Review Summary: Home sweet home.
There exists an age old dilemma; is knowledge that is shallow and wide superior, or is having a deeper yet narrowed focus the better option? Concept albums take the latter side of such a debate and argue that exploring a fixed subject in greater detail is truly the correct path to take. In this case, however, Stone Sour
shouldered the responsibility of creating two consecutive albums sharing the same concept. Based upon a short-story penned by vocalist Corey Taylor, the tracks contained on this LP serve as an aural accompaniment to the printed journey, which is included in the album booklet. Both the story and the tracks have been split between the two releases, so as to further intensify the desire to continue; increasing the listeners curiosity until they almost need
to hear the second part and therefore content themselves with a feeling of closure.
Introducing this, the first album, are the dual-singles Gone Sovereign
and Absolute Zero
which appear back to back, mirroring the apparent partnership during the initial release. Gone Sovereign
is a heavy, rock number that beautifully entices the listener further into the fabricated world it so deftly describes. Mounting synths begin the track. These abruptly give way to subdued vocals, superimposed over a dual-guitar heavy-chugging assault courtesy of Josh Rand and James Root. Once it takes flight, Gone Sovereign
soars, interspersed with guitar solos, catchy vocal melodies and rapid drumming. The ending of this track bleeds into the beginning of the next; creating the quasi-illusion of a single, longer track. The theme recurs sparingly throughout the album and effectively acts to tie the album together, creating a single, cohesive work of musical art.
The first three tracks are masterpieces of the hard-rock genre, effectively creating an intriguing atmosphere that compliments the story perfectly, almost in a movie-soundtrack method. Acoustic ballad The Travellers Pt. 1
exhibits a darker, more sombre mood than the preceding tracks, despite its lack of powerful electric guitars. It relies on a more subtle approach, which includes the brilliant application of a string arrangement in the background, transitioning in and out of focus. Violins, violas and cellos abound, bestowing upon the track an ethereal edge and restrained beauty. Corey’s melancholy vocals convey the sorrow of a broken man, with lyrics which reflect the theme effectively. Corey has always been a decent lyricist for the most part, even though his career in Slipknot has been much less demanding on that front. However, throughout this release, Corey expands on his writing; musically, lyrically and literarily. Following track Tired
expands on the themes of the track before it, including the use of strings and the despairing lyrical matter. The major difference is that the powerful drumming and reverberating electric guitars are back.
The heaviest track on the album is also the next in the sequence. RU486
begin with a strange sample that issues a string of instruction to the listener, directly related to the album itself. The title of the track correlates with a drug of the same name, and the directions given in the beginning by the male narrator suggests that the album as a whole should be taken as a narcotic. However, despite the sedate introduction and title, the song itself is the heaviest, the fastest and also boasts the most use of Corey’s harsh vocal style than any other track on the disc. There are also periodic gang-vocals in the background of the chorus which add another layer of excitement to the formula.
Although the majority of the album consists of dominant hard-rock songs, there is certainly a charming diversity between them that keeps each track fresh and exciting. Apart from the unique song-writing, though, there are some very different tracks that effectively break up the album and eliminate any possible monotony. The aforementioned The Travellers Pt. 1
is completely blown out of the water when compared to ballad highlight Taciturn
which has a devastating beauty about it that demands full attention. The blend of acoustic and electric guitars, mixed with the ever-present vocals leaves the track feeling simplistic, yet all the more effective because of it. The Travellers Pt. 2
takes all the components that made its first outing breezily dark and dips them in the black heart of an oil well. Corey’s voice wavers with sorrow; the whole tone of the track is sublimely dark, leaving the rest of the album pale in comparison, thematically of course. The lyrics are hopeless in nature and content; it also borrows phrases from the first part and changes them and twists them so that they seem even more forlorn. Despite its brevity, the impact of the song is immense. Corey shows another side of himself here, featuring a piano melody that structures the entire song.
This album does possess a number of faults, even though they are quite minor. Influence of a Drowzy God
does not live up to the grandiose visions its name suggests. It’s not necessarily a bad track; it just seems to be aimless and a tad repetitive. It’s placement also seems strange, segueing from the glory of Taciturn
and appearing before the dark, piano driven sequel to The Travellers
it is the only track on the album that doesn’t really belong anywhere. The rest of the LP flows and the tracks complement each other commendably, but you reach the final few tracks of the album and the flow is broken by the awkward placing of Influence of a Drowzy God
. Also, although the songs are unique in themselves, the recurring themes between them tend to be quite closely related. Naturally for a concept of this kind, the subject matter is not going to be extremely diverse, but some kind of deviation away from the main concept would have been welcomed. Closing track Last of the Real
ends the album on a heavy number. It arrives, it rocks, and then it ends after only 3 minutes. As far as closers go, this leaves it wide open. Again, the track itself is quite good and the aggressive attitude is a welcome addition to the album, but there is no finality to it. After the slower pace of the 3 preceding tracks, the sudden explosive power is not really the most effective way to say; “That’s all for now, relax and we’ll see you sometime next year”. It gets the listener ready for more now
. Maybe that was the point though, seeing as how there is a second half to this concept album. Leaving it open like that is perhaps Stone Sour’s
way of connecting the two parts together.
The production on this album is pristine, with everything from the strings, to the piano, to bass guitar of Rachel Bolan, it all sounds fantastic. David Bottrill has made a commendable effort in perfecting this album’s diverse range of sounds and making them appear their absolute best. Whoever was in charge of track arrangement should also be applauded, for the order of the tracks is fantastic, apart from the misplacement of Influence of a Drowzy God
. Stone Sour
have truly crafted an amazing album that rivals any of their previous releases for best album they have done up until this point. The album and concept are unlike anything the band has attempted previously and the only thing left to say is; congratulations.
Gone Sovereign/Absolute Zero
My Name is Allen
The Travellers Pt. 2