American hard rock band Stone Sour made a strong come-back with “Hydrograd”, out on June 30, 2017 via Roadrunner Records, their sixth release following the double concept album “House of Gold & Bones” from 2012-2013. The band, famous for such hits as “Made of Scars”, “Through Glass” or “Tired”, consists of lead vocalists and main songwriter Corey Taylor, guitarists Josh Rand and Christian Martucci, bassists Johny Chow and drummer Roy Mayorga, and together they created a roller-coaster of emotions, heavy riffs, and even some popish numbers, so that every metal lover has a reason to hit replay again and again. No wonder it won the award for Hard Rock Album of the Year at the Loudwire Music Awards.
As with anything that comes out of Corey Taylor’s hands, this album is heavy, rocking, entertaining, with emotional outbreaks that seem to speak directly to the soul. There are no in-betweens here – it’s either hard and heavy, more hard rock-oriented, or mellow and sentimental, covering the whole spectrum of moods. This diversity was obvious from the first two singles released, as “Fabuless” is a relentless downpour of powerful, borderline harsh vocals and gritty guitars that will have you headbanging instantly, while the anthemic “Song #3” is so radio-friendly and accessible it’s hard to believe it came from the same band.
Taipei person / Allah tea
Knievel has landed
The witness trees
Rose red violent blue (this song is dumb & so am I)
Thank God it's over
Somebody stole my eyes
When the fever broke
With their third single for “Rose red violent blue (this song is dumb & so am I)” the band shows its silly side, especially in the video, and with single number four, for the beautiful ballad “St. Marie” they present their sentimental, softer side. And I do believe this variety of moods and twists is the album strongest point.
Where many bands produce songs that mainly follow the same formula (including the obligatory ballad), Stone Sour actually have three types of songs on display throughout “Hydrograd” – the heavy ones, the rockish ones, and the mellow ones. So, apart from the aforementioned singles, the album also includes many heavy and aggressive tracks like the guitar-driven “Taipei person / Allah tea”, a crowd favorite during concerts because of its sing-along chorus, “Whiplash pants” with Corey Taylor’s crazy good harsh vocals in the spotlight, perfectly sustained by the vibrant rhythmic section, the hard-hitter “Mercy”, or the title track “Hydrograd” with its direct and in-your-face lyrics (example: “I’m not better than you, I’m just better”). Next we have the rockish ones like “Knievel has landed”, another fan favorite during the band’s live performances, “The Witness tree”, with its deep lyrical content and groovy guitar lines, and one of my favorites, or the up-tempo “Rose red violet blue”. Last are the ballads: “St. Marie” with its country-blues feel, and the heart-wrenching “When the fever broke” which highlight both Corey’s very soulful vocal delivery as well as their versatility as musicians. Once again Corey Taylor proves he is one of the best vocalists on the metal scene, as he displays his full vocal range and prowess, going from crooning, to powerful singing, to even some aggressive screams.
Honestly, you don’t know from one song to the next what side of Stone Sour you are going to experience, and it’s really refreshing to see a band go from one extreme to the other in the space of an album, while still maintaining a very recognizable core sound. It’s a highly entertaining sonic experience and I really enjoy listening to this album. And after much consideration I can safely say “Hydrograd” is my top album of 2017 (beating strong contenders like Ayreon’s “The Source”, or Arch Enemy’s “Will to Power”). Highly recommend!
Rating: 10 / 10
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Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Josh Rand – rhythm guitar
Roy Mayorga – drums, percussion
Christian Martucci – lead guitar
Johny Chow – bass guitar