I have to wonder how many mentions there will be of Chris Jericho’s latest WWE run in reviews for this album. The charismatic wrestler’s latest stint in the squared circle was one of the best of his career, giving birth to some truly memorable quotes. I’d fully expect references to ‘the list’, ‘stupid idiots’, ‘…it!’, as well as the phrase ‘you know what happens when’, to be shoehorned in to several write ups of Judas, and I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to resist the temptation myself. There’s no denying that Jericho’s other career adds a level of intrigue to Fozzy. Some likely see the group as a novelty, and perhaps they were in their early days as a cover group, but since 2005’s All That Remains, they’ve put out a lot of great original material, touring feverishly when Jericho’s schedule permits. With his trunks currently hung up in favour of a mic, Fozzy are ready to roll once again with what will be their seventh album, and fifth of all self penned songs (2014’s Abba cover aside).
I can’t claim to be a hardcore Fozzy fan, so I’m unsure how Do You Wanna Start a War was received three years ago, but from memory I found it to be quite a good album, seeing the band make that all too difficult shift into a more commercial direction whilst still retaining their core identity. Judas does see the heaviness cranked up a notch, but the riffs themselves have taken a hit, owing more to simplistic nu metal grooves (not entirely unsurprising given Rich Ward’s past with Stuck Mojo) than the heavy metal that Fozzy primarily built their original material on. There’s also a prevalent industrial influence, with Frank Fontsere’s bouncy rhythms and beats giving several songs a danceable quality (“Weight of My World” and “Burn Me Out” being notable examples). At times it almost feels like an early ’00s throwback, a vibe compounded by some well integrated rap vocals on the chorus of “Three Days in Jail”, a decent nu metal cut with a simple, heavy riff and a sense of danger in the melody. Late album highlight “Capsized” has a huge, Korn like riff to open (think “Beg for Me”), whilst the basic, mid tempo groove of “Painless” also sits comfortably in alt metal territory. Fozzy don’t forget their roots though, with the quasi thrash of “Wolves at Bay”, the stuttering charge of “Running with the Bulls” and the looser, rocking edge of “Drinkin with Jesus” sure to please the traditionalists in the fan base.
I made previous reference to Jericho’s standing in the entertainment world as a factor in Fozzy’s appeal, as, truth be told, his voice is average at best. He layers his vocals and uses effects to overcome this shortcoming, but it leaves most of his performance sounding synthetic, which is likely to put some listeners off. What he lacks in technical ability though, he makes up for in his ability to write vocal melodies, ’cause I’ll be damned if the guy can’t pen a great hook. The album is absolutely loaded with massive, memorable choruses that’ll stubbornly stick in your skull. It does feel like a chorus centric record, and that is to the detriment of a few songs which just seem to tread water until the big refrain, but more often than not, Fozzy get the dynamics right, with tracks ebbing, flowing and building well to a crescendo. This is none more apparent than on the title track, already making waves as a modern Fozzy classic, which is expertly placed as track number one to draw you in with with it’s sublime quality.
Judas is a listenable record that sees Fozzy take another commendable risk without straying too far from their roots. Industrial elements are incorporated in a fashion that feels natural, and whilst the stripping down of riffs may upset a few purists, it at least offers something a little bit different, and it’s not detrimental to much of the material as a whole. It’s not going to topple Chasing the Grail as Fozzy’s crowning achievement, but Judas offers a refreshing spin on their formula, ans hosts a number of tracks that’ll surely go down as fan favourites as the years roll by.
Highlights: “Judas”, “Painless”, “Capsized”
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