Obviously, Stone Sour is not a big deal. In fact, if you have been following Nickelback (Lite) since their debut album in 2002, you would know they have failed to produce a hit single. Except for Bother. And I guess Through Glass was at number one for a pretty long while. And they were nominated for Grammys for Inhale and Get Inside. I am pretty sure I heard Say You’ll Haunt Me on the radio at a mall yesterday. But other than that, these guys really haven’t done much of note.
Even if Stone Sour really has failed to produce a hit song over the past decade and a half, which is only the case if you are a musical illiterate (here’s looking at you, Chad Kroeger), I am fairly certain that I have never heard a metal band come out and say that their goal was to create a number one single on a radio rock station. Metal as a whole is defined by not giving a damn what people think and having that gritty, dark attitude about it. Metal bands have had hit singles and popular albums. Some bands start metal and work their way into a mainstream feel through natural evolution. Hydrograd has the possibility of bridging that gap. Stone Sour may be on the verge of being a mainstream, metal band that has not had to compromise any of their edge to do it.
Stone Sour has always been unique. On any given album, they have some of the heaviest riffs you will hear, coupled with some slower, groovy tunes. This album is no exception. The album begins with YSIF, a very heavy instrumental track that sets the tone for the album. Songs like Taipei Pesron/Allah Tea, Kneivel Has Landed, Fabuless, and Whiplash Pants show the band at their heaviest and really deliver. As always, the band maintains a steady melody while being heavy. The guitar work on this album is as good as I have heard and Corey Taylor lives up to his reputation as a modern rock icon. He really delivers on this album with both his gritty scream and his clean vocals. Also noteworthy are the group backup vocals, which are some of the best I have ever heard both in placement and delivery.
But Hydrograd delivers on a mainstream level too. The first two singles released on this album were Song #3 and Fabuless. In my opinion, Song #3 is the bands best work yet. It is that unique kind of feel that only Stone Sour can pull off, where is upbeat enough to make it on to pop radio and be a hit single, but does not sacrifice the heavy feel to do so. Fabuless is a classic, in your face, heavy Stone Sour song that is a cool parody on our cultural “heroes” (i.e. Reality TV stars). As per tradition, the band has two songs that slow it down and have mainstream appeal in St. Marie, and the album closer When the Fever Broke. But the real hidden gem may be Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I). This song has a very laid back intro with huge mainstream and then blows up into a heavy, riff driven, yet still upbeat and catchy tune.
Hyrdograd is not only Stone Sour’s most balanced record, but it also may be the best quality album they have produced. It catches your attention from the first line “Hey, you bastards…” and doesn’t let go for a full 65 minutes until the last drum hit of When the Fever Broke. Fittingly, the album leaves you wanting more, as that drum solo feels like it should end with a cymbal crash but just kind of stops. As for their place in rock music? Right now it is at the top, and Corey Taylor is sitting on the throne. He will be there for awhile. And it is deserved. Who the fuck is Nickleback, anyways?
JBone — Hard Rock/Metal Contributor. Follow Jay on Twitter: @JBoneBass