Review Summary: Aside from a few sub-standard moments, House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 is consistently good and will have you spin it for a long time. At least, until Part 2 comes out.
Alternative Metal is a funny genre. It's bands range from the gothic-influenced HIM to the ultimately poppy Breaking Benjamin. Generally being 'raunchy' and 'heavy', it's sound never strays too far off the path to be unplayable on the radio. Priming mainly in the 00's, there's quite a few bands in the genre that survived their 15 minutes and are still (successfully) active today. Stone Sour is definitely one of those bands, selling tens of thousands of records with every new release. Their discography includes 4 studio albums and a live album. Their latest recorded fragment of inspiration is titled 'House of Gold and Bones - Part 1', and for that release this review is written.
I was introduced to Stone Sour via Slipknot. Lead singer Corey Taylor fronts both bands, and guitarist Jim Root handles the strings in both bands as well. Getting tired of the over-the-top approach that Slipknot never ceased to take, I was blown away by Stone Sour's sincerity and stripped-down sound. Of course, whenever you read that two members of a well-known, critically acclaimed band like Slipknot are also in a band that's called Stone Sour, you'd have some expectations. I, personally, expected a Slipknot ripoff, as I was a massive 'Maggot'. To this day, I can't fathom how wrong I was.
Stone Sour is in nothing comparable to Slipknot, aside from sharing two prominent members. And that both bands play music. And that they have guitars... You get my point. Stone Sour's music is rooted in Hard Rock and (Post-)Grunge, whereas Slipknot's roots are within the metal genre. Seeing as both bands are so significantly different, it is very plausible that someone might appreciate Stone Sour's efforts while despising everything that Slipknot touches. This hypotheses goes both ways, as Stone Sour might be a bit too mellow for the average 'Maggot'.
Now, enough with the tl:dr comparison. I'm writing a review, not a bio. Stone Sour's latest merit, House of Gold and Bones - Part 1', as the name aptly suggests, is part of a double record, with Part 1 having an October 2012 release, and Part 2 a 2013 release (exact date was not specified at time of writing). Although commercially a success, 2010's Audio Secrecy was to many fans a letdown, due to the fact that the songwriting was 'poppy' and almost 'corny' to Stone Sour standards. Now with the album having collected an awful amount of spins from me the last week, I think it's safe for me to say that this album is not an 'Audio Secrecy - Part 2'.
Obviously, if it was, it would probably have been called just that. But it's not, so that's a good thing for many! House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 takes what was good on Audio Secrecy (catchy vocal lines, great production and catchy songwriting), dumps the corniness and philosophically bathes in what was once the sweat of the band's self-titled debut. Songs like RU486, My Name is Allen and the opener Gone Sovereign are prime examples of what makes Stone Sour an Alternative METAL band. Pounding drums and heavy, yet, catchy riffs, topped with raspy vocal lines that once again show why Corey Taylor is still on top of his game.
As for overall balance, I feel the album hits a sweet spot. More so than any of their previous albums did. Heavy songs mentioned above are alternated with mellow passages like the interlude The Travelers part 1 and the ballad Taciturn, yet never do they have to fight for a prominent spot in the general memorability of the album. The songs are consistently good, aside from a few spotty moments.
One of this spotty moments is Tired. It's a song that musically nearly copies Evanescence and Taylor's vocals barely keep the song from getting flat-out boring. The stereotypical string arrangements and semi-bluesy solo top it all off and they just make the song seem oh so forgettable. However, it's definitely not something Stone Sour has done before, and for fans of both Evanescence and Stone Sour, I suppose it could be a welcome surprise.
To conclude: House of Gold and Bones - Part 1 is consistently good. Aside from a few spotty moments, the album's pacing and overall balance are sublime and the vocal fruits of labor delivered by Corey Taylor are once again game-changing. Stone Sour can put another great album under their belts. Belts that by now are tight from the heap of the other great material that's already nudged under there.