Most of the time, side projects by members of a band are either exercises in pure vanity that only reveal the artist's own shortcomings outside the group he or she is part of. In other instances, the side project is so outside the realm of music previously offered by the artist that fans find it nearly unrecognizable and often insincere. It's rare that a musician offers up another venue for their talents that proves to be equal to their fulltime outfit.Such is the case with STONE SOUR. Formed by SLIPKNOT singer Corey Taylor, the band (which also features SLIPKNOT guitarist Jim Root) is actually a resurrection of an act that Taylor was in before donning his infamous mask and putting Des Moines, Iowa, squarely on the metal map. But Taylor's return to his roots is anything but a half-baked nostalgia trip. STONE SOUR's debut album is not only a solid, crunching slab of metal that holds its own admirably in terms of heaviness and power, but also displays a emotional, musical, and — in the case of Taylor — vocal range that goes far afield of SLIPKNOT's apocalyptic wall of noise. The best example of this — as well as the disc's most affecting and melodic track — is "Bother", originally heard on the Spider-Man soundtrack (where it was simply billed to "Corey Taylor"). A sparse ballad, backed by strings and a simple, lonely guitar, the track may come as a complete shock to SLIPKNOT fans when they hear Taylor's melancholic vocal for the first time. Yet the song's despair is not completely unrelated to the 'KNOT's often nihilistic lyrical worldview — it's just presented in an utterly different musical vein that is both valid and haunting. Elsewhere, the album finds itself on more familiar metal territory, as Root and fellow guitarist Josh Rand slice off one demonic riff after another. "Get Inside", "Blotter", and "Idle Hands" are all sinister, groove-oriented metal gems that refreshingly stay away from nu metal cliches. Yet they all offer up a more traditional structure and sense of melody that SLIPKNOT often eschews. But while "Bother", "Take A Number", and perhaps one or two others veer into even more accessible territory, this is still a full-on metal album that fans of the 'Knot shouldn't be embarrassed to own. Without sacrificing an ounce of integrity, Stone Sour proves that there is far more to the men behind the masks than many might have thought.
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