that sees them come into their own right as a real band and not just a radio friendly side-project. There's obviously some worry that Part 2 of this double album may not live up to the incredible album, but if it does, then Corey might just have put his name to something that will outshine the band he works for when he slips that mask on.
Stone Sour's House of Gold and Bones Part 1 is out 22nd October via Roadrunner. The band will tour the UK in December with Papa Roach.