I am old enough to remember Slipknot’s early days. The buzz, hype and the mystique that surrounded them before they released their self-titled album – which I duly purchased – painted them as a bunch of total mental cases that wore the masks so they could do what the fuck they wanted and could anonymously replace each member if one of them quit or died. Their masks were a rejection of the mainstream and marked them out as something darker and less predictable than everything else Nu that was being shat out of 1999. So what happens when you remove those masks and renege on your initial statements of intent? Well on one level you retain the street cred of latter day Glen Benton, and on another you become Kiss circa 1983. Enter Stone Sour.
Stone Sour will forever be inextricably linked to Slipknot, like a massively effeminate Siamese twin conjoined to a slightly aggressive retard brother. I suppose, after the release of Iowa, resurrecting a more traditional hard rock act might have seemed like a good idea for Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Jim Root (it wasn’t, their first two albums were fucking dog shit), but when Slipknot itself changes and becomes as lame and unthreatening as a dead puppy, what is the point in continuing with the side project that now sits in exactly the same space as the day job? I suppose you can drive that side project further into the middle of the road, pulling in behind such luminaries as 30 Seconds To Mars, Hoobastank and Kajagoogoo and settle nicely in that comfortable, beige lane of the musical motorway that any self respecting music fan would like to drive a tank down in the opposite direction.
Audio Secrecy, the third effort from Stone Sour, begins with an eponymous introduction track before they unveil their Mission Statement, which, rather than being the devastatingly original and jaw-dropping tour-de-force you might expect from a song so titled, actually appears to be that they have no idea what they are playing at, instead club footing their way around a mish mash of semi-competent metal riffing, out-of-place crooned clean vocals and ‘not evil enough to get us taken off any precious radio playlist’ screams… The solo is about passable. However, Digital (Did You Tell) is wholesale stolen from 36 Crazyfists 2002 Bitterness the Star album (yes, that cutting edge and relevant), and really only succeeds in making you wish you were listening to the awesome underwater vocal stylings of the original. Dying, which follows, is just a huge, steaming, fetid, swarming pile of reheated Nickelback.
Let’s Be Honest and Unfinished are a pair of unremarkable mid-tempo generic ‘upbeat and defiant’ rockers, either of which could conceivably be used as an entrance theme for a feisty female wrestler, which is actually a compliment given that most of the songs on here are too embarrassingly cheesy even to be used in an Eddie Guerrero tribute montage. One of the worst offenders here is Hesitate, which sounds exactly like When You Were Young by The Killers, only the chorus makes The Killers sound as urgent, vital and emotionally charged as a Napalm Death, Shining and NWA split EP.
My spirits were raised when I saw Miracles as the next track, hoping it would be a faithful cover of the brilliant Insane Clown Posse smash hit of the same name, however it was in fact another mournful, heartfelt ballad with lyrics ambiguous enough to be about nothing and everything… Or to be used as a nice piece of solemn background muzak in some godawful smash-hit US TV series, coming soon to Living TV. Obviously sensing that the listener may be tiring of ballads, the boys decide to crank it up a gear with The Bitter End, and what better way to get your average metal fan rocking again than with a riff fished from the deepest, darkest Nu Metal waters, where only Spineshank before them had dared to dredge?
But hang on guys, that’s us now gone 3 minutes and 34 seconds without a piss poor ballad. Better throw everything at this one, get the acoustic guitars out and really go for it. Make sure that you wring all the cod emotion you possibly can out of those softly arpeggiated chords, try and squeeze yet more blood from that dry, desolate ballad stone… But all that comes out is Imperfect.
But then again, squeezing something from nothing is all they have tried to do on the whole album. It is a cynical attempt to obtain money and Grammy nominations by projecting sentimental balladry and vague aggression onto a backdrop of paper-thin musical compositions, ostensibly to cater for the stereotypical ‘disenfranchised teenage’ lowest common denominator. This is heavy music for people that enjoy a little bit of Coldplay and perhaps listen to the new U2 or Red Hot Chili Peppers album when they’re really letting their hair down after a hard day at the estate agents office and a really spiffing game of squash with Quentin from HR.
It’s fucking bollocks.