Review Summary: Disregard and cast aside your preconceptions of Stone Sour's prior material, for this is a completely different breed of animal.
It is now more than ten years since Stone Sour formed and it truly is incredible to look back and see how far they have come. The band's debut was clearly more commercial than the output from front man Corey Taylor's and guitarist Jim Root's other band, Slipknot, but still retained some of the nu-metal influenced carried over from that band. Despite this the band still strived to calve out an identity for themselves instead of hinging around ripping off the sound of their member's other band, and allowed Corey to focus more on clean singing than the open-throat screams that dominated Slipknot's most recent album at the time. The band then went on to evolve that sound a little further with Come What (Ever) May, the album where they geared toward a more straightforward hard rock sound and then things took a turn for the worse on the recycled mainstream garbage Audio Secrecy. Thankfully the band returned with their fourth studio album, House Of Gold And Bones Part 1, with a more than solid album and were set to continue this with the second half of this release.
House Of Gold And Bones Part 2 continues much of the aggressive rock sound that the first half took but with a harder edge to it. As soon as the second track, Black John, kicks in it will be clear to many that the band has really pushed themselves to make an angry and rather brilliant release. The riffing is simplistic and chuggy as with all Stone Sour albums but the riffs are better thought out than on any of the band's prior releases. This album has a very dark atmosphere created by the low-end guitar work that could not suit a band fronted by Corey Taylor better. If only Slipknot knew how to create this sound then maybe All Hope Is Gone would have been more listenable. The drumming is rather varied, with the faster moments to some songs being carried by a lot of snare and cymbal abuse but it is the slow paced moments of the tracks that really stand out. The album opens in a slow manner, almost sounding like the sort of song you would mourn a fallen friend to, and this agonizing, torturous mood is carried through to the soft introduction to choice cut Sadist. This song opens up with some really soft instrumental work that draws up the image of somebody going through real heart ache and Corey captures these feelings brilliantly with his clean voice. Then the song gets a lot heavier during the chorus whilst still moving along at a slow, deliberate pace that is used to maximum effect here before a very heavy riff comes in around the two thirds mark. Following this comes an emotional and well placed solo that shows off just how much Jim Root has grown as a guitarist. On here there are none of the shoehorned-in solos scattered throughout his third release with Slipknot but every solo is placed very well. If there were ever a Stone Sour song that almost everyone should check out, let it be Sadist.
Corey Taylor could well be the most improved member of the band during their decade-long career. He has grown leaps and bounds as a clean singer over the years and once again shows a degree of improvement here, although the curve in improvement is considerably smaller here. His clean singing is heart-melting during the softer moments of the album where he is free to hold notes for as long as he pleases and pour his soul into his vocals. During the heavier sections where he is singing, he shows that he has a powerful bellow that can carry the band forward very well. His screaming has actually improved a little since the last two Slipknot albums and here sounds rather intense, as Red City displays once it picks up around halfway through. Haters of Corey Taylor will still love to hate his screaming but he has definitely recovered some of the intense sound that carried Slipknot's debut. On Peckinpah he delivers quite a lot of the lyrics with screams during the heavier sections and is rather fantastic on that particular song, especially at the "I'm dying for release" section which may well be the best vocal snippet on the album. His lyrics are not the best out there but are light years ahead of the swearing-flooded nonsense that his other band uses. Red City has one or two rather questionable lines but aside from that this is actually a decent album for lyrics, and is a suitable conclusion to the concept double-album.
Part 2 of this double-album is considerably darker and more aggressive than the first half, as Corey Taylor promised, but is definitely not devoid of its beautiful acoustic sections, and even the first few seconds to Stalemate are nice to hear. The overall tone of this release is one that is a lot heavier than the first half, and it suits it as the story progresses. Black John, Peckinpah and Stalemate contain what are arguably some of the heaviest sections of songs that Stone Sour has ever put out and they are handled masterfully. Every instrument has their place in the mix to make for a fantastic wall of sound, from the varied drum performance to the low-end rumbling of the bass guitar in the back ground (that is actually more audible than before). Nowhere in sight are there moments of pointless guitar chugging as was the problem with sections of songs like Gone Sovereign from the first part, but instead every song feels relevant and necessary for this release. Sadist and Stalemate are probably the best things here, with the latter being an uncharacteristically fast-paced number that feels very refreshing among the slower songs that this album is flooded with. In my opinion this topples what the band accomplished on the first half with ease and is a great listen.
Stone Sour's double-album concept release comes to an end with House Of Gold And Bones Part 2 in superb style, from the tremolo picked guitar lines toward the end of Stalemate to the amazing opener Red City, this is a masterful accomplishment from cover to cover. This album is one that comes highly recommended from me who likes hard rock music with a real bite to it.