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Album review: Stone Sour – Hydrograd

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Like all great studio albums, the upcoming sixth record by hard rock mavens Stone Sour, Hydrograd, is one with an enormous chip on its shoulder.

Stone Sour - Hydrograd

From the very second its opening track, ‘YSIF’, comes to life with the immortal greeting of “Hello, you bastards,” the listener knows that what lies ahead will doubtlessly be a pissed off, twisted ride. And, given the recent track record of band front-man Corey Taylor, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

The multi-talented musician has been a merciless social critic over the course of the past several years, releasing a book entitled You’re Making Me Hate You, publicly wearing t-shirts reading “Stop making stupid people famous”, labelling contemporary pop music as “insulting” and “a sin”, and, perhaps best of all, being so infamously opinionated that he has spawned the internet meme “But what does Corey Taylor think?”

Needless to say (and surely to the joy of many of Taylor’s beloved followers), with such incendiary lyrics as “You spread your legs for TV time / Tell me, who fucks you best?” and “We want, we need / We punish just to bleed”, Hydrograd is the aural manifestation of the vocalist’s controversial, embittered, vitriolic attitudes.

As a result, one of this record’s best and most memorable aspects is its perfectly acidic wordplay, and how that in turn fuels Hydrograd’s music. Truly, this is an angry, angry experience. However, the outspoken lyrics never once feel petulant in their aggression: unlike many other metal records, this one presents itself as more than justified in its despondency. This is an anger against the loss of creativity in art, against the idolisation of those not worthy and against humanity’s self-destructive tendencies, to name a few. All of these topics are more than worth tackling, and many of them are not tackled anywhere near enough within the modern rock n’ roll realm.

These themes and arguments inherently fuel some of the tightest musicianship that Stone Sour has delivered in a fair while, with riffs and huge melodies that harken back to hard rock and metal tunes of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Tracks like the singles ‘Fabuless’ and ‘Song #3’ are doubtlessly perfect examples of the band reaching back into extreme music’s heyday to bring forth a sense of succinct an accessible, yet not diluted, aggression.

The only respect in which Hydrograd really falls down is when comparing it to the albums that have come before it. Prior to this release, the latest Stone Sour records were the progressive, enigmatic masterpieces of House of Gold and Bones, Part 1 and 2 (2012/13). While Hydrograd is doubtlessly a more musically concise experience than these previous double albums, where it fails to live up is in the pure sense of alien intrigue that House of Gold and Bones was able to craft.

Those albums told a brilliantly fascinating narrative about a man trapped in a subversive fantasy reality, haunted by antagonistic characters that represent the destructive extremities of his own personality. It was a story so fascinating that it has since been translated into a graphic novel, with the band hoping to take it even further into alternate media in the future. And despite Hydrograd succeeding in its own merits as a straight-forward, attitude-driven rock n’ roll album that more than once calls back to its genre’s glory days, it never truly capitalises on the avant-garde mystique that its predecessor generated.

This record is neither a step forward nor a step back for Stone Sour. Quite simply, it is a heavy, driven, well-written album that ticks more boxes musically than any release in the band’s recent back-catalogue, yet it also doesn’t feel as post-modern or as experimental as it could have given what built up to it. Mainstream audiences will love Hydrograd more than any other Stone Sour album, but hardcore fans may find themselves returning to the House of Gold and Bones albums sooner rather than later.

Hydrograd will be available via Roadrunner Records on 30th June.




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