Review Summary: the first floor of the house is built...
Stone Sour has always had to deal with the 800lb. elephant in the room known as Slipknot. Although frontman Corey Taylor started Stone Sour long before the Nine, Slipknot's meteoric and seemingly overnight rise to fame left Stone Sour overshadowed. Although the band eventually released their self-titled debut in 2002, constant Slipknot commitments meant Taylor and guitarist Jim Root could never really devote their full attention to SS. A second album, Come What(Ever) May surfaced in 2006, but it wasn't until four years later that Stone Sour truly stepped out of Slipknot's shadow with Audio Secrecy. Although heavily criticized by some for it's poppy leanings, Audio Secrecy showed a maturity and depth that Slipknot has sometimes lacked.
Don't get me wrong, I love Slipknot, but their music is mostly set on one gear: anger. Brutal, ***-the-whole-world & burn-this-***-down kind of anger. With Audio Secrecy, Corey Taylor showed us how many kinds of emotions he can muster in music, from regret and sorrow to longing and lust, etc. And with the first part of their double concept album, Stone Sour has twisted a wide range of emotions into a carnival ride through the world of a man at a crossroads.
The opening salvo of "Gone Sovereign" and "Absolute Zero" serve as an introduction to the story and a blazing call to arms. The cinematic guitar riff intro from "Gone Sovereign" sounds like something that would run over the opening credits of a big-budget action movie. Taylor sets up the story with an effective first lyric "No one's laughing now", an indicator of the trouble the album's protagonist Human finds himself. After the minute-plus build-up, Corey shakes us awake with a brutal roar, "This is mine!" and "Gone Sovereign" shifts into full-on thrash pummeling. "Absolute Zero" on the other hand starts out at full-throttle and never lets up, with Taylor backing up the confidence shown by the Human in "Gone Sovereign". "Absolute Zero" is insanely catchy and heavy at the same time, with a chorus that explodes into frame.
"A Rumor of Skin" is heavy, in a skin-crawling kind of way, and sets up for the first surprise on House of Gold & Bones Part 1, "The Travelers Pt.1." The 2 1/2 minute track harkens back to Audio Secrecy, with a gentle guitar, violins, and Taylor's soothing vocals. "Tired" has a blues-y feel running through the core, with a synth line fluttering in the background. The lyrics in "Tired" tells us that the Human is searching for shelter from the darkness. After the poppy feel of "Tired", "RU486" hits like a crowbar to the back of the head, with a distorted sample leading into some of the darkest thrash SS has ever played, with Taylor transforming his voice into brutal roars. "My Name Is Allen" introduces us to the Human's alter ego, the snarky asshole Allen. The track creates a creepy-as-*** lullaby vibe through the verses. "Taciturn" is a great Stone Sour ballad, with Taylor pouring his heart out over a gentle acoustic guitar. The track gets kinda "November Rain" on us later, but is still a great moment to break up the darkness.
"Influence of a Drowsy God" reminds me a lot of Alice In Chains, with a more psychedelic vibe. Lyrically, "Influence" finds the Human running for whatever he is fearing, culminating in the thought, "Nothing can heal you, and everything burns." "The Travelers Pt. 2" is basically an electric interpretation of "Travelers Pt. 1" with new lyrics. All of this leads us to the barn-burning closer, "Last of the Real." The bass-heavy track finds the Human being confronted by his demons and ultimately being taken over by them. The chorus feels like a defiant declaration in the face of danger.
Corey Taylor is in fine form, lyrically and vocally on HoGaB Part 1. His vocal range is superb, going from gentle crooning to powerful snarls in a flash. Guitarists Jim Root & Josh Rand keep the record moving with crunchy riffs and delightful solos, only adding to the dark and depressing atmosphere. The HoGaB albums were recorded with Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan, and his bass lines are thick at times, nimble at others. Roy Mayorga is simple one of the best hard rock drummers around, as every battering feeling immense as hell. David Bottrill's production is spot-on, as every instrument is perfectly captured and mixed together. You never feel like one instrument is over-powering the others.
Stone Sour set out to make a grand statement with the House of Gold & Bones saga. Part 1 is an immediate and in-your-face hard rock/alternative metal record that is easily the heaviest offering Stone Sour has ever presented. Still, it feels incomplete, which is the point. Corey Taylor and co. gave you the first half of the story, and are waiting for you to tune into Part 2. However, House of Gold & Bones Part 1 is a ***ing great album on it's own.