Stone Sour is showing the way

Even though Stone Sour was founded prior to Slipknot, the masked men have helped the former grow. Stone Sour has been around for twenty years, and now that their adolescent crisis is behind them – thanks mostly to the outlet that was Slipknot – Corey Taylor, Stone Sour’s mastermind, seems ready to unveil the “album of maturity” that so many bands are fond of. But how did the band get there? How did they manage to walk away from their own shadow? Corey Taylor thinks he has finally reached adulthood, which is the main theme of the two-part concept album Stone Sour will release in two stages – a first for the band.

When we interview him recently, Corey Taylor explained: “Everyone, when they get older, are confronted to choices and to what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. […] There’s a lot of adults these days who refuse to grow up and they make the same mistakes that they did when they were younger although they’ve come to a point in their lives where they should have things figured out”. What did Corey Taylor learned that he wanted to expose through music?

Our first thought would be that being confronted to the death of someone close is a difficult experience – and unfortunately, Slipknot is still mourning the death of their bassist Paul Gray. But that’s not it. First of all, according to Corey Taylor: “I’ve had the concept in me for a few years actually, but I’ve never taken the time to flesh it out and really embellish it”. Secondly, the music on the album is never morbid, melancholic or nostalgic. This concept album tells the story of a young man faced with a choice: staying young or becoming an adult – and being an adult implies accepting death and its consequences. Corey Taylor wished to share and express a form of optimism that stems from being “so confident in our artistic expression and writing that we know we’ve been above all what we have done before”. Before being a matter of choice, existential questions are all about life experience.

Musically, Stone Sour is a band that hasn’t changed much since their first album in 2002, when Taylor allowed himself to go back to his dual root – grunge and heavy –, ten years after the band’s foundation in 1992. But even if the music doesn’t reinvent itself – not much, at least –, the themes linked to it have evolved. At the time, Stone Sour declared they’d “never tried to be a band from any specific genre. We’ve always simply tried to be a hard rock band”. Indeed, the band’s previous three albums feature only “light” music, with no real philosophical ambition. You just have to check the lyrics to the song “Dying”, from Audio Secrecy, and especially the heart-wrenching chorus: “If I can’t live without you/But I can’t breathe when I’m with you”. The theme of insurmountable romantic disappointment is particularly popular among romantic teenagers, which many of you have been – or maybe still are. Audio Secrery combined energy and sentimentalism through many slow or mid-tempo songs featuring acoustic or electric moods. It was also particularly long. By comparison, House Of Gold And Bones Part 1 is much shorter. More adult.

This first part – which will soon be followed by the second half – is the album with the less tracks to date: eleven in all. Metaphorically speaking, this reduced number represents the priorities of a man, of an adult who must make choices and stop using all his ideas on a single piece of work. It’s also pretty useful, because it creates a perfect overview of what the band can do: raw, rough stuff, with the two songs opening the record, “Gone Sovereign” and “Absolute Zero”, groovy stuff, with “RU 486” and more particularly its chorus, mid-tempo stuff (“Influence Of A Drowsy God”), and ballads, with the trippy “The Travelers, Part 1” or the more classic “Taciturn”. Because it’s shorter than its predecessors, this album is more likely to create a feeling of impatience than boredom in the listener. The production is still massive, and in this respect, the album features all the elements that made What(ever) May or Audio Secrecy modern heavy rock albums. From a musical point a view, the skills are well and truly there, and this album proves the professionalism the band has acquired after all these years in the music business.

The band has waited for the right moment to grow up – a bit like a couple that would have to establish solid financial grounds before thinking of creating a family. Corey Taylor has taken the time to look at his past to understand his present. Now the band can look at their future with ambition, since they know exactly what they’re doing. On this album, Stone Sour goes straight to the essential and avoids the superfluous stuff. However, we can fear that the second half of this album will invalidate this statement and create a feeling of “too much”. But despite a few off-balance elements on this new opus, the odds are that the second half will make them disappear. This first part is therefore the famous album of maturity the combo wanted to make, but it’s only a glimpse at an even more ambitious future, that could break the current balance.

House Of Gold And Bones Part 1, released October 12th 2012 by Roadrunner Records.

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