By Sean Philip Cotter
Stone Sour’s ‘House of Gold and Bones Part 2,’ due to be released Tuesday, April 9, finds frontman Corey Taylor in a funny place in terms of his art.
Corey Taylor is in denial.
At age 39, he’s in the throws of musical puberty. He’s stuck somewhere between the anger and trouble of his youth and the mature, more scaled-back rock of which he’s shown flashes lately. He is resisting growing up, and it’s evident on Stone Sour’s latest album, House of Gold and Bones Part 2, which is a little all-over-the-place musically.
(Yep, this is the second of two back-to-back reviews on this site of albums from crazily-talented musicians who just don’t know who the hell they are.)
In order for me to make my argument, let’s take a step back and look at Taylor’s career. The Des Moineser (Des Moinesite? Des Moinesan? Des Mudlian?) rose to fame as the frontman of the ever-polarizing alt metal band Slipknot, complete with the intimidating mask and the overabundance of bandmates. But in order to join the band and become the only person from Iowa you’ve ever heard of who isn’t chopping down corn to build a baseball field in the hopes that that dude from Goodfellas shows up, he’d had to leave behind his first band. A band called Stone Sour. After Taylor hit the big time, he was able to spread his talents wider and returned to Stone Sour before the release of the hard rock band’s debut album in 2002.
So these days his portfolio is pretty diversified. Some of Slipknot’s experimental metal, some of Stone Sour’s hard-yet-brooding rock. And then there’s another side of Mr. Taylor. It’s composed of things like side projects with the likes of Dave Grohl and making some of the best acoustic covers out there. Seriously, take some time and check those out. It’s worth a few minutes.
But the reason he’s in the news right now is for Stone Sour’s new album. The band recently made House of Gold and Bones Part 2 available streaming online before the actual album release next Tuesday, April 9.
The album isn’t bad. Actually, it’s good. As always and almost despite his best intentions, Taylor’s outstanding pop sensibilities shine through, making for some genuinely catchy tunes. He sounds great and the band does a nice job. Choruses are memorable, hooks plentiful, and the songs are well-executed. The tracks also transition into each other really smoothly, and that’s a highly underrated quality for an album to have. If you’re looking for a technically solid, well-produced hard rock album fronted by one of the best vocalists in the genre, you should check it out.
But what’s frustrating about the album isn’t what it is; it’s what it isn’t. And what it isn’t is an original evolution for Stone Sour and its frontman. It’s even a little bit of a regression. Part of what made Stone Sour so interesting originally was Jim Root’s unusual and expressive guitar style, with his slow and catchy licks. There isn’t really any of that here. It’s become just more cookie-cutter hard rock.
The lead single off of Part 2 is “Do Me a Favor,” which you can check out at the top of this article. It’s pretty representative of the rest of the album, an amalgam of catchy bits and unoriginal verses.
Some of the lower-key songs are distinctly “Snuff“-y. Which, again…isn’t a terrible thing. That song’s great, and the songs that sound like it are decent. But we’ve already been there. Taylor needs to let go and embrace the Sound City Players — that’s the Dave Grohl/guy from Kyuss/guy from Cheap Trick project — side of himself. At this point, much of the anger in his songs seems forced.
I know that sounds weird to say about a guy who spent his formative years doing basically all the drugs, and then spent the 2000s trying to fling himself from the 8th stories of buildings. But Corey Taylor isn’t that kid anymore. And he doesn’t have to be.
He just hasn’t realized that yet.
I hope he does, and soon.