Before we got all mixed up with eighteen million different subgenres of metal, there was just one single genre: heavy metal (or hard rock), a musical space marked by a significantly harder edge than the mothership of rock and roll but also a field wide open to many different sounds and styles. Thus in the Seventies, acts like BLACK SABBATH, KISS, JUDAS PRIEST, SCORPIONS, TED NUGENT, RAINBOW and VAN HALEN all fell under the heavy metal umbrella without sounding anything like each other, except for loud, heavy guitars and lyrics either dabbling in the dark and mystical or extolling the virtues of fast cars and even faster women.
Before metal divided itself into so many different factions with so many varied rules, it was okay for a heavy band to write a ballad (like SABBATH's "Changes") or even a commercial hit (PRIEST's "Living After Midnight") as long as the band kept its core style and integrity. Some of those progressions failed, some succeeded, but the groups were never crucified by their fans the way they might be now, especially in the environs of the Web where everyone is a critic who can safely hide behind a screen name.
That little rant above is merely a way to come to the point that STONE SOUR's second album, "Come What(ever) May", is a throwback to those days, a well-crafted, well-played and well-written heavy metal album in the traditional, non-subgenre sense. Anyone looking for thrash, death or any other sort of extreme metal will be disappointed, while all you SLIPKNOT-haters (STONE SOUR singer Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root also both play in the 'KNOT)…just don't even fuckin' bother to give this a listen 'cause you've already got your bias in place.
What you will find here are plenty of meaty, chugging riffs courtesy of Root and Josh Rand, a thunderous backbeat provided by bassist Shawn Economaki and new stickman Roy Mayorga, who steps in with confidence and ease (GODSMACK vet Shannon Larkin also contributes to opening track "30/30-150") and nails each song in place. "Come What(ever) May" is an unabashedly commercial album in the sense that most of the songs are catchy, economical and arranged in a straightforward fashion, buttressed by the accessible yet raw vocals of Taylor, who continues to expand his range here. The crunching guitars and pummeling rhythms nevertheless give this a heavier edge than a lot of mainstream hard rock, harkening back to a sound that extends from latter-day PRIEST to early DIO to "Practice What You Preach"-era TESTAMENT to "black album"-era METALLICA.
"30/30-150" gets things off to a powerful start, the heavy main riff countered by a surprisingly infectious chorus. Same goes for the title track, which takes a lyrical dig at the Bush junta's view of "freedom" and amps up toward the end with Taylor's screamed "What the fuck is free about it?" coda. "Hell & Consequences" completes the opening trifecta before the shockingly PINK FLOYD-esque intro of "Sillyworld" leads into a slower yet still forceful groove.
"Reborn" is the only song here that directly channels SLIPKNOT in its chorus, with Taylor and Root otherwise staying away from the controlled chaos of their other outfit. "Through Glass", the first single, is deceptively simple, yet doesn't play by rock radio rules by waiting a full one minute and 45 seconds before getting to the main hook. Yet while every song on "Come What(ever) May" is tightly constructed, a few do fall short. "Your God" is too generic to really stand out, while the closing power ballad, "Zzyzz Rd.", ultimately comes across as too clichéd both lyrically and musically despite a truly heartfelt performance from Taylor. While SLIPKNOT's wall of sounds sometimes masks (no pun intended) his abilities, the singer delivers throughout this disc with passion and intensity, making up for a lack of vocal acrobatics with sheer honesty and energy.
It always comes down to the songs, and STONE SOUR has come up with eight or nine really strong ones here. Regardless of whether they're a "heavy" enough band for the extreme crowd, STONE SOUR is a genuine heavy rock band in the traditional, no-nonsense sense. Come whatever may in the metal genre, they deserve respect for that.