Fozzy have consistently been an anomaly in rock and metal; a group created with the kind of long-range backstory Spinal Tap wished they had thought of first, a justification used for their cover band status. Cover songs are fun and all, but 2005’s All That Remains was the band’s first attempt to do an entire album of original material. It was uneven, but the single “Enemy” got them larger airplay. They’ve been at it ever since, releasing albums that have made small blimps until 2014’s Do You Wanna Start a War got them their best-selling week ever.
Then “Judas” was released as a single this past spring and all of a sudden, Fozzy rose beyond their limited circle of attention. The song got millions of YouTube hits in a short few weeks, went high up the rock charts in the U.S., and gave them a bona fide hit. With that wave of success, Fozzy are putting out their seventh studio album, named after their big single. Though not a one-song album, it’s clear that “Judas” towers over the other songs.
Not to say the band doesn’t try to recreate the hit potential of “Judas.” Most of these tracks could be released as a single, with hooks galore and choruses that are implanted into a listener’s daily thoughts with only a few plays. Their lasting value puts Judas in a better spot than the shaky Do You Wanna Start a War. Songs like “Painless” and “Drinkin’ with Jesus” have mainstream value without coming off as cookie-cutter.
It’s tough to call this strictly metal, though the thrash-leaning closer “Wolves at Bay” is as aggressive as the band has been in quite a while. It also caps a series of top-notch songs, starting with the rumbling pace of “Running with the Bulls” and continuing with the beastly appeal of “Capsized.” Along with the first few songs, they help comprise the core quality of Judas.
These are needed, since the middle of the album hits some snags. “Three Days in Jail” has some out-of-nowhere harsh screams that at least distract from the ill-timed rapped verses that invoke memories of 1999 music in the worst way. “Burn Me Out” is saved by an infectious chorus, which almost helps wash the taste of its Nickelback-esque main riff out. Then there are “Elevator” and “Weight of my World,” which border somewhere around the level of inconsequential.
The charisma of Chris Jericho and riffs of guitarist Rich Ward, the two of them having been together as musical partners since Fozzy’s inception almost two decades ago, are what gives Judas enough charm to overshadow its questionable moments. “Judas” will bring people in to the album, and they’ll find at least a few songs worth latching onto.
(released October 13, 2017 on Century Media Records)