I popped this album in today and gave it a full listen, and I have to tell you, this album is absolutely killer.

First off, the album opens with the pulsing tag team of "Gone Sovereign" and "Absolute Zero", which are the two lead singles off the record. Instrumentation are top notch on these songs, so after the first listen, I knew this album had some spunk.

"A Rumor of Skin" takes more of a heavy groove, and heavy is the key word. Dark, sonorous tones flow smoothly with percussive crashes to close out the third track.

"The Travelers, Pt. 1" is a chance to exhale after holding your breath for the first twelve minutes. The track is a little softer, but that's where the concept of the story that the album showcases really begins to show some color. The artistry begins to flow with sounds of strings and an easier voice by Corey Taylor.

A crescendo of strings lead into the fifth track "Tired" which opens a bit more momentous. "Tired" really complements the first "Travelers" as the album's concept continues to bleed out.

"RU486" brings the pulse back, with a pounding anthem of a chorus. Angry and emotive vocals are laid on a bed of brutal riffing and swift percussion. "RU486" is one of the highlights in the plot of the story overall.

"My Name Is Allen" really begins to bring the story together, as Allen is the 'evil twin' of the protagonist in the concept's plot. The track is crunchy and vibrant, not providing a letup from the album's momentum so far.

"Taciturn" then slows things way down, contrasting the quick pace with a slower, more sensitive side that we're all familiar with from Stone Sour. Don't let that shy you away, though; the track definitely has its place on this album and provides proof of Taylor's vocal talent.

"Influence of a Drowsy God" is yet another crisp groove that doesn't disappoint, which is an overall trait of this album; the album simply doesn't disappoint. This ninth track draws more from the story yet again, providing hints of climatic tones, as the album climbs to its apex.

"The Travelers, Pt. 2" is basically a reprise of the first "Travelers" and "Tired", which brings the first part of the story just about full circle. The reprise is heavier, a little more momentous, and ultimately leads nicely into the closing track.

"Last of the Real" is one of the heaviest closing songs I've heard in awhile, which hints to me that listeners are now on the hinges of the story's climax, the apex, a cliffhanger that will surely drive smoothly into the second part of the story on the next album.

The bottom line here is that Stone Sour has brought in a creative concept, yet still made the music heavy and catchy enough to deviate from just the story that the band is presenting.

Overall, the album is top notch, and easily one of the best albums on the shelves this year. The album blends the artistry and songwriting ability of the band with infectious choruses and downright nasty riffs, ultimately showcasing a brazen display of talent and power. Instrumentation, lyrics, and overall presentation lifts the bar for the second album that much higher. I know I'm surely looking forward to it.

Pick up a copy of this album as soon as possible.