Hydrograd review by Stone Sour

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Jun 30, 2017
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 6.6 (54 votes)
Stone Sour: Hydrograd
1

Sound — 7
Right now, one of the biggest stories in rock music is the feud between Chad Kroeger of Nickelback and Stone Sour/Slipknot's Corey Taylor. Both have new albums that have just been released, and both kind of fill that "mainstream hard rock" top spot, both being regarded as highly influential within the genre. But one of the things that was quite intriguing about the feud was Chad calling Stone Sour's music "Nickelback Lite". Never mind that for the most part, Stone Sour's music is far heavier, but of the two bands, it's seemed that Stone Sour was the more likely of the two bands to experiment, with their last two releases being two halves of the "House of Gold & Bones" concept album cycle. While Stone Sour's biggest hits, "Bother" and "Through Glass", may suggest a sound more in direct competition with Nickelback, other hits like "30/30-150" have proven to be quite important metal hits. Some preliminary opinions based on early listens to the record have seemed to have some fans worrying that the album would be "Nickelback Lite", as Chad has claimed.

While the album is far less experimental lyrically and thematically than "House of Gold & Bones" and not quite as heavy as "Come What(ever) May", there are still a fair number of chunky, heavy riffs spread throughout the album. With the intro, "YSIF", leading into "Taipei Person/Allah Tea", the album gives us a riffy, heavy start, with Corey Taylor's harsher vocal style taking front and center, but surprising us with an uplifting melody in the chorus. Fans of Corey's work with Slipknot will no doubt be happy with his vocals here. Josh Rand's and newcomer Christian Martucci's guitar playing is thick and heavy as you'd expect, and both take a fair number of solos throughout the album. Replacing Jim Root, who left the band in 2014, Martucci does a great job stepping in, though I still prefer Root's soloing style. Drummer Roy Mayorga also gets some pretty incredible fills on the song.

The other songs on the album mostly stick close to the formula, heavy riffs, rocking grooves, huge choruses, ripping solos, and bursts of Taylor's vocal aggression. "Knievel Has Landed" boasts an incredible chorus hook, and some grooving bass from Johny Chow. The album's title track is a bit more of a mid-tempo rocker, with some creepy lead guitar hooks. "Song #3" (which, aptly, is the fifth song on the record), seems to be a fair attempt to write a radio-friendly rocker that still has some integrity and credibility to it, and I find this song to be a highlight on the album. "Fabuless", despite its title, is chock full of fabu. Okay, that made no sense, but the album's first single also boasts an incredible chorus and some big Corey shouts, though perhaps the way each line of the chorus ends with "motherfucker!" is a bit too late-'90s nu-metal. "The Witness Trees" seems to evoke 90s-era Rush mixed with more recent Dir en grey in its guitar lines at times, and is a much more melodic song than many of the others on the album. The album seems to get into a bit more of a melodic frame of mind at this point on the album, with the next song "Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song is Dumb & So Am I)" seems a bit more musically adventurous mixing a sort of dark, gothic atmosphere with some good ol' classic rock riffage.

YouTube preview picture
"Thank God It's Over" almost gets into '80s hard rock territory, sounding influenced more by Guns N' Roses and Motley Crue than Alice in Chains and Metallica. The album takes a big departure with the country-rock ballad "St. Marie", which features some great authentic pedal steel guitar (played by Joel Martin), and it's actually a rather pleasant-sounding tune, though perhaps a bit out of place among the much heavier tracks on the album. "Mercy" brings us right back to the formula of the rest of the songs on the album, as does the much heavier "Whiplash Pants", though that one does begin with a nice, creepy piano intro. "Friday Knights" starts with some really great, doomy guitar, and at times almost feels like it could have easily fit on Slipknot's "Vol. 3" with its darker, slower vibe. "Somebody Stole My Eyes" picks up the pace quite significantly, being one of the faster tunes on the album, and a definite headbanger all the way through, one of my favourite heavier tracks on the album. Closing out the record is the lengthy, moody "When the Fever Broke", that, like "St. Marie", showcases a much more mellow side of the band, but in a much different way, with its heavier emphasis on synths and swelling distorted guitars.

Production-wise, Jay Ruston has done a pretty excellent job, having mixed the band's "House of Gold & Bones" records, moving to the producer's chair. The mix is quite loud, but it's not a bad mix, either. The writing is decent on the album, though one of the biggest issues I have with the record overall is the monotony of it. While the band does throw a couple of curveballs like "St. Marie" and "When the Fever Broke", most of the album's 15 tracks are just so similar in composition and tone that it can be quite difficult to get through the album in one sitting without getting bored. That said, the songs, as individual tracks, are quite excellent. The album does have a tendency to get a bit overly long, but listening to chunks of it at a time reveals it to be much better.

Lyrics — 9
"But what does Corey Taylor think?" may well be one of the single most-asked questions to appear on Ultimate-Guitar, and Corey's opinion on things may well be a meme unto itself at this point. But those genuinely looking for the answer to that question generally need to go no further than checking out the lyrics to any song by either of his main projects, and on "Hydrograd", Corey doesn't do well to keep his opinions to himself. Lashing out at social media on "Fabuless", for example, Corey makes it quite clear he's not a fan of internet and reality TV celebrities who are famous for pretty much nothing: "Your beast is just a burden that you never keep in line/This fabuless is really less, gets 'em every time/You roll your eyes for money, don't act like you're impressed/You spread your legs for TV time, baby, who fucks you best". This anger is also present on "Taipei Person/Allah Tea", which presents itself as a more nihilistic theme: "Well you can only scream your heart over and over for so long/Before you know it, you’re gonna lose your fucking mind/So don’t love, don’t hate- everybody’s dying baby I feel great/I’m running out of road but I’m still doing 75".

Corey does show a bit of a sensitive side at times on the album as well, with "Song #3" being about "a passionate, undying love with an unknown outcome": "If you take a step towards me/You will take my breath away/So I'll keep you close/And keep my secret safe/No one else has ever loved me/No one else has ever tried/I never understood/How much I could take/Then I saw the worst was over/When I laid my eyes on you/It was all that I could do to know my place". Corey's vocals are soaring and epic as ever on this album, with a lot of the huge melodies in the choruses showcasing the fact that his voice has become no less powerful over the years. And when the album does take a breather episode, like in the country-rock "St. Marie", Corey shows a surprising amount of versatility and vulnerability, with his voice still fitting in with the music perfectly. Say what you will about "Hydrograd", but Corey Taylor is still one of the greatest vocalists in metal at the moment, and his work on this album only serves to reinforce this. Even his use of harsher vocal elements that one would associate more with Slipknot is still remarkably on-point here on this record.

Overall Impression — 7
So while this current Nickelback/Stone Sour feud is still rather fresh and hardly put to rest yet, the one takeaway a lot of folks had from it was whether Stone Sour would really come off sounding like "Nickelback Lite". And the answer to that is rather simple: no, it isn't. While "Feed The Machine" did have its fair share of heavier moments, it's as heavy as a feather compared to many of the tracks on "Hydrograd". The musicianship between the two bands is also greatly tilted in Stone Sour's favour, with the guitar playing of Christian Martucci and Josh Rand being a far step above Chad Kroeger's and Ryan Peake's.

Compared to other Stone Sour releases, it's pretty much average. The band has not really expanded too much on its formula, and have pretty much stuck to their guns on this record. There's a little bit more classic rock pandering at times, and "St. Marie's" country-rock influence is a bit of a curveball, but if you're a Stone Sour fan, there's little else I can see turning you off from this record. Jim Root's departure does mean some of the soloing is not quite the same as it used to be, but this is hardly an issue, as Martucci's playing is still great.

The biggest issues with this album are really down to its length and monotony. Where Nickelback does have the advantage in this one is that "Feed The Machine" is a bit more diverse of a record, with more ballads, more different tempos and moods, and a bit of funk/pop influence where this album mostly just sticks to alternative metal/hard rock the whole way through, and with 15 songs and over an hour of music, it does have a tendency to drag on quite a bit once you get past the halfway point.

Overall, though, this is a solid record, and far from being the "Nickelback Lite" some have accused it of being. Sorry Chad, but I think we gotta hand this one to Stone Sour. I wonder what Corey Taylor will think of that?

YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture
YouTube preview picture

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    N-D
    Hah, I just looked at the cover in high resolution - it's full of randomly placed phrases and sentences in Russian (it seems all of them are taken from different Soviet Union-period books and newspapers) - but there are two phrases on the cover that seem to be placed purposefully (they're in very broken Russian by the way ) - "Hello skunks" at the bottom and "You fully suck". Still don't understand what Corey means
    travislausch
    When I was writing this review, I was trying to figure out just what the fuck "Hydrograd" even means. I know it suggests that it's a Russian city/town, but it's a made-up one, I guess. Oh well.
    Helldevil88
    I read an interview somewhere were Corey said that when he was in Russia a few years back at a airport he thought that he saw the city "Hydrograd" on a screen. At the second glance he realised his mind tricked him still he liked this name/city/whatever so much that in the end it became the title of the record/song.
    messer900
    I'm from Russia. There is no city named as Hydrograd in Russia May be it is a link to the USSR period and StalinGRAD for example. 
    MurphySanders7
    Sounds Just like nickelback to me
    travislausch
    I've never heard Nickelback use Corey Taylor's vocal style. Not even once. I can kind of understand with the instrumental stuff, it's mostly pretty generic as far as metal goes, but Josh and Tooch are far, far more incredible guitarists than the guys from Nickelback could ever hope to be. Still, I can hear where people may find some similarities.
    Starkiller83
    Corey has the most BORING unrelatable lyrics. and I'm still trying to see why all the hype he gets. Very minimal. Great Vocalist, but so unoriginal. Not like Nickleback is, but I mean hey, whos gonna be on the radio for years to come? Its gonna be nickleback whos cemented a longer lasting legacy. Taylor can name call he likes, but who really won the war? The household name or stone sour whom is only recognized by the metal community. 
    travislausch
    I'm still struggling to understand how popularity = goodness. Sure, Nickelback is popular. But so is Nicki Minaj. And one would argue that she has very little credibility as an artist.  Nickelback is going to be on the radio forever, but at the end of the day, I'd rather listen to Stone Sour, full stop.
    copperwreck
    He's not saying popularity = goodness, we all know that is not true, but it does seem that longevity ~= goodness. The bands that sell out arenas for 20 years surely do have some quality to their music. And I don't listen to either band - not sure why I even read this...
    Starkiller83
    Hahaha! Uh Oh! It seems I've angered the Captain of the Slipknot kids. Look dude, I'm not exactly a fan of either party, but, your ideology is uhh..well.. Stupid. Does Nicky Minaj play on alternative, rock, and classic rock radio? I'm struggling to see any glimpse of logic. Again, Nickleback wins the war. Maybe Ultimate-guitar should get non biased folk to write reviews. I hear too much Sodium is bad for you, maybe get off Corey's dick??? Full Stop.
    Starkiller83
    I often have the arguments with my friends that the Metal Community is basically retarded. "You don't like the same band as me??? What??? My band is better! Because I'd rather listen to them" Popular music is garbage. ....Like really? Throw me an educated response. Please. Being bitter because another band out sells your fav is plain ol immature as the age old come back " Id rather listen to GOOD music". Yeah, cause any one of us would really turn down an opportunity to play for Nickleback, Foo fighters or any the generic radio bands.
    travislausch
    I just don't see how one can not see the logic in "popularity does not automatically equal greatness". There are lots of terrible, terrible things that see huge amounts of popularity. I was pointing this out as you seem to be under the impression that just because Nickelback sells more records that their music is more preferred. It's more easily marketable, for sure, but so is McDonalds' cheap fast food, and it'll probably kill you if that's all you eat.  And you seem very angry about this, assuming I hate Nickelback or something. I prefer this album to "Feed The Machine", but if you read my review of that album, you'll see I actually gave it quite a fair amount of praise. In fact, I even praise it in this review as being far more diverse, musically, than "Hydrograd". Would kill for an opportunity to open for any of these bands, if given the chance. 
    Starkiller83
    I wouldn't say angry. I work as a carpenter and fairly for the most part, I work alone. My passion for life is everything music. I also love to debate and argue. All tonality is lost over a screen unfornately. So working alone all day, I've thought about this primarily alot haha! Why does ultimate guitar hype Corey Taylor up so much? There's literally thousands of hardworking fresh younger faces who could truly use the exposure. What irked me initaly, was, using a reference like Nicky Minaj. Shes Hip Hop. Isn't that sorta like apples to oranges?? Had you tossed out some lame as shit band like... I dunno Simple Plan ( top of my head ). 
    travislausch
    "Why does ultimate guitar hype Corey Taylor up so much?" Honestly, I think it's because his whole schtick about his opinion is kind of a joke that's perpetuated by the user base. Hell, I couldn't even resist poking fun at it at the end of the review. But I don't consider this review to be a part of that. It's a new album by a popular band that warrants having a review of it made, and I offered to do it because I like to think I give every album I review the fairest shake possible, and the Nickelback/Stone Sour feud was just the icing on the cake that made comparing the two albums fairly all the more enticing.  "What irked me initaly, was, using a reference like Nicky Minaj. Shes Hip Hop. Isn't that sorta like apples to oranges??" Honestly, it was the first example of a sort of banal, bland, middle-of-the-road popular artist I could think of off the top of my head. And, for real, I might be wrong and her music might be high art and I just don't know it (doubt it, though). I think it's down to the idea of popularity being equal to greatness that I've just never understood. Like you said, there are a lot of great artists that could use exposure, but they're probably not going to get it because of how popular so many other artists are, and how much exposure they get. I wish for a day where bands like Dream Theater and the Devin Townsend Project are legitimate household names, but I understand that popularity isn't down to simply what I like. Nickelback are waaaaay more popular, sometimes more than I think they deserve to be. 
    travislausch
    And sorry if this comment is kind of rambling. It's evening here in Ontario and I've been up since 6am. I don't even know what the fuck I'm saying sometimes
    travislausch
    Says the guy who prefers "household names". Also, you'll note I gave Nickelback a pretty similar review. I think you're seeing bias where there is none.
    Starkiller83
    Atleast back your comments up dude. I'll take back the bias comment, that was out context, with no facts to show.
    Starkiller83
    Where did I EVER say I prefered house hold bands?? I'm currently listening to Anciients. Have you even heard of them? Their Debut album crushes ANYTHING corey could ever write.
    travislausch
    Though I'm not too sure about Anciients' sludge elements. I've never quite jived well with sludge, but I am a Mastodon fan and they mix prog and sludge quite well, so yeah, I'm thinking I might dig Anciients.
    Starkiller83
    Hardly sludgy at all man, Think if Tool and mastoson had a baby!
    travislausch
    Kind of makes me think of Soen and Vangough, then. If you haven't checked either of those two bands out, I'll give 'em a solid recommendation.
    travislausch
    It was inferred from this: "Its gonna be nickleback whos cemented a longer lasting legacy. Taylor can name call he likes, but who really won the war? The household name or stone sour whom is only recognized by the metal community." They "win" because they're a "household name".  They win, for me, personally, because on a musical and vocal talent level, they offer something Nickelback doesn't. Especially the guitar solos, which is something I'm a big fan of hearing in any band's albums. And I've heard of Anciients. Haven't checked out their stuff yet, but they're very much on my radar, being a Canadian progressive metal band and all, and I've been thinking of giving their most recent album a spin.
    Starkiller83
    See, now I agree with you, whole heartedly on everything you just said in the last comment. And do yourself a Favor and right now listen to Serpents by Anciients. 
    Starkiller83
    And I will Apologize for calling you Stupid. That wasn't very cool. Sometimes I blurt out things I shouldn't say/nor mean.
    travislausch
    It's all good. I take a lot of pride in my work for UG, so I do have a tendency to defend it pretty vigorously. 
    danatos
    1/10! Uninspired stuff. I don't like Nickelback but they are better than this . Such a boring album..
    GenerationKILL
    I've always said Corey Taylor is one of my favourite metal vocalists because his voice has so much emotion in it. Unlike a lot of more extreme metal singers who sound interchangeable or even monotonous in their delivery Corey truly stands out because of how he can convey his feelings and dynamic in either Slipknot or Stone Sour songs. In other words, when he's screaming mad you can tell he's really mad in his music. Chad Foot-face on the other hand just sounds boring and generic in his vocal delivery. I don't even know how anyone could possibly even compare the two. Corey's delivery is way more powerful, Chad just sounds generic and boring. 
    travislausch
    Honestly, that's why there's a bigger gap between the scores in the lyrics section and the other two. Even if the backing music is a tad generic at times, Corey's vocal performance is one of the best in the genre, hands down.
    DaniArrow
    I thought the album was good, but it has nothing on the first three. Especially compared to Come What(ever) May this is elevator background music...