Review by Greg Cadman
(Ed: Read Matt Bradley’s review of Stone Sour’s House Of Gold & Bones Part 1 here)
Everyone seems to be doing things in two parts these days. Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hobbit are three of the most recent film franchises to do it, and Biffy Clyro, Green Day and Coheed and Cambria have tried their hand at it this last year. It’s not exactly common for a mainstream hard rock act like Stone Sour to do something so artistically challenging, but their attempts have paid off handsomely, as House of Gold & Bones may be the peak of their career. While last year’s Part 1 was an imperfect but ultimately enjoyable effort, Part 2 is all business, and is Stone Sour’s most musically, conceptually and creatively ambitious record yet.
While Stone Sour have authored some great songs in their time, they’ve never been the most complex of bands. HOGAB Part 2 aims to change that, with plenty of new influences brought to the table but still maintaining a sound that is distinctly Stone Sour. ‘Red City’ opens this dark oddysey of salvation and isolation, a sombre number that is both quietly contemplative and crushingly heavy. A haunting piano line leads into a section accompanied by that guitar tone and Corey’s harsh growls, which are admittedly not the strongest. You’d be wrong in thinking that a series of bangers are going to follow; ‘Black John’ picks up the pace a little with its industrial stomp that brings Nine Inch Nails to mind. ‘Gravesend’ could’ve been written by Deftones, and ‘Blue Smoke’ hints at a love of old-school prog. It’s clear that since Stone Sour have become a full-time prospect for Mr. Taylor and co., their songwriting abilities have increased tenfold.
According to Taylor, both parts of HOGAB require each other to truly make sense. You could listen to individual songs if you wanted to, but it’s true that both parts complement each other with their differences and similarities. Part 1 laid down the foundation for this epic saga about a man’s journey to the titular location, and introduced both lyrical and musical themes that continue and are developed in Part 2. If you’ve not listened to Part 1 yet, do that first. If you have, listen to it again to refresh your memory. Those who are familiar with Part 1 will enjoy reprises of lyrics and even musical segments, such as the title track finale featuring the same melody as Part 1‘s ‘Absolute Zero’, and lyrics from ‘The Travellers’ reappearing in ‘The Conflagration’. These little touches give the whole package a stronger sense of continuity and remind you of how this journey started.
One of the best things about HOGAB Part 2 is that, like any good concept album, it’s been constructed in a way that demands the listener to listen to the whole thing in one go. This is an album that’d be better suited to one of those “An Evening With…” shows where they play the entire thing back to back – don’t be surprised if this happens at some point. While lead single ‘Do Me a Favor’ will certainly be a live setlist staple (and probably ‘Stalemate’), songs like ‘Sadist’ and ‘Peckinpah’ are far more effective in context of the whole album.
While the very nature of HOGAB 2 will prevent it from ever reaching the commercial heights of Vol. 3 or Come What(ever) May, it stands tall as one of Corey Taylor’s finest musical offerings to date. It’s no Thick As A Brick, but it’s mighty impressive considering Stone Sour’s usual forte is hard rock radio hits. Their next album has a lot to live up to.
9 out of 10
- Red City
- Black John
- The Uncanny Valley
- Blue Smoke
- Do Me a Favor
- The Conflagration
- The House of Gold & Bones