We’re counting down to Christmas Eve with the albums of the year. Visit tomorrow to see what the next one will be.
Never been sure about Stone Sour, the part-time plaything of Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor.
And when Taylor announced that the band’s new outing, House Of Gold And Bones, would be a concept piece spread across two consecutive albums, alarm bells began ringing.
When he added that the exercise would be something “like Pink Floyd’s The Wall meets Alice in Chains’s Dirt” it was time to start digging the escape tunnel.
All of which proves just how wrong you can be.
Because Part 1, released this week, may just be the best metal album since Metallica took a shine to the colour black.
Like James Hetfield & Co did on the ‘black’ album, fed up that their thrash metal wasn’t selling by the shedload, Taylor’s moshpit marauders have dipped a sizeable toe in the mainstream.
And the result is startling. Startingly, jaw-droppingly good.
Sure, the Slipknot purists will hate it. You can already hear the sound of knives being sharpened.
Because, although the requisite riffs are here, shouty, growly and gruesome this is not.
Some of it turns out to be so radio-friendly that it’ll leap off your iPod and give you a hug.
It’s a balancing act to rival Nik Wallenda’s walk earlier this year along that tightrope across Niagara Falls.
The album opens with the double whammy of Gone Sovereign and Absolute Zero – already familiar to the faithful as singles released this year – both of which are reminiscent of Metallica at their best.
They ride precision rock riffs tooled by Josh Rand and James Root, with David Bottrill’s production bringing out buttock-clenching bass and bombshell drums. Taylor’s vocal is surprisingly melodic, even when he offers token gruff grumble.
A Rumor Of Skin is brutally efficient, sparsely simple. Then The Travelers Pt 1 offers pause to get your breath back, its acoustic strum and sweeping strings suggesting that it may well turn out a solo spot in concert.
It leads into Tired, a track made for rock radio, and one which has already come in for criticism from metalhead diehards. Okay, so it’s a bit Nickelback in places, but you can’t have everything.
The following RU486 will do much to restore tunnel vision faith. It’s a ferocious sonic shockwave, with a machine gun riff, Rachel Bolan’s burly bass and some of the most brutal drumming you’ll hear this side of a steel foundry, courtesy of Roy Mayorga.
My Name Is Allen is more by the numbers, more effective filler than anything you’ll find at B&Q, then Taciturn is a huge rock ballad, opening solo and unplugged but building to a crescendo with satisfying guitar crunch.
Influence Of A Drowsy God flirts with prog-rock before The Travelers Pt 2 beefs up its earlier namesake, and the album ends with Last Of The Real – another steroidal stomp to please the purists.
But there’s more to Taylor’s latest brainchild than that. The album comes complete with a short story, in which the plot thickens, and a four-part comicbook series with Dark Horse is planned.
Then there’s the album sleeve itself, which opens out as if it wants to be a 3D cardboard sculpture but with tabs that don’t connect. Odds are that when Part 2 arrives in 2013 it’ll all, quite literally, come together.