Sound — 7
I've always had a little bit of a soft spot for Stone Sour since listening to their second album. Stone Sour has sounded pretty much the same since the self titled debut (with the exception of Corey's vocals and evolved guitar work) and with each release having been affected by the changes made in any new Slipknot album in some tiny way. Audio Secrecy is a new fresh blast of what is a strange mix between traditional heavy metal, grunge riffing and some of Slipknots newer material. The production (as with every Corey Taylor tinged album) is top notch if bordering on the overly cooked side of things because of Corey's love of reverb and delay. James Root/Josh Rand are two decent musicians and know a good tone but have refrained from including the groovy/bouncy riffing from Come What(ever) May which have featured a lot in Stone Sour. However, there are more harmonic leads and harmonized riffs like in the song 'Digital' which was automatically a favourite track from this album. Another added bonus is some tinges of progressive music within the album. This applies most notably to 'Nylon 6-6' which actually has what sound like (note the term 'Sound like') djent riffs and drum beats. Also there is a lot of focus on atmosphere as well in the aforementioned song and in certain points in other songs. But for every good thing to say about Audio Secrecy there's something bad to say too. While the guitar riffing is more accessible and less erratic, it's also simplified. While I can't complain about the melodic nature of SS, something's telling me Corey Taylor is still trying to dumb down the heaviness of all the records he is a part of. His voice on earlier records was a bit gruffer, rougher around the edges so to speak but on Audio Secrecy his clean singing is a bit more radio friendly by a noticeable fraction and it isn't helped by him barely using his new technique with growls and screams which were balanced out on previous albums. It's also, like most bands that made it big in the early 2000's, has a lot of the same melody, scales and was partly designed for radio.
Lyrics — 6
Well SS knows how to meld a tune properly so that the lyrics, vocals and instrumentation blend pretty well together and don't sound out of place. But that's where, in general, the praise ends. Lyrically, I can't imagine what possesses Mr Taylor to keep using his background as a reference for lyrics. Okay, fine, he's had an interesting (and self publicized) life filled with 'hardship and turmoil' but with EVERY album from Slipknot and Stone Sour it's been featured as the basis for all his lyrical content. After a while, it becomes boring. From the song 'Hesitate': Cuz I see you, but I can't feel you anymore So go away I need you, but I can't need you anymore You hesitate Vocal wise it's a similar story. I know that Stone Sour is a pretty commercial band, but even for Stone Sour, Corey Taylor has really taken the 'boyband' approach to harmonized vocals a bit too much. Even though he's used his talent for metal growls and screams on previous SS albums in a moderate manner, Audio Secrecy features next to none of these vocals and its almost disappointing to hear a song like 'Nylon 6-6' featuring ONE GROWL in the intro.
Overall Impression — 7
I wasn't really expecting much to change from Stone Sour and Audio Secrecy is pretty close to what I was expecting. Even though the vocals have (in my mind) downgraded slightly and the music is a little bit more simplified, overall Audio Secrecy is entirely solid and a casual SS fan and even a Slipknot fan can enjoy it. Songs to look out for: 'Mission Statement' is a pretty heavy opener for this album and is somewhat climactic in its structure, featuring build ups to a grooving chorus. 'Digital (Did You Tell)' is classic SS and balances Trivium-esque melodies and riffing with a pretty addictive chorus. 'Let's Be Honest' doesn't have much going for it but it's after the first verse you listen to the weird melodies and heavy riffing during the very 80's Metallica bridge that make this song noteworthy. 'Nylon 6-6' is by far one of the heavier tracks on the album, featuring a modern prog metal riff structure and vocal delivery as well as a spine-melting chorus. 'Pieces' has a good melody going through it, even if it's not spectacularly impressive, it's almost a relaxing' metal song. 'The Bitter End' is another heavy song, and in fact rings of very heavy industrial music and one of the few songs that features Corey Taylor using his vocal growl to good effect. Definitely a favourite. 'Threadbare' is a song like none other than SS have done, featuring a more brooding atmosphere, almost melancholic. I almost mistook it for a song by Antimatter. Then it all kicks in again after a soft bridge and rumbling drums and industrial-esque riffs bring back the almost sad nature of the song and it's a pretty good closer for an otherwise just-above-average SS album. Who to recommend it to isn't that hard a choice; anyone who has ever liked Stone Sour will like it because it's just a little bit more of the same with some rather good tracks. Here's some blasphemy: I'd choose Audio Secrecy over The Panic Broadcast as an album to recommend and listen to.