‘Hydrograd’ album review
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Stone Sour’s latest release Hydrograd is a full record of solid, rocking-out fun.
Hydrograd is the sixth studio album by Stone Sour (also known as the other hard rock/metal band with vocals from the phenomenally versatile Corey Taylor of Slipknot). The album’s 15 tracks and total length of 65 minutes give Stone Sour plenty of time for musical exploration, which they utilize to the fullest.
This album has a somewhat different feel from much of the band’s earlier works, with a sound that veers more toward positivity rather than raw anger or melancholy. Yet Hydrograd is hard and heavy where it needs to be, balanced by several softer tracks that demonstrate the melodiousness of Taylor’s vocals. Throughout the album, Stone Sour cultivates the perfect blend of energy, lyricism, and an irresistible, reckless exuberance.
The overall tone of the record might be described as playful and almost carnivalesque. Introductory track “YSIF” certainly sets the stage for this, beginning with a drumroll and an intonation of “Hello, you bastards!” Aside from that line, it’s almost entirely an instrumental track and an excellent hype-builder.
Hydrograd’s harder sound kicks off with the next song, single “Taipei Person/Allah Tea” (if you’re confused about the title, read it aloud). With a driving rhythm and Taylor’s not-quite-growling singing—especially prominent in the pre-chorus—it’s one of the record’s heavier highlights. The song also features brilliant rhythmic complexity with its tempo shifts, thanks to Roy Mayorga on drums.
“Song #3” is actually the song’s fifth track and one of its two leading singles, released concurrently with “Fabuless.” “Song #3” has a more mainstream sound and theme that could almost be described as trite elsewhere, but the sentiment manifests on this record as upbeat, uplifting, and purely passionate. “Did I save you?/’Cause I know you saved me too,” Taylor declares vivaciously in the chorus, singing about finding salvation in the arms of a loved one.
The other lead single, “Fabuless,” is also a heavy hitter. It’s accompanied by a deliciously sardonic music video poking fun at the shallowness of celebrity culture, as the video features the band rocking out in front of a crowd of air dancers. The song is loud, brash, and furiously buoyant. As a listener, it’s almost impossible not to be caught up in the song’s frenetic energy and scream along with the chorus: “It’s all downhill from here, motherfucker!”
“The Witness Tree” has one of those titles that hits you with its poeticism even before the music starts, and the song itself is just as evocative. Faintly discordant, atonal verses backed by sombre guitar riffs mesh beautifully with the soulful choruses. The album’s best title, however, has to go to “Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I),” which is also the track that best displays Hydrograd’s darkly carnivalesque vibe. Title aside, this song is also fantastic for its almost schizophrenic fluctuation between the playful verses and the super-upbeat chorus.
Yet Stone Sour is just as capable of carrying itself in softer, slower-paced tracks like “St. Marie.” The ballad has, unexpectedly, a somewhat country-like vibe. It might not be the jam for most Stone Sour fans, but it’s an undeniably powerful track and one that shows Taylor’s capabilities for a lot more than just growls and screams. For those craving a more metallic and fast-paced sound, “Somebody Stole My Eyes” is sung largely with a rap-rock-growl style that certainly channels some Slipknot.
A record as powerful and full of life as Hydrograd deserves an epic finale; ending track “When the Fever Broke” delivers just that, and more. Another song that trends toward softer and melodic, Taylor’s heartfelt vocals power through the mournful lines, propelled by pulsing drums and grippingly haunting harmonies. The song ends with a solemn echo of “I can’t go, I can’t go home,” a cathartic close to a phenomenal album.