Review Summary: Hydrograd will surely piss off some fans, but if given a chance it is a well done and enjoyable hard rock album. It is a balance of the mainstream sound found on Audio Secrecy and aggression from their earlier albums.
I wasn't sure what to think when I heard the announcement for Hydrograd. Part of me thought it was a joke album when I read the song title list. Song titles like Taipei Person/ Allah Tea and Whiplash Pants are a bit silly. I was also concerned that Jim Root is gone and his song writing would not be in this album at all. However after listening to this I come to find out that I can't really tell he's gone. The replacement guitarist is evidently just as good or Josh Rand picked up the slack. Hydrograd is a longer than average album. Instead of the standard 11 tracks you get 14 proper songs not including the first track which is merely an extended intro. The production is top notch, and almost overproduced. At times it can be difficult to hear the bass. The guitars are top notch for this genre. There are tons of guitar solos and breakdowns spread throughout the album and they are a real pleasure to hear. Sometimes there are multiple solos in a song. The drums are solid, nothing fancy but definitely get the job done. Stone Sour is clearly a group of very talented musicians. When you consider the genre I can't think of any mainstream acts at their level. It's apparent that with this album they are trying to be the cream of the crop when it comes to this type of music. The question is do they succeed? For the most part yes.
The first thing you will notice when you listen to Hydrograd is it seems Stone Sour is trying to tone down on the aggression and angst of some of their earlier works. It's clear they are having a good time and enjoying what they are doing. That being said this album isn't perfect. The main issue with this album are the singles. They aren't bad songs, but they really don't represent the album all that well. Song #3 is the attempt at another "Thru Glass" or "Say You'll Haunt me". While it is a decent radio friendly track I don't think it stands out in any way nor is it as good as the previously mentioned songs. The other single they are advertising is "Fabuless" which is probably the worst song on the album. The chorus of Corey Taylor yelling "It's all down hill from here!!" repeatedly is just not very good. I don't see this song becoming one of their classics and it's one that most people will probably skip.
The singles seem to be all jammed together at the beginning, and it's definitely the weaker part of the album. Don't get me wrong these are still pretty good songs, and admittedly better than anything you will hear from other mainstream acts. The album starts to get really good when "The Witness Trees" comes on to bring in the middle section. Corey Taylor hits some surprising notes in this song and it's very well done. The lyrics are also well written. Lines like "I want you to destroy me one more time so when I die I know you really loved me" feel genuine and show some vulnerability. This song is clearly one of the highlights of the album and sure to be a favorite. It's also a great transition to the superior latter part of the album.
St. Marie is the only true ballad on the album, and it left me scratching my head a little bit. It's clear they were going for something they hadn't done before and that deserves some kudos. However Corey's voice sounds hoarse and kinda grating throughout the song. The guitars have almost a country sound to them and it seems there is a female vocalist during the chorus singing in sync with Corey. Overall this was a valiant effort but fails to invoke any emotions like say "Bother" does.
The last 5 songs on the album may be some of the best. This part starts showing that Stone Sour can still make some heavy songs. "Whiplash Pants" is sure to please longtime fans with it's aggressive sound. The listener might even get a Slipknot vibe from it. They will get that same vibe from "Someone Stole My Eyes" which has fast paced drumming which is reminiscent of punk rock. The closing song "When the Fever Broke" is an interesting one. It has a nice atmospheric air to it and some spacey sounds. Overall it's a solid closer and another highlight.
After listening to this a few times I have realized I enjoy it more each time. This album is definitely a grower and it won't make fans happy that were hoping for a return to the self titled album days. For everyone else however this is worth listening to. The musicianship is top notch, the vocals are strong and carry weight, and the lyrics are better written than earlier efforts. Few people will say this is their best album, but it's definitely a solid addition.
Taipei Person Allah Tea
Knieval has Landed
The Witness Trees
Thank God It's Over
Someone Stole My Eyes