Stone Sour don't play it safe on their fourth offering, House of Gold & Bones—Parts 1 & 2.
House of Gold & Bones Parts 1 & 2 is a collection of 23 tracks that follow an immersive, linear storyline. Part 1—the first 11 songs—will be released on October 23, 2012. Part 2 will be released next year, completing the story. The songs set the tone and follow the action, but House of Gold & Bones is a multimedia experience. Videos, an online presence, album packaging, the live show and even a graphic novel will all follow and expand on the story. It's a lofty undertaking, but Stone Sour have never shied away from a challenge. With them, it's par for the course.
The gold-selling Iowa hard rock outfit has sold over four million albums worldwide over the course of three full-length releases. Their self-titled debut and sophomore effort Come What(ever) May both exceeded gold status, while 2010's Audio Secrecy debuted at #6 on the Billboard Top 200. Their arsenal includes number one singles such as "Through Glass," "Say You'll Haunt Me" and "Bother," and three Grammy Award nominations. Given those accomplishments, it'd be easy for the band—Corey Taylor [vocals], James Root [guitar], Josh Rand [guitar], and Roy Mayorga [drums]—to tread the same ground with very successful results. But they completely flip the globe on its axis this time around.
"To us, this was bigger than just a collection of songs," says Rand. "We wanted to do something really special, and it started when Corey told us about the concept. There was a big mission, and everything tied in from the story to the music. We all put a lot into this, and everybody contributed immensely."
"At the end of the day, if you're not risking it all, you're not gaining anything," Taylor affirms. "There's a whole musical realm I haven't even tackled yet. I've never been into writing the same shit over and over again. The minute I get bored is the minute I bail. It was exciting to be neck-deep in the creation of House of Gold & Bones, knowing we were pushing the boundaries of what we'd done before."
The band began pushing those boundaries as soon as they entered Soundfarm Studios in Jamaica, Iowa with producer David Bottrill [Tool, Muse, Staind] in early 2012. After he and Root finished up on the road with Slipknot, Taylor holed himself up at home and recorded 15 demos, also penning the story of House of Gold & Bones during an extremely creative spell (Taylor's debut book Seven Deadly Sins was released last year, and is an international bestseller). The musicians worked out a skeleton for the songs so they could collectively begin the recording process with a clear and direct vision. Then, Bottrill helped them hone everything even further into the 23 songs comprising the record in only three months.
Rand adds, "In the world of ProTools, everything can be perfect. We didn't want that. We wanted a live, natural feel with the organic sound of the instruments intact. David was able to capture exactly what went to tape. He got the best out of us, and it was amazing to watch him do that. I don't know of any other producer who could get the same results in the timeframe we had."
"In my eyes, David was custom-made for this project," enthuses Taylor. "I knew he would help us trim the fat and get to the essence of the songs. I also knew he'd push us performance-wise to go above and beyond anything we had ever done before in a short span of time. He immediately got it, and he was born to make these two albums."
Not only was it Stone Sour's first time collaborating with Bottrill, they welcomed legendary Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan into the fold to record with them. Bolan also shared their vision and dove headfirst into the world of House of Gold & Bones wholeheartedly.
Taylor reveals, "I've been a Skid Row fan since I was young. They were actually one of my first favorite bands. We met Rachel on the last Stone Sour tour. One night, Josh, Roy and I were sitting at my kitchen table, and Josh brought him up to play bass. We thought it was perfect, and I called him that night. It was fate he could do it, and he schooled it."
This journey commences with the double salvo of "Gone Sovereign" and the first single "Absolute Zero." During the former, a guttural riff grooves through a dead soundscape before snapping into incendiary thrash as Taylor's voice commands with a vicious scream. Not to mention, there's some scorching fretwork from Rand and Root.
"It's such a one-two punch right out of the gate," says the vocalist. "It's unrelenting. 'Gone Sovereign' is different from anything we've ever done, but it's reminiscent of music we grew up listening to. It has that gutter punk, old school thrash vibe. It's the overture. It sets the tone for what you're about to be put through."
"Absolute Zero" which roars with a rousing anthemic refrain that's as potent as it is poetic. "It's the anti-hero anthem," Taylor reveals. "The main character, The Human, puts it all on the plate and declares, 'This is what I am. There's no reason for you to assume anything.' It's a character study for the 'Hero' of the story. This sets the scene for where this person is when he finds himself in this fantastic world. It's the ramp for Evel Knievel to jump off of."
Listeners are jumping into an immersive world here. The band prefaced the record with an interactive "Scavenger Hunt" that unlocked the cover and the first two songs on the official House of Gold & Bones website, where record secrets will continually be uncovered. Taylor is currently prepping a graphic novel to go along with it.
As for the story itself, it sees the protagonist at a physical and philosophical crossroads faced with weighty decisions that will impact whether or not he wakes from the dream in which he's trapped. To a degree, it reflects a crossroads the writer himself stood at.
"There's a good chunk of the album that's autobiographical," admits Taylor. "It's been a long road for me trying to get from being this youthful crazy person to this more mature crazy person. There are all of these twists and turns that come along with getting your shit together. At the same time, I never use a name in the story. I wanted to reinforce the mirror effect where you read it and can see yourself in it."
Rand leaves off, "There's a thrill in doing something completely unpredictable. This is our next evolution."
"It's not just another level," concludes Taylor. "It's a different level. We're looking at everything from a three-dimensional standpoint. House of Gold & Bones feels ready to explode."