Here’s an analogy I put together for what Stone Sour’s House of Gold and Bones, Part 2 sounds like. If Metallica’s Master of Puppets and Pink Floyd’s The Wall got together and had a baby, while concurrently Tool’s Lateralus and Queen’s Night at the Opera also had a baby, and then by some miracle those two offspring eventually got together and had a baby of their own, that baby would be named House of Gold and Bones, Part 2 (with the older twin being House of Gold and Bones, Part 1, obviously).
Red City is what kicks off the 12 track album. With the way this song sounds, Corey Taylor is obviously missing Slipknot. Halfway through, it sounds like a horror film, featuring harsh vocals from him that I haven’t heard since People = Shit from Slipknot’s Iowa. Once the song finishes, it goes into a sadistic sounding AM radio track. The sound effect isn’t scary itself, but the vibe you get from implies that Hannibal Lecter is going to turn around in a chair. Fortunately, after about 30 seconds (which I spent huddled underneath my security blanket telling myself “He’s not real” over and over), Black John starts. I don’t know much of the story in the song, but it has much the same feeling that My Name is Allen did and that’s fine with me. Once again, the guitar work is big and riffy, and chock full of melt-in-your-mouth leads.
Sadist is the next song, and it tells of The Human trying to move on with his life, but yet he somehow can’t. That’s really all I got out of it, but I’m impressed with the style of playing that Jim Root and Josh Rand expressed on the song. Josh Rand has described it as a lot of jazz chords, and as long as it’s not Kenny G, I like it. My favorite song of the whole record, Peckinpah (once again named after a character), seems to me like Mastodon had a hand in it. The song opens with these sustained arpeggiated chords, before they drop out to let the drums, bass, and piano handle the rhythmic and melodic duties. Then build back up to give a blood pumping, heart racing riff. Rinse. Repeat
Stalemate returns to the big choruses and aggressive verses that plagued Part 1, even going as far as to include a key change (which as a musician, I find to be the height of cheesiness. However, when performed correctly, they can work). It’s still very well written and works for the song, so I can’t really complain. Gravesend is a much better song though, and when the guitar really kicks in, it’s just kills.
’82 is where I can kind of understand what’s going on in the story again, and it explains that part of the problem for The Human is that he hasn’t let go of the past (I think this song can be summed up as Hakuna Matata), and that in order for him to make the right decision at The Conflagration (the event that takes place in the titular House), he needs to, well, to remember Hakuna Matata. Then we reach The Uncanny Valley. Not much to say, other than for whatever reason, it makes me think of Arizona (not that I’ve ever been to Arizona).
Now, we’ve reached what is basically the conclusion of the story. Starting off with the ethereal, otherworldly, or whatever other synonyms you can think of, Blue Smoke. Corey is once again left to his own devices with minimalist instrumentation. A cello, a bass, and some very token piano and slide guitar parts make up the musical backbone. It effortlessly leads into Do Me a Favor, the first single off the new record. Do Me a Favor has a sort of bounce to it that reminds me of high school jazz band (where I could swing as well as any other jazz great could) (actually I should rephrase that- I couldn’t). I know I haven’t mentioned it often, but Jim Root and Josh Rand have really done leaps and bounds better than any previous playing. This is also where we hear the reprises of songs from Part 1 that Josh hinted at in the months leading up to the release of the album.
The Conflagration is the event that climaxes the story. This is the song we’ve been waiting for. This is where Peckinpah and Allen battle, on the sides of good and bad repectively. This is where The Human makes his decision. This is where we are blown away with the audio assault of shredding guitars, thundering basses, and pounding drums. This is- wait ANOTHER piano driven ballad? Dammiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. Okay, so it’s not all bad, but it was kind of disappointing that this song is The Travelers, Pt 3 (ironically, it contains a reprise of The Travelers), when it could have been a full on nuclear warhead of the ears. The title song of the albums wraps them up. And for this it seems that Absolute Zero and Gone Sovereign got together and had a baby, because all it is is reprises of those two. From the way the song starts (not the “gang vocals” but the chords and tremolo picked notes) to the pre-chorus portions (ripped off of Absolute Zero’s bridge) and the chorus (once again ripped off of Absolute Zero). However it is a fitting way to end one the best albums I have ever listened to.
I have to say it was an experience. Taylor, Root, Rand, Mayorga (the drummer), and Rachel Bolan (of Skid Row fame, who, after former bassist Shawn Economaki left the group, stepped up to record the tracks) have truly created a work of art. I give this a 10 out of 10, but keep mind, there are a couple of flaws.
Pros: Everything. The rhythms slay, the leads blister, the bass thunders, the drums pound, the vocals scream, and the acoustics do whatever the folk equivalent of being awesome is
Cons: Maybe a key change didn’t have to happen or a certain Conflagration could have left me more devastated than Kevin Ware’s compound fracture (tried to sneak it in there)
Overall: What can I say other than stunning? Nope, let me think for a second. Nothing.