By keeping his cards close to his chest, little has been revealed about frontman Corey Taylor’s concept propping up this double-album. Taken word for word from the preview for the forthcoming Dark Horse Comics’ story (yes, it’s due for a staggered release as a graphic novel too) we have this – “Trapped in an alternate reality, the Human must make his way to the House of Gold & Bones as he is chased by a crazed, mindless mob, and taunted by his mysterious friend and foe, Allen. What the Human discovers on his journey will be his salvation or his destruction.”
Now what became apparent, when Part I was released last year,
was that it really didn’t matter too much if you weren’t aware of the
concept. The individual tracks all had their own identity with the whole
struggling to flow like a good concept should. This may have been
possibly because it had been hyped up (by its creator) to be the best
thing since sliced bread, so naturally it underwhelmed with its
middle-of the road, dull chuntering. Part II will be judged with
expectations adjusted accordingly so, naturally, it will have similar
shock value, but for entirely different (and all of the right) reasons.
The first thing to hit you is just how fucking intense this thing is.
I suspect the reason for the difference is that it’s all integral to
the story with Part I being the build and the introspective maudlin and Part II
having all the chase scenes and the drama. Guitarist Josh Rand summed
that idea up quite neatly when he was quoted recently as saying “the
riffs, the lyrics, the grooves and the songs are like Stone Sour times
ten.” Listen to the dissolute screams on the bridges of “Gravesend” or
the manic, lung-bursting roars that tear out the heart of “Red City” and
I reckon you’ll agree he’s got a point. By comparison, all of this
album’s constituent parts have been beefed-up making them bigger, bolder
and a million times more effective.
The big-hitting singles are going to come from places like the
10-foot groove dug by “Black John”, the maniacal villain that haunts our
hero (any connection to TV’s The Mentalist and their resident
psycho “Red John” is probably coincidental), the bouncy rock licks of
“Do Me A Favour” and the title-track which cuts down hard enough to
release a line like “I’ve got nothing to prove to a son of a bitch like
you”. Look elsewhere and you’ll hear piercing, instantly recognisable
riffs in sweet cuts like “’82″ and “The Uncanny Valley” whilst the
post-rock mystique of “Blue Smoke” strip the vocal back and murmur pedal
effects that render it strongly reminiscent of bands like OSI and
Now before we get carried away here, Stone Sour’s tendency to revert
to a mundane, predictable, static AOR plod does pop up here and there.
Poppy ballad “Sadist” drifts along offering little whilst “The
Conflagration” pulls in an orchestra for little more than a dull spot of
80s soft rock a la Foreigner, Mr. Big, Scorpions, etc. Even worse is
the horrendous double key-change in “Stalemate” which deserves the
obligatory inside-out face cringe.
Only a fool could fail to see the money-making, wallet-draining
potential of this entire multi-platform project (intentional or
otherwise), but that’s another matter altogether. What really counts
here is that even including these weaknesses, and excluding the back
story, accompanying album and ephemera, HOGAB2 is one hell of an
album and a solid challenger for the title of Stone Sour’s finest album.
Even if you disagree with that assessment, it’s their first worthy
output in seven years, so it’s not one to be dismissed lightly.
Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/04/stone-sour-house-of-gold-bones-part-ii-roadrunner/