We Compared The New Nickelback And Stone Sour Albums To See Who Sucks The Most
It's time to settle this fight.
You may not keep up with the world of butt-rock, but aren’t you lucky that you have a friend like me who does?
While the rest of the world has been preoccupied with what will happen next in the Jay-Z/Kanye saga, two former Roadrunner Records label-mates have been having their own war of words. It began with Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, who teed off on Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor over what Kroeger described as some “really nasty” things Taylor had said about the ‘Back behind his back.
“He talks about how easy it is to write a hit song,” said Kroeger. “Well, show me. Show me. Write one. I have yet to hear one. They’re okay. But they’re not as good as Nickelback. They sound like ‘Nickelback-Lite’.”
Taylor responded a few days later in a way that can only really be described as on-brand. “He’s an idiot,” he said in an interview with 98KUPD Radio. “I don’t know what planet he’s on… curl up in bed with your Hello Kitty pillow and shut up.”
If that wasn’t enough, he also served up another zinger in a later interview by saying “Chad Kroeger is to rock what KFC is to chicken.”
Some may make like Ben Folds Five and declare this the Battle Of Who Could Care Less, but fans on both sides (yes, believe it or not, there’s fans on both sides) have been unstoppable in their Twitter sledges and Facebook arguments. It’s time to settle this the old-fashioned way.
It’s been said that you’re as good as your last hit – and, as luck would have it, both Nickelback and Stone Sour have brand-new albums out, released within weeks of one another. Has Corey Taylor learned how to write a hit? Or is Chad’s KFC brand of rock just that much crispier? Let’s get it on.
In The Blue Corner: Nickelback – Feed The Machine
Chad (vocals, guitar) and Mike (bass) Kroeger, as well as lead guitarist/backing vocalist Ryan Peake, are all founding members of the band. Drummer Daniel Adair joined the band in 2005, their fourth drummer overall, and has played on every Nickelback album since.
The band themselves had a hand in producing Feed the Machine, their ninth LP overall, and were joined in the studio by Chris Baseford. Baseford worked with the band previously on their last album, 2014’s No Fixed Address; and has also worked on albums by Tommy Lee, Rob Zombie and even Kroeger’s ex-wife, Avril Lavigne.
The album’s title track was dropped at the start of February, and even those that had dismissed the band years ago were paying attention. The infectious drop-C riff, the massive chorus and the overarching heavier influences had many listeners stunned – including triple j’s Lochlan Watt, who played ‘Feed the Machine’ on The Racket and noted on Twitter: “The year is 2017, and Nickelback is releasing heavier and better singles than Suicide Silence.”
Nickelback obviously had a lot riding on Feed the Machine: it’s the title track, the lead single and the opener. It sets the bar incredibly high for what’s to come – and, although the record as an entity never quite reaches the same heights, it still gives one a chance to properly reconsider Nickelback some 15 years after they first achieved global stardom.
Here’s where things get a bit confusing. The final track on Feed the Machine is a two-and-a-half minute instrumental entitled ‘The Betrayal (Act I)’. Three tracks prior, we had heard ‘The Betrayal (Act III),’ which happens to be one of the best songs on the album. As for ‘The Betrayal (Act II)’? IT DOESN’T EXIST. Seriously. It’s nowhere to be seen. It’s also very confusing to have what is ostensibly an interlude track close out your album, so points definitely come off for that.
It seems when Nickelback put all of their focus in on the big-truckin’ heavy side of things, they come through with the goods in a way that we haven’t seen in years. There’s also songs like ‘Must Be Nice,’ which prove that they don’t take themselves as seriously as many believe they do.
If you don’t believe that, take a quick once-over of the lyrics – it’s one of the most hilariously ridiculous things you’re going to read all year. Away from that, the aforementioned title track is still a huge listen; and even the middling ballad ‘Song on Fire’ grows on you. ‘The Betrayal (Act III),’ as discussed, also serves as a surprisingly-heavy and entertaining spin.
Feed the Machine is a very slickly-produced hard rock record. “No shit,” you say. “It’s a Nickelback album.” Sure, but that doesn’t mean there’s no style to be found within the substance. Although far from perfect – or even close quality-wise to any of the first three albums by the band – it’s still far better than perhaps anyone was willing to give it credit for.
Kroeger and Peake still know how to intertwine their vocal ideas with eerily-close harmony, they’re shit-hot guitar players when they actually jam on something they care about and there’s at least a couple of songs here that are as catchy and head-sticking as anything on radio now ending in “feat. Quavo” or “feat. Justin Bieber.”
In The Red Corner: Stone Sour – Hydrograd
Corey Taylor is the only original member of the band from its original incarnation from 1992 to 1997. Drummer Joel Ekman, guitarist Jim Root (also of Slipknot) and bassist Shawn Economaki made themselves scarce in 2006, 2013 and 2011 respectively.
Newer members have arrived in recent years, joining long-serving guitarist Josh Rand, with the line-up cemented from 2013 onwards: Roy Mayorga on drums, Johny Chow on bass and Christian Martucci on guitar. Hydrograd is the first Stone Sour album to feature this version of the line-up.
Jay Ruston is on the job here, who mixed the band’s two-parter The House of Gold and Bones released in 2012 and 2013, respectively. With credits to his name like Steel Panther, Anthrax and The Donnas to his name, you just know Ruston is the type to non-ironically throw up the metal horns every time a camera is pointed his way.
‘Fabuless’ arrived back in April, complete with a pretty funny piss-take music video which starts off as a typical performance video… only to reveal that the packed-out audience is actually made up entirely of wacky inflatable arm-flailing tubemen.
When the tables turn and the tubemen become the band itself, Taylor and co. switch out to the audience – in which Taylor, credit to him, takes the piss out of the time he slapped a phone right out of the hand of a kid in the front row of a Slipknot show. You might notice this paragraph is more about the video than the song.
Truth be told, the song is… fine. It’s a very rock-radio-friendly, slick Stone Sour song. It’s easy to learn the hook, it’s easy to nod along to. It’s fine. Things aren’t offensively bad here… not yet, at least.
‘YSIF.’ Which stands for “You Suck In Full.” It’s an in-joke, maybe? Whatever the case, it’s a pompous and overblown instrumental opener. Its intention may have been to serve as an overture of some description, but it really doesn’t fit in here and puts you off wanting to listen further. Still, you persist for whatever reason. Hey, there might be a ‘Through Glass’ on here somewhere, right? Right?
By the time ‘When the Fever Broke’ rolls around, you’ve been with Hydrograd for over an hour – for a standard edition of an album, that’s a stretch of the friendship at the very best of times.
That’s part of the reason why ‘Fever’ is such a frustrating listen within the context of the album – it’s not a burn-out, it’s a fade away. At six-and-a-half minutes, it’s the longest song on the album by a considerable margin – and it’s also one of the slowest. It’s a perfectly-capable vocal from Taylor, but the atmospheric dirge really just makes one want to have the record over and done with.
Across 15 tracks and 65 minutes, there’s surprisingly little to keep one invested through the entire runtime.
Sometimes, albums will have fully-formed ideas but the songs themselves will sound like demos. Here, it’s the opposite – the aesthetic and the sound Stone Sour are going for is completely there, but outside of the choruses the songs feel hollow and indecisive.
Some of the best hooks Taylor has ever sung are here on this record – the “we all know-woah-woah,” in ‘Friday Knights,’ the “it’s all downhill from here” on ‘Fabuless’ – but even at gunpoint, you’ll struggle to recall even half of a verse melody.
It’s very much become the Corey Taylor show this time around. Sure, you could argue that it was always that, but at least there was a semblance of identity that came with having original members in the fold. This troupe of ring-ins has really muddied Stone Sour into plodding, generic territory – more so than ever before.
Apparently, from the outset the band were aiming for more of a hard-rock record than the alt-metal they’ve done in the past, and fair enough – no-one would want them to make the same records over and over. What may have happened here, however, is that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. The ideas are half-baked, the production is too glossy and neither the band’s bark or bite is nearly as threatening as it used to be.
And The Judge’s Decision Is…
Neither Feed the Machine nor Hydrograd is anywhere near career best material for either Kroeger or Taylor.
With that being said: As far as redeeming features, replay value and new ideas are concerned, Nickelback take this one out easily. Nickelback may be the KFC of rock, but who doesn’t enjoy chowing down on a Wicked Wing every now and then? You’re not going into it expecting something gourmet – it’s just something cheap and greasy, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Stone Sour, on the other hand, are probably closer to the Monster Energy Drink of rock – lots of fizz, primarily chugged by dudes that would have bullied you in high school and with precious little substance once that initial crack of the cold one has passed.
David James Young never made it as a wise man. He couldn’t cut it as a poor man stealing. These days, he writes about music for a bunch of places and tweets at @DJYwrites.