Artist: Corey Taylor
Corey Taylor’s long-awaited debut solo album was released on the 2nd of October, and to say it has already been divisive would be an understatement. While a lot of critics generally seem to like it, fans of Corey’s other bands seem on the fence, if not flat out hating the album online. Now, Slipknot were one of my very first steps into the metal genre, first being introduced through their song ‘My Plague’ back as a kid. Heck, they were the first big band I ever saw live back in ’09. Meanwhile, House of Gold and Bones Pt 1 (by Stone Sour) is one of my favourite albums ever. So, while I’m not saying this solo project has a lot to live up to, I am a pretty massive fan of Corey’s other bands. Let’s see how this goes down!
HWY666 opens the album, one of the four singles released prior to the album dropping. It starts with huge, heavy chords. However, it soon descends into a clean/acoustic guitar strumming away to bring in the vocals. As Corey’s low voice chimes in, it almost has a slight country feel to it, something I am not at all opposed to. It soon builds into an awesome guitar riff once everything comes in again, maybe the best riff on the whole album. A heavier verse follows before we finally get to a chorus, the melody of which sounds ripped straight from House of Gold and Bones. It’s not at all a bad thing, and it’s a great chorus. If anything, I wish there was more like this throughout the album. We reach the solo and, honestly, it fell a little flat to me. I don’t know whether I’ve just listened to too many phenomena guitar players over the years, but this felt kind of basic and didn’t fit too well into the song. Oh well, though, it doesn’t last long and then we’re into another great verse and chorus. Overall a good, solid, enjoyable album opener, although it did feel like Corey was slowly easing us away from his prior stuff, one part at a time.
Another single follows, Black Eyes Blue. This felt like something right off another Stone Sour album, Audio Secrecy. It’s most definitely the ballad of the album, slower with a huge, sing-a-long chorus that definitely feels like a stadium filler. The verses sound great, the drums and guitar seemingly working on the off-beat from the vocals, giving it a bouncy feel to it. The solo also felt like it fit better here, short and sweet and really fit with the song well, tying it all together. The lyrics are kind of silly (a theme throughout the album), but this is a good, inoffensive radio-rock song, and one I have enjoyed more and more with each listen.
Samantha’s Gone was the first brand new song to me. It opens with a fairly decent riff, even if it is a little on the lighter side. It’s bouncy and blusey, but also feels pretty glam rock inspired. I would say think heavier Poison, but given the lyrical content I’d lean more towards Steel Panther, the song feeling like a comedic middle finger to a former woman in Corey’s life. The solos here were the best so far, feeling like an integral part of the song and really adding so much to an otherwise standard radio-rock song. I don’t mind it being on the lighter side, though, I still enjoyed this song a fair bit, even if it’s completely different to his other stuff (and so far, not quite as good).
Corey sings a count in to the next song, Meine Lux, and it catches me off guard. Corey’s voice has sounded fantastic so far, the best it’s sounded in a good long while, even better than on We Are Not Your Kind. However the count in, while sounding great, did feel a little self obsessed. However, don’t let that take away from the song too much. It starts out with the band chanting the chorus before it explodes in with a rapid pace which doesn’t slow down once until the end. It has a real punk rock energy to it, like a heavier Motörhead kind of vibe, that I feel would really translate so well live. The chorus is so infectiously catchy, too, that this is a massive highlight on an already great album. Add that to the great solo and awesome repeating ending of the last verse and this may be my favourite song on the album so far!
Halfway Down is up next. Opening on a simple guitar chord progression and Corey’s powerful vocals, this sounds great. However, compared to the rest of the songs on the album, it feels even more stripped down and basic, and does feel a slight bit repetitive given that the whole album has been a similar kind of style so far. A passable if bland chorus and solo follow but honestly, the bridge kind of saved this song a little for me. It was simple palm muted chords, but it almost reminded me of Bryan Adams or Status Quo, something I was not expecting on this album. This is the one biggest compliment I can give this album; it really draws so many different influences and styles and genres, even if it does put its own spin on most of them that leaves them feeling a little half-arsed (more on that later). A good rock song if a little boring.
Silverfish opens and immediately it feels like it’s drawing heavily on Corey’s much known love for Alice in Chains. Think Rooster or Down in a Hole, right down to a similar sort of guitar tone on the first solo. It’s simple, clean guitar intro with Corey’s vocals sounds both dark and beautiful at the same time, and the chorus is fantastic. The harmonies work so well with his voice, especially on slower songs like this. It sounds even better when the drums and lead guitar kick in on the second chorus, building layer and layer of awesomeness. The main solo sounds great too, as does the one over the outro, paired with Corey’s best Layne Stanley inspired vocals. If you’re an AIC fan, you’ll love this.
I’m still unsure how I feel about the next song on the album, Kansas. It’s a great song, but it feels almost a little too bouncy and happy clappy to be among the rest of the stuff on this album, which feels pretty positive in and of itself. The lyrics are great here and honestly everything about it is great, from the fun verse to the catchy as hell chorus (more Audio Secrecy-like vocal melodies), and the surprisingly emotion-filled guitar solo, but it just stands out as such an odd choice of song for Corey to be writing. Even with me praising the difference in styles to his other projects, this one somehow felt more out of place than the more outlandish and divisive songs on the album that are coming up later. I mean heck, it has clapping during the chorus, this is a damn happy song, something I clearly don’t associate with Corey often. Still, though, it’s awesome!
The latest single, Culture Head, follows. Launching straight in with the chunkiest and easily best riff on the album, one that’s been stuck in my head for days now as I hum it around work, it starts out fantastically. The verse is amazing too, distorted, low bass leading and the occasional stab of a guitar chord. And that’s not even mentioning some of the best lyrics on the album from Mr Taylor, although someone should really teach him how to pronounce ‘niche’. The guitar stabs getting more regular as they get closer to the chorus sounds amazing, too, and are timed perfectly with the lyrics. Speaking of the chorus, though… meh. It felt more like a build-up to the great verse again, which definitely worked, but that shouldn’t be what a chorus is about. The solo was okay but the presence of a breakdown really made up for the chorus. It was slow, heavy and honestly, just what this album needed, some metal to really pick it back up again after a couple of slower songs. It made it straight on the playlist.
The quality unfortunately dips back down a little again with Everybody Dies on my Birthday. Feeling like a reject from Hydrograd (not bad but easily the worst Stone Sour album), it just doesn’t feel like anything new, it just feels like it’s there to make up enough tracks for the album. It’s an alright song, don’t get me wrong, but utterly and completely forgettable. And, like it or not, the one thing you have to admit is that the rest of the album is definitely NOT forgettable. I honestly can’t think of anything more to say about it so… skip. Moving on.
The Maria Fire was very nearly a perfect song, and may still be in competition with Alestorm’s Treasure Chest Party Quest for my favourite song of this year. The guys wrote a jazz song, for crying out loud! It had the sound and feel of something straight out of an old 50s swing bar, I could almost visualise the low lights and the room full of cigarette smoke. This is another song I’d absolutely love to see live, even more so in a dark, dingy club like I just described. It was such a great change of pace and surprise, the complete opposite of Kansas, and a style I would LOVE for him to do more of in the future. The lyrics for the chorus feel a little weak, but it didn’t take anything away from the awesomeness, though. Everything was going so well coming out of the second chorus, with an awesome scale rundown from the guitars and the first bar of the solo fit in so damn well with the jazziness… then came the rest of the solo. While technically good, that was really exactly what the song didn’t need. Whether it was Christian Martucci or Zach Throne who is the culprit, one of them went full on Synyster Gates during the solo, and it wasn’t needed at all. It was far too fast and ‘widdly diddly’ and took out all heart and feel from the song for a brief moment. They brought it back around in the end, but it pulled me out of it for a second too long, unfortunately.
Next comes the big piano ballad, Home. This is beautiful, just Corey sat down at a piano singing his heart out. The lyrics are almost tear jerking, a loving tribute to his wife, and are sung with such emotion and dedication, this also better make it to the live shows as I want to be able to see it! He’s a surprisingly hoof pianist, too, given that he claims it’s only taken himself two and a half years to teach himself! Another huge highlight of the album and honestly one to check out if you like a slow ballad.
Finally, we reach easily the most controversial song on the whole album, maybe that he’s ever written: the rap song, CMFT Must Be Stopped. Starting off with some basic, heavy chords and drums, it sounds like it’s building into something like Culture Head. The chorus comes in first with some call and response and already you can tell it’s going to be different, with Corey yelling ‘what’s my name?!’ like only Snoop Dogg should be allowed to do. Then comes his rap verse and, honestly… I really liked it. I know a lot of people don’t and have not listened to any more of this album because of this song, but honestly Corey is a damn good rapper and has been since Slipknot’s debut. The lyrics are great and he has some great hip-hop timing with his vocals when he wants to. The off-beat drums and guitars in the first half of the verse give it such a great bounce to it, too. Guest (actual) rappers Kid Bookie and the always good Tech N9ne both do great in the second and third verses, respectively, too, and add their own style to their short times on the album, making me appreciate both rappers more as a result. Not to take away from the music too, while not necessarily having a solo, the riffs in this are awesome and come one after another. While a lot of people seem to think the chorus is proof that Corey’s ego has finally gotten too big, I honestly believe that this is not a serious song, that it was written as a fun joke and is aimed directly towards everyone who he knew would hate it. Listening to it again, I frigging love this song.
Finally, we get to the punk as fuck closing track, European Tour Bus Bathroom Song. This just goes straight in, just like Meine Lux, and somehow reminds me even more of the 70s punk scene. 2 minutes of crazy gang vocals and fast drums and guitars sound messy, but do a surprisingly good job of rounding out the chaos that was this album. Again, I don’t have a whole lot to say about this, it was an enjoyable little sprint to close.
Overall, I think I love this album. It took me a few listens and sitting down to look at each song individually to really appreciate it, but there is a hell of a lot of great stuff here. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some not so good songs on this album, and the ordering of the album is messy and all over the place, but it achieved exactly what it meant to. Corey set out to have fun and make an album completely different to his other works, and for the most part he’s achieved it here. He jumped about to some real interested genres that I wasn’t expecting and it made for a really fun, entertaining listen. Hopefully he does another album in the future because I’m already excited for it.
Written by Joe Griffiths