When a band releases a cover record it isn’t uncommon to feel disappointed, as, in most cases, you’d rather they concentrated on new material. However, if they are going to release covers, perhaps an EP is the best medium for it, instead of a whole album. It just so happens that Stone Sour agree with me, releasing Meanwhile in Burbank last week, which is a selection of five covers that represent the band’s influences.
Whilst there is nothing too surprising, there are some pretty brave song choices on show. The EP begins with a rendition of Alice in Chains’ We Die Young and closes with covers of Metallica and Black Sabbath. And if that wasn’t enough the middle two songs were originally performed by Kiss and Judas Priest. A lot could go wrong here!
Thankfully though, it doesn’t.
Corey Taylor does a good job channeling his inner Layne Staley on We Die Young – a style he used briefly on Stone Sour’s self-titled debut, but has since gone missing. However, Taylor doesn’t stick with the grunge vocals throughout, opting instead to let his impressive vocal style shine. Likewise new guitarist Christian Martucci (who controversially replaced Jim Root last year), alongside founding member Josh Rand, get the chance to show off their new partnership with beefy chugging and streamlined solos.
Taylor also does his best to imitate Rob Halford on Heading Out To The Highway, but even Stone Sour can’t make the average fifth chord riffing and mid-tempo head-nodding of Judas Priest exciting. The same can’t be said about the cover of Kiss’ Love Gun, which has enough octane injected into it, to make it seem like the band actually wants to perform it, rather than simply play along to the original.
However, it’s the closing two songs that are the most memorable.
Metallica’s Creeping Death is given back all the energy, that the early-80s production took out of the original (sorry early-Metallica fans). Thankfully Taylor doesn’t try to match James Hetfield grunt for grunt, instead he takes the lyrics into his own style, ripping through the “die, die, die” bridge, making the song sound like it belongs to their own discography. However, the most impressive detail of the track is the way Martucci keeps up with the shredding of Kirk Hammett, whilst still showing off some of his own individual style.
Finally we get to a cover of Black Sabbath’s Children of the Grave, which apart from sounding fresh and heavier than it ever has, really let’s the musicality of the group shine. The bass is not mechanical, but has a twang and looseness about it, which is matched by the excellent drumming from Roy Mayorga. Both Rand and Martucci show that no guitarist’s boots are too big to fill and Taylor once again elevates the vocals, keeping their integrity, whilst pushing his own technique.
The only criticism that I have, is that the song choices are very predictable, so much so that it begins to sound like a classic rock radio playlist. I don’t have any particular quandaries with the artist choices, afterall, they are the band’s influences. However, why not pick an obscure track – surely their favourite songs are not solely from the greatest hits? I know mine aren’t! Stone Sour have a further two cover EPs planned for the future, on which it would be nice to hear something a little different – perhaps something that makes me say “Wow, I’ve never heard that played before”.
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