ALBUM REVIEW: STONESOUR – “HOUSE OF GOLD AND BONES PART ONE”

House of Gold and Bones Part I

by Ryan Meehan
 
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time at my friend Jim’s house.  I met him through a mutual friend and as it turns out we both have access to a ton of heavy metal, so as you can imagine we’ve been hanging out quite often.  Although I was already aware of the phenomenon that is Corey Taylor, I wasn’t really aware of how unbelievably talented the guy was but now that I know more about him I’m wondering how I missed a lot of his work.  Jim is a huge fan and he is responsible for my “Maggotry” if you will…
 
For those of you that might not know, Corey Taylor is the lead singer and lyricist for Slipknot.  Throughout the entire time that Slipknot rose to fame in the late nineties and early 00s, Taylor still kept hope alive for his second band Stonesour that also included Slipknot guitarist Jim Root.  They released their first album in 2002 which contained the radio hits “Bother” and “Inhale”.  I didn’t really get into a lot of their work until recently, and in my opinion their 2010 record “Audio Secrecy” was just not my bag at all. 

Nonetheless, I have an immense amount of respect for anyone in that musical circle.  Both Taylor and Root have managed to surround themselves with the best that the industry has to offer, and what’s even more impressive than that is in most cases those are basically individuals whom they’ve known for many years.  “The House of Gold and Bones Part One” is another example of just how serious Corey is about his musical projects, and offers something for just about everything. 
 
Perhaps the reason that I was so impressed by this record was because I was so indifferent about the last one.  I found this CD to be full of many styles that I am a fan of, and metal is just one of those styles.  There are a few weak points, but not many.  Whereas Slipknot is full of balls to the wall metal led by the speed metal drumming of Joey Jordison (who has also toured with Satyricon) Stonesour’s material seems to be very heartfelt and explores many different sounds and musical shapes.  This is the first disc of a double album so also keep that in mind as you’re reading this, as we examine it track by track.   
 
ALBUM REVIEW:  STONESOUR – “HOUSE OF GOLD AND BONES PART ONE” 10/23/12
 
1.  “Gone Sovereign”  9.0/10.0
 
Not only is this the first track on the CD, it’s also the first song that I heard off of this record when it was leaked in August.  Right away I could see that Stonesour was focused on introducing the album with this track as a statement of power, and reminding the heavy metal community that they are 100% substance and 0% hype.  There isn’t a true chorus to the song, but there is a very prechorus sounding bit where Taylor belts out “So scatter all my ashes when I’m dead…and shatter every legend in my head…If only the committed will survive…is anybody else still here alive?”  This should have been the first single and is a classic example of how the first track on a record can really set the pace of everything that follows it. 
 
2.  “Absolute Zero”  8.4/10.0
 
Absolute Zero was the first song that received airplay in our radio market.  I probably would have gone with the first track as the first single and then worked my way slowly through the rest of the record, but then again I don’t have a job at Roadrunner and I trust those individuals are making the correct decision here.  I’m just saying since “Gone Sovereign” was the first track on the CD, and you knew at some point they were going to release AZ as a single, maybe this song should have been released first.  In a way it was, because when it first hit the airwaves, both of these first two were available in the order that they appear on the record.  That’s about enough of me yapping about sequencing, let’s discuss the song…

One cool thing that I notice as far as the way the first two track on this CD run together is the fact that the first song has very strong prechorus, and then afterwards lunges into something that isn’t really a chorus at all.  “Absolute Zero” has a very definitive and recognizable chorus, and is typical of a Stonesour radio track.  The chorus uses a lot of harmonies, and the vocals during the verses are very clear and straight to the point.  Said chorus may be a little too predictable for my liking, but it represents their signature sound.  My favorite line is towards the end of the song where he says  “I’m not afraid, I’m giving in to grievances again…I’m down to absolute zero, another zealot with the weight of the fuckin’ world!” 

3.  “A Rumor of Skin”  7.65/10.0

Although it’s difficult to hear almost any heavy music these days that doesn’t have some kind of a Faith No More influence in it, verse one of this track was the first spot on the CD where I could really hear a strong FNM tinge in the landscape.  This one doesn’t have the same aggressiveness as the first two and the lyrics are a little stock, but the double kick in the bridge rules and it sticks in your head.  Serves its purpose but alerts the listener that there may be something softer to follow, and there is…

4.  The Traveler (Pt. 1)   6.5/10.0

Although a good example of experimentation with storytelling and very clearly an intro into the next song, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this one and I think it’s really the only weak part of the record.  That said, I get why it’s here, but I still don’t like it.  At first when we listened to this track, we thought it was one song altogether but as a separate intro it keeps the two of them apart which may have been too long overall. For a second I was worried that lyrically this record wasn’t going to recover, but the next track brought it back…

5.  “Tired”  8.3/10.0

The beginning of this song reminds me a lot of old school Tool and that’s always a plus.  The introductory lyric “I’m alive in here/so alive in here” bangs up against that beat real hard and creates a nice bounce.  It’s got that root note for a chorus hook that goes well with the third on the guitar.  The only thing that kind of disappointed me here would be the song title itself – It’s just a very bland song title on an album that has a lot of great ones, and it just strikes me as sort of uneventful from a distance. 
 
6.  “RU486”  9.0/10.0

In case you’re not familiar with what RU486 is, it’s the name of the morning after pill which is used to terminate unwanted pregnancies.  So obviously right there, I’m a fan of the song and probably will be for life.  I like the 8-bit computer sound guitar harmonic towards the middle, that’s a badass effect.  This is a really heavy track that keeps everything rolling along after the momentum picked up on song 5.  Very bass heavy, and Paul Grey would be proud indeed.  The chorus uses this almost hardcore/punk theme with the sixteenths on hi-hat and I fucking love it.  And yet another great transition to bring us to the next song.

7.  “My Name is Allen”  9.1/10.0

This song is slowly becoming one of my favorites on the album, due mostly to the lyrics.  I love the prechorus:  “There’s only room in here for one…And I’ve decided it’s not you, I had to do what must be done…You would have done it too”  My initial interpretation was that this song is about a killer “in the act” if you will, simply caught between explaining his actions and finishing the job.  Sort of a “Dexter” thing going on translated into a metal song.  But then I thought:  it could very well be the conversation that goes on in one’s head where you’re trying to kill the part of you that makes the decisions you end up regretting.  It even ends with an evil laugh from Corey, which usually I wouldn’t be a fan of, but it works here. 
 
8.  “Taciturn”  10.0/10.0
 
Before you even go giving me shit about how crazy I must be to give any song a perfect rating, please have a listen to this track and give it a chance.  This song first came across our radar around late July, where a video of Corey performing an acoustic version of it surfaced on YouTube.  As soon as I heard this song, I instantly fell in love with it.  The lyrics are awesome, and the song just overwhelms you with emotion as soon as you hear the chorus.  I’m not going to give away the hook because I don’t want to ruin it for you, but it’s one of the better love songs I’ve heard in the past decade.  Having heard the acoustic version before, there was a thought that would not leave my mind no matter how hard I tried to push it out.  What I was wondering was:  Are they going to “go for it” on the album?  Will they just leave it stripped down or will they be able to turn it into this well polished beautiful piece of music?  Part of me was upset that on they might just leave it as it is, when there was exponential potential (expotential?) for turning it into a masterpiece.  I guess at some point I just expected that they would have kept it the same and that thought would stick with me until I heard the studio version. 

And then something I didn’t expect to happen went down:  They DID go for it.  It’s a fucking incredibly well put together piece of music, and while I’m typing this it occurred to me that we don’t have a correct term for “ballad” when the song in question is just awesome all around.  Somebody needs to come up with a word that accurately describes a great song that has a slower tempo, but still retains the gristle that the band itself possesses.  You’d think that since I was just able to invent “expotential” and add it to my Microsoft Word dictionary that I would be able to come up with a name myself, but my brain has been ravaged by years of vodka guzzling and “COPS” so fat chance that’s going to happen.  But seriously if you only listen to one track from this record, this would be the one that is the most unique and powerful.  Which I’m sure wasn’t the band’s original intention, but that’s the beauty of how everyone hears music differently.  Great track, and great placement as far as sequencing after “Allen”.  Pure Genius. 
 
9.  “Influence of a Drowsy God”  8.15/10.0
 
When you attempt to follow something like that, sometimes it’s best to ease up into the next cut.  And that’s exactly what they did here, they put together something that began a little softer but eventually worked their way up to more rockin’ oriented stuff.   Whereas “Tired” wasn’t exactly one of my favorites when it comes to titles, this one more than makes up for it as it sounds identical to its name.  It has a very cool sluggishness to it that I’m sure drummers anywhere could appreciate, and the vocal section that follows the guitar solo is awesome.
 
10.  “The Traveler (Pt. 2)”  7.7/10.0
 
As you’ve probably already figured out, this is the second part to the first chapter in this adventure.  The base key is the same, much in the way that a lot of songs on albums like this are supposed to give the listener different tastes and variations on the same theme.  However this time around, the song itself is not an intro at all and more of the overall vision of the idea.  It’s not very long though which is strange, but then again there may be something on the second disc that ties everything up.  Thankfully the disc didn’t end on this one… 
 
11.  “Last of the Real”  8.9/10.0

If Vernon Reid from Living Colour was putting out a side project that was doing sludge metal and couldn’t curb their need to play fast…Well, we either would never hear about it here in the states or it would sound a lot like this song.  The one thing that I really love here is the transition between the last track and this one…In a world that’s become very “iTunesy” I feel that a lot of artists have lost that ability to transition and this is a great example of how it’s supposed to be done.  This song seems a little short to end the record with though, and I can’t help but be influenced by that when grading the entire record.  It is however a great concept to close out the record using a song that utilizes the line “I’ll tear this place apart, until you give me what I want”.  It may end abruptly but if its goal was to do just that, this was the way to do it. 

Overall score:  8.6/10.0 
 
It’s so hard to not be a homer here because these guys are from Iowa, but as a resident of the bi-state area of course I am going to be stoked when an artist like Stonesour produces anything that comes out containing tracks that are this high caliber.  There are some points that are lower than others, but overall I can jam out to it and it’s a CD that’s great for a 45 minute drive.  It may be radio-friendly at times, but there’s a reason music like this gets on the radio in the first place.  I believe that although a lot of fans of heavier music tend to be anti-radio, exposure can be great for getting casual listeners to give more of a listener’s chance to bands like Deicide or Dark Funeral.  While Stonesour certainly isn’t in the same wheelhouse as bands like that when it comes to extremities, records such as this one can help bridge the gap between mainstream rock and a full-on bloodbath of goat sacrifice.  (Editor’s note:  No goats were sacrificed in the production of this disc or this disc review)

See? No goat sacrifices…

Summary:  Since this is the first half of a double album there is the added pressure that StoneSour is going to have when putting the second half of the record together, which I’m assuming that they will do over the coming winter months.  I look forward to seeing how they will complete the circle that they started drawing with this one, and hopefully that one will be stacked full of tracks as well.  Metal and heavy music in general breeds a very strong following, and Stonesour will continue to have more than plenty of fans for years to come.  “House of Gold and Bones Part Two” will be the next step in building that fan base. 

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.
 
Meehan

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