Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia
Reviewed By Simon Milburn
I have to admit that I found it amusing that Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger thought it worthwhile to call out Stone Sour on their success compared to his own band. Now, it’s pretty bloody obvious that the bands are miles apart on the scales of success. It isn’t even a fair fight. It’d be like putting Floyd Mayweather in the ring against Muhammad Ali. Kroeger’s not even throwing punches in the same weight class. So it’s a moot point whatever he thinks. Of course the timing of Kroeger’s snarky comments is spot on as it was around the release of the latest Stone Sour album, dubbed Hydrograd, that Kroeger felt it appropriate to spew forth his nonsense. Stone Sour’s sixth longer player comes four years after the completion of the adventurous outing that resulted in the pair of House of Gold and Bones albums that were at times a little hit and miss.
Thankfully, we’ve all had time to digest and if required recover from the exhaustive double effort Stone Sour last bestowed upon us. They filled the gap with the first two parts of a three part set of covers EPs in 2015. But now it’s back down to business and the changes within the band’s ranks certainly haven’t hurt at all. With the formal recruitment of guitarist Christian Martucci and bassist Johnny Chow, the band has certainly streamlined their focus towards a more rounded blend of hard rock with metallic crunches here and there.
Stone Sour have delivered some strong, rockin’ cuts on Hydrograd. Some such as the single, “Song #3”, definitely have a radio rock vibe. Even slightly heavier cuts like “Thank God It’s Over” certainly have a general lean in that AOR kind of direction. For the most part, Hydrograd is a very listenable album musically, and I think it’s safe to say that those that hang on every single thing that vocalist Corey Taylor puts his name to will swarm to this like moths to a flame.
But the truth of the matter is that whilst Hydrograd is, as I said before, a more rounded blend of hard rock et cetera, it is also too long. One of the issues I had with the House of Gold and Bones pair was the band’s inability to self edit. Once again, another Stone Sour album suffers the same plight. Now, I will always use the band’s sophomore effort, 2006’s outstanding Come What(ever) May as the yard stick for all things Stone Sour. A dozen tracks, 48 minutes, not a single stinker within. Now, turning out attention back to Hydrograd, 15 tracks, 65 minutes. If you’re going to churn out an album of that length, you better make sure your shit is solid.
That’s the real issue here. For all of the really great tracks on here – “The Witness Trees”, the gentle ballad “St. Marie”, the energetic yet appallingly titled “Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song is Dumb and So Am I)” and the fun opening pair “Taipei Person – Allah Tea” and “Knievel Has Landed” as well the others I’ve mentioned earlier – there’s some songs that really shouldn’t have made the final cut. I really hoped that Stone Sour had learnt their lesson when it comes to quality over quantity when it comes to musical output. Unfortunately, with the inclusion of songs like “Friday Knights” and, well, actually now that I think of it, the last four tracks altogether really, it’s abundantly clear that Taylor and Co. haven’t even considered the art of self editing. Maybe bring Torben Ulrich into the fold to deliver some timely “delete that” remarks. Someone has to help rope in Stone Sour and keep them in check.
Whilst Hydrograd won’t elevate Stone Sour to Nickelback heights, I’d still much rather listen bad Stone Sour songs than anything that Nickelback has released ever. In all fairness though, there’s still enough good on here to outweigh the bad but the longer the same old problem continues to arise on Stone Sour albums, the less likely they are to receive a pass from this grumpy reviewer. If you press stop once track 11 (“Mercy”) is done, then Hydrograd is a very good album. However, if you venture into the murky, inconsistent depths of the final four cuts, abandon all hope ye who enters here.