If it weren't for Corey Taylor's wife, Scarlett, there might never have been a second Stone Sour album.
She didn't exactly encourage the Slipknot frontman to return to the studio with his side project — she just prevented him from doing himself in before the record was written.
"I tried to jump off the balcony of the eighth floor of the Hyatt on Sunset [Boulevard] on November 14, 2003," Taylor explained. "Somehow she stopped me. It wasn't the first time I tried to kill myself, either."
Back then, Taylor was a full-blown alcoholic. He drank from the moment he woke up to the second he blacked out, and while he says drinking didn't impair his ability to write, play and perform, it destroyed almost everything else in his life.
"I would disappear for long periods with no regard for my own safety or anyone else's," he said. "I wouldn't even know where I was until the next morning. I didn't care about myself, my family, anything. I'd just remember being at a bar, and then all of a sudden — nothing."
After Taylor's near-suicide, his wife gave him an ultimatum: either he sober up and become a dedicated husband and father, or she was taking their two kids and leaving. It wasn't the first time she'd made such a threat — but this time he knew she meant it, and for the first time in his life he felt the urge to change.
"I took a good, long look in the mirror and I hated what I saw," he said. "I was very bloated, I looked like crap. It wasn't me. And that was it. I haven't touched a drop since."
Stone Sour's new album, Come What(ever) May, which is due in August, is stocked with ruminations about Taylor's drinking days and confessions about his road to recovery. In "Socio," he sings, "Fear is in my heart/ Just when I stop, it starts/ And I can never live this way," and in the piano-washed "Zzyzx Rd," he softly croons, "I'm falling asleep and I can't see straight/ My muscles feel like a melee, body is curled in a U-shape."
"The first year I was sober was probably the worst year of my life," Taylor continued. "My immune system was screwed. I completely isolated myself. I was weak all the time. I didn't know who I was. Sometimes you define yourself by your vices, and I was known as the partyer. I was the guy that was always ready to go out and do shots. And all of a sudden, I had to figure out who I was without that, and it took me a long time. I pushed my wife away for a while and was a really selfish, cold d---."
It was only after Taylor stopped lamenting the loss of his former life that he realized being sober wasn't a creative limitation. Suddenly, he felt more alive, more motivated and far less cynical. "I came to the realization that I'm more interested in doing good than bad," he said. "I'm more interested in helping people. And that was a big step. Every day I just got stronger and, unfortunately, more honest. I just decided I was sick of pulling punches."
Positivity and self-belief color Come What(ever) May. Not only are the lyrics brighter, the music is strikingly melodic — especially for Taylor and guitarist Jim Root, two members of one of the world's angriest metal bands, Slipknot.
While Stone Sour's 2002 self-titled debut was catchy, the new one is even more melodic. The vocals are mostly sung, and the choruses are filled with classic-rock hooks polishing a rhythmic framework that alternately resembles Soundgarden, Helmet and Aerosmith. Fans can catch the band's revamped sound on this summer's Family Values Tour, which kicks off July 27 in Virginia Beach (see "Korn Resurrect Family Values Tour With Deftones, Stone Sour").
"Everything came out sounding above and beyond the first record, and I loved that record," Taylor said. "It's a bigger step away from Slipknot and more in the heart of why we do Stone Sour. Every song is different and yet each has continuity. These days everybody sounds like one-note wonders, and we're putting the diversity back in. There's nothing that says you can't have different songs and still be the same band, but most people are just too chickens--- to do it."
The first single, "30/30-150," which features drumming by Godsmack's Shannon Larkin, is one of the louder songs on the record. The verse is bludgeoning, barbed and heavy, and the refrain is soaring and triumphant, easing Slipknot fans into Stone Sour's less-turbulent world. "It's about never forgetting where you came from, who you are and why you do this," Taylor explained. "Everybody has a reason for what they do in life, especially if you love what you do. So this is just about the cement that holds those beliefs in place."
From there, Come What(ever) May becomes more accessible. For every thrash riff there's a tunefully grungy passage, for every flailing guitar line there's a rock-radio hook. To help achieve a commercial sheen for the record, Stone Sour hired Foo Fighters producer Nick Raskulinecz, who brought out the band's radio-friendly side without sapping its heaviness.
Even so, Stone Sour are bound to get flak from Slipknot fans.
"You know what?" said Taylor. "I don't give a f---. At the end of the day I'm totally proud of what we've done. The first time I heard this album mixed and everything I almost started crying. It was the first time in a long time that the music on record sounded close to the music I heard in my head. This album blows away the first one, and if nobody listens to it, I'll still listen to it, because it's awesome."