*This post was originally published in The Aquarian Weekly.
Grammy-nominated hard rock band Stone Sour have envisioned a new world of music and entertainment—an environment founded on inventive concepts and artistic merit. This is where House Of Gold & Bones – Part 1 was built, a celebration of melodic metal, instrumental excellence and artful storytelling.
The multimedia experience offers a comic book, as well as an album of tracks written as a linear storyline chronicling the compelling story of an all-too-familiar antagonist character. The brainchild of lead vocalist Corey Taylor (serving double duty as frontman for Stone Sour and Slipknot), House Of Gold & Bones is an evolving experiential collection: A two-part album, comic book, graphic novel and, according to Taylor, an eventual screenplay.
Part one of the album was released last October, and part two will be released in April 2013, in tandem with Dark Horse Comics’ release of House Of Gold & Bones, a limited four-issue series that follows, and expands on, the story told through the albums.
The releases mark a milestone for the band, which, though founded in 1992, didn’t quite get their feet off the ground as a unit for roughly 10 years. Now, Taylor and company— guitarists Jim Root (fellow Slipknot comrade) and Josh Rand, drummer Roy Mayorga, and touring bassist Johny Chow—are commemorating an additional phase of sophisticated music in their fourth studio album.
After Taylor and Root wrapped up touring with Slipknot in early 2012, Taylor tapped into his creative pulse, recording 15 demos and penning the story of House Of Gold & Bones. To bring the project to musical fruition, Stone Sour collaborated with producer David Bottrill, who’s also worked with Tool, Muse and Staind. The band recorded its masterpiece at Sound Farm Studios in Jamaica, Iowa, working with Bottrill to flesh out a skeleton of songs into a 23-track record in just three months. The result is a unique blend of dynamic metal, stripped to the bone ballads and forcibly catchy tracks true to Stone Sour’s repertoire.
The opening track, “Gone Sovereign,” is a shot to the jugular, beginning with a steady riff and Taylor’s honest croons: “No one’s laughing now/I’m sullen and sated and you can’t put a price on me/I won’t share this disarray/I won’t pull these hands away/I need to be chosen and my God/Don’t pray for me.” It’s a classic tribute to the components of pure metal—the double bass, screaming breakdowns and super guitar solo—all fused and stamped with Stone Sour’s twist.
The second song and first single off the album, “Absolute Zero”—which Taylor describes as the set-up for the comic book’s main character—channels a steady somberness of the daily grind we all love to hate.
“The Travelers, Pt. 1,” perhaps best dubbed the token Stone Sour ballad (à la “Bother” or “Zzyzx Rd.”) displays Taylor’s heartstrings vulnerably through song. It’s Taylor unmasked (no pun intended), as he pours out raw emotion: “I don’t need a conscience to tell me how I feel/I don’t need these weary eyes to focus on what to conceal/I don’t need anybody to tell me who I am/Blame it on a broken heart/I’m falling apart again.” “The Travelers, Pt. 2” is a darker piano ballad that occasionally calls on hefty riffs and deep percussion.
The album leaves little to be wanted except for, of course, the second installment.
Taylor took some time to connect from Stockholm, Sweden, to talk about the creative development of House Of Gold & Bones, embarking on a co-headlining tour with Papa Roach, and to disclose his pick for the ultimate pioneer in metal vocals. The transcription is below:
Stone Sour just kicked off a tour with Papa Roach. How did that collaboration come about? Are you close with the guys?
We had done this same tour in parts of Europe and London together. The venues were selling out. The bass player [Tobin Esperance] was having his first baby, so he had to leave for that, but it was during our tour that we started talking about doing an American leg, and we all got really excited about it. They’re great dudes. They’re a great band—they’re a fantastic live band—and I’ve known most of those guys going back to 2001, so it’s cool. We’re old friends.
The band’s latest release, House Of Gold & Bones – Part 1, has received stellar reviews. What can fans expect from the second installment of the record?
The great thing about part two is that it really ties it all together. We just listened to the master mixes and oh my God! It’s darker. It’s heavier. It’s much more in tune with the narrative. It’s much more complex. It’s just a kickass album that people won’t even know to expect. The difference between the two is that part one just feels like a great album, whereas part two honestly feels like a great movie soundtrack. It moves the story more than part one does. But when you put one and two together and listen to it top to bottom, it’s fantastic. It really all comes together and we’re excited about it.
What inspired you to do a comic book?
A comic book wasn’t even on the table, to be honest. I was still kind of fleshing out the short story while we were in the studio, but I always had this idea that the overall story would be very grandiose and visual. So when I was writing the story, I looked back and thought it would be a great comic. I was filling out blanks and adding things that weren’t in the story. I get to show people even more where my head is going. As a comic book fan, I thought there was no way I would ever write a comic book. Luckily, this whole project has allowed me to do it. And I picked a great company to do it with.
Can you share your creative process and inspirations for writing all 23 tracks as a storyline to the comic book?
The lyrics basically ghost in and out of the narrative for the short story that I wrote that’s included in each disc. Part one has the first half and part two has the second half. So the comic books are actually an adaptation of that short story, and it’s a visual representation. It’s a great piece to the puzzle. Whereas the album is the literary aspect, the comics will provide the visual. Between those three pieces, I’ll be able to develop what I’m looking at as the ultimate goal, which is to make two movies. Once that comes together, I’ll be able develop the scripts and bring everything together.
The lyrics on the album, particularly in “Absolute Zero,” conjure up the everyday pain of the nine-to-five grind that so many people can relate to. Are the tracks written to resonate with people in that regard?
Absolutely. Actually, “Absolute Zero” sets up the main character for the story. Like everything I do, I try to leave everything open for interpretation. Even though I have this big story that was going to move the songs along, that the lyrics would be applied to, I wanted to make sure that they were still open enough that people can find something to relate to in their own lives. The lyrics in that song describe that every person feels stuck. We don’t know what’s next. No one’s really going to give us a hand to figure that out. It’s just full of that antagonistic energy that we can find ourselves wrapped up in sometimes where it’s just like, “I’m just fucking tired of guessing. Will someone just point me in the right goddamn direction and I’ll be okay?” It’s definitely one of those songs that bring out something in all of us.
Who are your biggest influences, from a vocalist perspective?
When I was growing up, my big three was James Hetfield, Henry Rollins and Sebastian Bach, which I’ve been very vocal about. Over the years, I just started taking cues from people like the great duos of the time, like Cantrell and Staley [Alice In Chains] and the wonderful music they made. My heroes have always been the iconoclasts—the guys who didn’t sound like anyone else, or they ended up developing a style that made everyone decide they were going to try to sound like them.
Hetfield alone has inspired so many different metal singers, myself included, and we’ve all kind of developed a little bit of his style because it was so edgy and chockfull of melody. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for what he’s done for the genre and for singers in general.
Stone Sour and Papa Roach will play Terminal 5 in NYC on Jan. 23. Stone Sour’s new album, House Of Gold & Bones – Part 1, is available now. For more info, visit stonesour.com and houseofgoldandbones.com.