by Ryan Meehan
This past Tuesday Stone Sour released the second part of their double album “The House of Gold and Bones”. Double albums can make strange bedfellows for each other. If they are released at the same time, then people can pick and choose the best tracks from each album and put them in one folder on their iPod as kind of a “best of” compilation.
When they’re released separately, it could be for any number of reasons. Sometimes a band will make a record and then hit the road for a summer tour, and then fine tune the tracks on that tour, even test some of them out at live shows to see what kind of a response they get. Stone Sour’s “House of Gold and Bones” series probably doesn’t fit into that category because they released the first record in the fall and this one came out in April.
So let’s dive in to the record track by track and see what you can expect to hear on the second half of the double album.
STONE SOUR: “THE HOUSE OF GOLD AND BONES: PART 2”
1. “Red City” 7.9/10.0
This track doesn’t explode out of the speakers in the same fashion that “Gone Sovereign” did as the first track on the first album. But what you have to remember is that since this is a continuation of the first disc, you almost wouldn’t want it to otherwise it could sound like a completely separate project altogether. It does have a very definitive build up with some thunderous toms, and when it does kick in it’s extremely heavy. I’m not sure if it’s because he uses the word “forever”, but something during the heavy section naturally reminds me a lot of a sludgier version of Slipknot’s “Vermillion”. Ends with haunting variation of the piano riff that introduces the song. Not the most explosive first track you’ll hear this year, but certainly effective.
2. “Black John” 7.6/10.0
After some brief sound effects, this track gets down to business right away. Some active (almost dancier) hi-hat work brings us to the opening line: “I find myself in wicked crass…I’m such a shitty mess…” and then continues on with a couple more examples of blue language that pretty much ensures this won’t be a single. Which is too bad, because it has a nice groove to it and in the chorus Taylor encourages the listener to “give the lunatic a chance”. So it leaves a lot open for interpretation whether the song is supposed to be autobiographical or he is singing it from another person’s perspective. The ending of this song is super tough but other than that nothing too extravagant here.
3. “Sadist” 6.8/10.0
This one starts off much slower than the second cut, with a very melancholy sound to it. Kind of a dramatic, slow-moving filler track. I do like the line “Give me a way to be the agony that knew you all along”, I just kept waiting for the pace and depth of this song to pick up and although both of things happened it never quite peaked in my opinion. Just when you think it’s about to get heavy in the bridge and the drums pick up a little bit, but it slowly returns to its starting point.
4. “Peckinpah” 8.8/10.0
Since I’m not a huge fan of film, I’m not ashamed to say that I had to look this up. Sam Peckinpah was a film director who was best known for his work on the 1969 film “The Wild Bunch”. Once I realized that, I could definitely sense sort of a tense Western feel to a metal offering. This song is more of what I was looking for, a very discordant stomping march that does have sort of that “showdown” feel to it. Prechorus is very heavy and includes some hearty death metal vocals, chorus is still tough but vulnerable, and overall the track seems very complete. I felt a lot better about the record after hearing this one.
5. “Stalemate” 8.65/10.0
For all of you younger listeners out there, this is why you listen to the entire song when you buy a CD. The first ten seconds would lead you to believe that this is going to be another slower track, but then gets all bombastic on your assumptive ass. The choruses of this song kind of remind me of a little bit of Faith No More structurally, and the whole second half sounds kind of prog-rock and even features a key change. Ends with a very heavy riff that only Jim Root can deliver on.
6. “Gravesend” 8.4/10.0
This track caught my ear the first time I heard it because of two lyrics sets in particular: “I was only eighteen when I finally let go”… and “I was only twenty-five when I finally went home”. Lines like this draw the listener in to the track because not only do they remind them of instances in their own life, they help them understand the artist’s feeling within the context of the song once those lines are finished. The main guitar riff has a very creepy digital effect to it and sounds super evil, and
7. “’82” 9.6/10.0
This track stands out as a heavy favorite as the best constructed song on the record. There is a main hook that is obviously the catchiest thing. And while StoneSour is a very heavy band, there’s still a serious pop mentality that exists within the music when it comes to crafting well made rock singles. There is something in this song that is very unique – The main hook is repeated at the end but the chords are slightly different. It’s not a key change per se, but it is a cool trick for lack of a better word. Some of the chords are the same, some are different and it’s hard to explain without drifitng off into one of those bullshit “music theory” rants.
8. “The Uncanny Valley” 6.6/10.0
Although not exactly a major winner in the pace department, I can see why this song may have been saved for a vocal that is full of a lot of cryptic lyrics. The “valley” he is speaking of is greed, once again referring to one of the topics Taylor covered in his book about the seven deadly sins. I like the dual vocals on the second verse, but for some reason it’s hard for me to get in touch with the main guitar riff. It seems like it’s repeated an awful lot more than it needs to be. The solo is classic Root, but coming out of it still eventually returns to that same segment. Perhaps I’m just being a dick because I enjoyed the last song so much, or perhaps I’m just a dick in general. My guess is it’s the latter of the two.
9. “Blue Smoke” 8.6/10.0
Lot of piano and otherwise to begin this one, and it’s basically just an intro to the single which appears next on the album. However the end of the intro (if that makes any sense) has this really cool delay/echo thing going on that reminds me of mathy Yes but more metal, or possibly even King Crimson but more digital sounding. Leads nicely into the next song.
10. “Do Me a Favor” 8.0/10.0
This was the first single that leaked from this record, the video isn’t really my style but it’s done well. This one is the “anthem style” chorus that essentially made metal monolithic in the early eighties. The chorus ends with the line “When you’re wasted…let’s face it…there’s a side of you that knows you’re a failure, lives for the danger, feels like an enemy but looks like a stranger…” Part of me really digs the first half of that lyric, but the other part of me thinks that the second half doesn’t make any sense and he’s simply using words that rhyme as opposed to something that is actually what he’s trying to convey. I get that since there is a “chant” thing going on with the chorus that’s why they selected it to be the single, but personally I would have released “1982” first and sharpened its teeth a little bit more to give it the true abrasiveness it would need to introduce the record although that song is pretty close to perfect.
11. “The Conflagration” 9.2/10.0
At the risk of sounding like a sack slobbering rock music critic that’s just looking to score an interview, I really dig this track and think the verses are killer. There’s a lot of orchestration that compliments the idea nicely. A war march like drum beat coming out of the second chorus, and a very clean sounding solo. There is a bit of a “callback” to track four on the first album at the end of the track where Corey sings “I’m on my own…” That’s a really cool way of returning to something early on the first record whilst retaining subtlety.
12. “The House of Gold and Bones” 8.8/10.0
The title track of this double disc begins with the chant of “RU486” which is a reference to a track from the first record. RU486 is of course the “Whoops” pill that you’ll hopefully never have to use. He cites Waterloo right off the bat, this was mentioned extensively in the book and I can tell you it’s not a favorable reference to that city. It’s a good way to wrap up the CD and close out the release.
Tracks 13 and 14 are from a Japanese import. They aren’t on the record that’s available in stores and don’t really stack up to the rest of the album at all. Therefore, it would be silly for me to score those tracks. And for whatever it’s worth, both of these cuts sound like they could easily be Foo Fighters songs.
Overall Score: 7.45/10.0
You can probably tell by the score that I didn’t like the record as much as the first one. It’s hard though because if you associate one record with another it has to live up to the other. (My android tells me it’s called The Use Your Illusion Theory) If you’re a fan of Stone Sour, it’s highly doubtful that this disc will change your opinion of the band. On the other hand, if you’re NOT a fan of their work it could go either way. What I mean by that is, there’s a chance that you could possibly be unaffected by hearing a record like this and simply say “meh” since you don’t really follow their stuff. But on the other hand, I could also see how somebody could hear their music as it progresses and find new and interesting things to like with each disc that comes out.
Either way, there is one thing that I’ve learned from what Stone Sour has put out over the past eight months: Taylor and Root are the heart of this band, and their tastes for 70s and 80s (even early 90s) classic metal music are highlighted in everything Stonesour does. While the early Metallica and Sabbath influences are more noticeable, it’s small stuff that people who play music catch that sets it apart from the rest of what comprises modern rock radio. For example, I thought that during some parts of both of these records I can even hear a distinct Skid Row influence on the softer stuff when it comes to the guitar sound. (Don’t believe me? If you’ve heard both of these records head to YouTube and check out SR’s “In a Darkened Room” or “Quicksand Jesus” off of the “Slave to the Grind” album) It’s the minor things like that which can make a band like Stonesour different from what you’d expect if you’ve only heard them on the radio.
Overall, the two feelings that I mentioned above can be independent from these two records, but as someone reviewing them I would have to say out of the two of the albums this one is the one that is more likely to leave your opinion of the band unchanged. Nonetheless if you’re a hard rock fan there are still some songs on here that are worth the burn, rip, or download.
(Editor’s Note: As I am finishing off this review, I have learned that Deftones bassist Chi Cheng has finally passed away at 42 from injuries sustained in a car accident back in November of 2008. Music is something that helps enhance our lives, but it is never greater than the lives which create it.)
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