Since the future of SLIPKNOT hangs in the balance, Corey Taylor and Jim Root fans are going to have to turn to the duo's lighter side to feed their jones for the time being. While the last two STONE SOUR albums would have caused yours truly to throw in the towel on Taylor, "Audio Secrecy" has successfully changed my opinion on the band. The time spent since 2006's "Come What(ever) May" have seen them evolve into a more focused and driven group of musicians.The music on "Audio Secrecy" is every bit as accessible as the tunes STONE SOUR have given us in the past, but this batch has definite edge over the band's previous cuts. First off, one needs to dispel any thoughts of STONE SOUR being a watered-down and radio-friendly little cousin to SLIPKNOT, as this album carries enough weight to shed the final layers of side-project skin. The heavy songs are heavier, the ballads are more emotional (and way less sappy than the likes of "Bother") and the album as a whole is, simply put, a mature, diverse and well-written affair. Boasting fourteen tracks, you've got to expect some filler tossed into the mix. The acoustic "Imperfect" and the poppy "Hesitate" take that honor. Neither tunes are downright horrible, but the album would have done just fine without them. A bit of somber piano on the brief title track gets this party started on an ominous note, but shit picks up when "Mission Statement" roars into existence. Root and fellow guitarist Josh Rand skirt the boundaries of modern thrash with an array of powerful, though slightly predictable riffs. Taylor does well to distance himself from SLIPKNOT by passing up the opportunity to scream his head off during this tune's more aggressive moments and comes across as a more creative vocalist for doing so. Keeping the fires burning hot, "Digital" picks up where "Mission Statement" left off in terms of aggressive riffing. Toss in a cool little section of harmonized soloing and you've got an album that's off to a pretty damn good start. Drummer Ray Mayorga adds an extra dose of energy to the otherwise subtle verse on "Say You'll Haunt Me", but everyone gets on the same page when the songs picks up the pace during the energetic chorus. Straight-foward rockers "Let's Be Honest" and "Unfinished" fit nicely alongside the funk-tinged groove of "Nylon" and '80s power ballad-vibed "Dying". Add a bit of blues rock courtesy of "Miracles" and arena metal ("The Bitter End") and you've got a very well-balanced album. Though a good portion is spent locked in a verse-chorus-verse pattern, closer "Threadbare" a small taste of the darkness SLIPKNOT fans heard on "Iowa". Note that I said a small taste. Still a cool tune nonetheless. STONE SOUR comes far from breaking any radio rock molds on "Audio Secrecy" and the album very much follows the band's pattern of writing music meant for the masses, but they've managed to add ample amounts of creativity and power into their modus operandi. With all the crap that's littering the FM dial and packing arenas right now, it's refreshing to know that there are at least a few nuggets of gold out there. This is one of those nuggets.
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