Thursday, July 6, 2017

Album Review: Stone Sour - Hydrograd

Band:  Stone Sour
Album:  Hydrograd
Genre:  Metal
Release Date:  June 30th, 2017

Well let's start out right off the bat here, Corey Taylor's voice sounds fantastic on this album.  Quitting smoking has treated him incredibly well.

Also I still dislike the greaser they picked up as the new guitarist, Christian Martucci.  Not just because he's a man who simultaneously looks like the singer from Theory Of A Deadman while also needing to let go of the 40s, but because I'm suspicious he had a hand in the butchery of the solo in their Creeping Death cover.  I understand Josh Rand is a huge fan of Metallica and I really hope he isn't the one that gave me this absolutely trash solo that just felt like it was about hitting all the notes, regardless of if they were in key or not.

That being said, this album is actually really solid.  While I enjoy the edge that Jim Root brought to the group, the difference between Slipknot and Stone Sour is a lot bigger now.  It's been pretty prominent for a while, but the early albums had a couple songs that could have been traded back and forth easily enough, and House Of Gold & Bones had one or two as well.

Listening to this album I'm kinda picking up what Corey had been hyping it as.  He was talking about how the album was "flat out Rock ‘n’ Roll in its best form", and I get that vibe from a lot of it.  There's a very different feeling to this album than there was to any of the others.  There's more songs that are low key, and there's less angry songs in general.  I mean there's some really obvious examples of solid old school SS songs, but one the whole it's just more subdued than previous work.

While I did trash on their new guitarist for that Creeping Death solo, his work on this album is pure gold.  I may not have liked a couple of the songs here and there, but I can't deny that the guitar work was amazing across the board.  The band has really hit a solid groove with this album that I was worried they wouldn't hit again.

The Tracks:

After that intro track we hit Taipei Person/Allah Tea, and while it grooves in a different way than other Stone Sour tracks of the past I can't actually say that it's bad.  It's a solid new step in their sound that actually is managing to get me excited about the band again; something I lost with the back to back cover albums.

The album starts out really strong in this way.  It's clear that they put their songs that sound more typical to their sound closer to the beginning to make sure to draw you in and "trick" you into liking the rest of the album.  Let's be real, fans are brutal when it comes to bands "having the nerve" to change their traditional sound.  I mean heck, the intro riff to the song Hydrograd even sounds similar to Absolute Zero for a second to help make that bridge feel stronger.  Not for long, but that initial walk is there for sure.

Song #3, which is actually the 5th song on the album is one I don't like as much.  I heard it as one of the singles released for the album a while ago and I gotta be honest, in my mind it sealed Stone Sour's doom to the radio rock folder of music, and that made me really sad.  Listening to it in the context of the rest of the album I know it was definitely made to be one of the radio singles, but happily, it doesn't reflect the rest of the album as a whole.

Fabuless is a very classic sound for sure.  I feel like it's a really good song to have put after Song #3 to make sure they don't lose people who are listening through the album.  The harmonies and song structure are incredibly reminiscent of House of Gold & Bones 1 & 2.  Outside of lyrical differences I could see them getting put in as one of the tracks there.

Don't get your nostalgia hats on too quick though, cause we switch back to the newer sound in The Witness Trees.  It's not the radio feel of #3, but it's not as typical a Stone Sour song as say, track 3, Knievil Has Landed.

Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I).  What a title.  Dude.  The song is ok, but also another one that's solid for radio, but not much else in my opinion.  I find it's musical theme to be a little all over the place.

Thank God It's Over is a good one though.  It's a rather straightforward tune, but not like, in a bad way.  It feels like a placeholder that's supposed to sit toward the end of the album and, go figure, that's where it sits.  For what it is, it's a good song.

St. Marie on the other hand is...  Acoustic.  Not in a good way like Bother, some of the crappy songs on Come What(ever) May, or anything like that.  It's like, a country song.  Corey's voice fits it well, but I feel like the song has no place on the album.  It could be a bonus track on some special edition, or like, just a song Corey plays on his book tours, just not here.

Mercy grants us it's aptly named mercy in getting us far away from the track that shouldn't be here.  It has that heavy bass line groove that Stone Sour uses so well and even though I'm not a huge fan of the flow of the vocals in this song it fits in with the new album's tone very well.

Whiplash Pants worried me at first with how low it starts out, but it manages to pull back into their classic heavy sound again.  It highlights something I'm really not sure of for the album though, so many of the songs have an into that I feel doesn't really fit the rest of the song.  I'm fine with contrasting intros, but there's just so many of them on this album.

That scratchy raspy lead tone on Friday Knights is dope though.  The verse pulls back down again to the clean sound, but while the song is up it holds it's own as one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Somebody Stole My Eyes is probably the angriest song on the album.  Check out the into up till about the 30 second point.  It's all go go go but then Corey says the word "stop" and it feels like the song just takes a breath.  It's so slick, just a solid piece of work in general.

When The Fever Broke is the last track and SS decides to leave you on a sad note.  The track is a little ethereal with a haunting guitar lead that kinda floats through it.  It's a really bold move to end on that I'm glad they did.  For people like me that went into the album expecting to hate it the song helps end me on a song that's a heavier dose of the new than the old, bringing the whole experience together.  The structure of the album just feels like it was leading to this point, and then it rounds off really well.

As far as angry songs go, all we really have on the album are Fabuless, Whiplash Pants, and Somebody Stole My Eyes.  Heck, they aren't even angry the whole way through like their old school angry tunes.  That's not bad since the first album was probably the only album they released that was all hard, but it's the sound I associate with them a lot.

The Wrap-up:

Long story short, I suppose if you're looking for "old" Stone Sour, you're probably gonna be disappointed.  It's not like their old stuff, this is a new face for the group.  I'm not mad though, I think this is a solid direction for them.  While I'll miss the brutal material of the first album, the edge of the concept albums, and the sheer enjoyability of Come What(ever) May, I think this is the right path for these guys to take.  It makes sense with how Corey is getting older that he wouldn't try to keep up with 2 really intense bands at once, and if he's gonna calm down somewhere it would be here.  And the most important part of that is that they didn't totally sell out to do it.

There's a few tracks I wouldn't have put on here, but as a new path for the band I guess I'm not really mad about it.  It's a package deal and, when it comes down to it, it's not all bad.  I don't even think I really missed Jim Root by the end of the album, it all worked together really well.

It's a solid album that's worth a listen, so go ahead and give it an hour of your time.

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