Fozzy – Boombox

No matter how we may avoid or reframe the thoughts; there’s no denying we carry a certain amount of darkness. Though as hard rock group FOZZY demonstrate, it’s how we face up to and present ourselves within that pain. With seventh studio album Boombox, we’re taken on a journey through the land of juxtaposition.

Boombox is pre-loaded with 12 tracks of synth-laced hard rock, a natural progression from its predecessor Judas (2017). Launched into the stratosphere with the success of Chris Jericho’s utilisation of the title track for his All Elite Wrestling (AEW) entrance theme, FOZZY seem to have worked themselves into a corner. How do they overcome the monolith Judas became? With long-time drummer Frank Fontsere’s departure earlier this year, the task grew ever larger.

If opening Sane is anything to go by, this isn’t a feat FOZZY see as daunting. Following their trajectory from Do You Wanna Start A War (2014) into Judas, Boombox appears to start with its strongest song. We’ll discuss that momentarily. The thread which weaves the three records together is the increasing introduction of electronica elements. From the static at the beginning of Sane, to the synth lacing the chorus, FOZZY play to their strengths. One thing with does suffer within Sane is Rich Ward’s guitar solo which is cut off in favour of the electronica long before its time.

Anxiety, mortality/ They always get the best of meJericho muses on recent single I Still Burn. A testament to the story of their twenty-year career, the track is a purposeful slow burn. String like synths swell beneath the will to carry on, pushing the track to its anthemic chorus. Where FOZZY’s analogue elements became hindered in Sane, Ward and Billy Grey are able to celebrate themselves within thick riffs and rounded solos. This is built upon further with Purifier. Sounding like the FOZZY of Sin And Bones (2012), venom is restored as Jericho exposes the “messenger of God, heretic at heart”. Housing a healthy chug from Ward, bolstered by PJ Farley’s basslines, Purifier threatens Boombox’s speakers.

While there is a great thematic vitriol towards the duplicitous nature of humanity, Boombox holds duality within itself. Where Ugly On The Inside speaks to people’s toxicity, Nowhere To Run enforces FOZZY’s desire to push back against those which seek to oppress us. It’s this motivation the band draw us to next with the surprising ballad Army Of One. It’s not new territory as FOZZY have many a ballad but what sets Army Of One above the likes of Broken Soul (from 2010’s Chasing The Grail) is just how vulnerable this crew allow themselves to be. “I never trust in anyone” strikes an emotional chord within many. Instead of ruminating within the acoustic opening and slightly isolated vocal track, the band seize the moment to crack the song open with the introduction of the fuller band after the first chorus. This tonal shift marks a change in the band as they turn back to the epics their ballads usually represent yet push one step further with the expansive guitar movements and booming drums.

That brings us to the point of FOZZY’s evolution. Have they done enough since Judas to break out of those chains? From a lyrical standpoint, not entirely. FOZZY pride themselves on weaving rich tapestries within their songs. What also happens is the odd lyrical clanger; “u.g.l.y, you ain’t got no alibi” draws Ugly On The Inside to a jarring halt as it changes the cadence to match its school yard rhyme. While talking about the toxicity of some women it’s argued it can be done without stooping to that level. To quote the band themselves it’s impossible to “throw stones from a glass house broken”.

On the upside of FOZZY’s evolutionary debate, Boombox marks the return of the FOZZY cover feature. Since the band’s rendition of ABBA’s S.O.S on Do You Wanna Start A War, fans had been waiting with bated breath for the next reimagination. Making its debut on the live circuit, FOZZY bring FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD’s Relax into the fray. More drawn out than the original and with Jericho’s vocals slightly too high on the recording, this party anthem is one for the live arena. Meanwhile Omen hosts a wonderful heaviness we’ve come to know and love over the years. With the synth heavy tracks before it, we had started to wonder whether the band were going to leave their heavy metal roots behind them altogether. Yet with a meaty snarl of “this is an omen” leading into a satisfying chug, we have less to worry about. “Doom is waiting on the other side” paired with Ward’s grinding is nothing short of spine tingling.

In great FOZZY tradition, Boombox closes with arguably the strongest song of the record. The Vulture Club is riddled with heavy riffs flirting with the salacious. Attacking those who prey on other’s insecurities, The Vulture Club isn’t something we’d want triple A passes for. This is FOZZY at the tightest it’s been since Judas’ title track in 2017. Pummelling drums dictate the swinging riffs which feed into the tone for Jericho’s vocals. Its incestuous nature and how these elements feed from each other is what FOZZY do best. Just as we settle into the wonderful disgust of the closing track, Ward comes out the box with a growling feature we haven’t seen from the camp for many years. Ward’s brash and vicious vocals push the song to its final form, leaving us wondering why this hadn’t been done earlier.

Throughout the review, we’ve discussed FOZZY’s attempts to step out from Judas’ shadow. The question remains whether they’ve done enough to do so. FOZZY has made steps in the right direction but Boombox isn’t the record to fully propel them forwards. Comparison aside, Boombox marks another step up the proverbial mountain. It’s more than enough to sate fans’ desire for new FOZZY material and there some points of interest for casual listeners. There’s a plethora of tracks here for everyone, no matter the mood, and it’s this versatility which has sustained FOZZY for so long.

Boombox is available now via Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group.

For more information on FOZZY, like their official Facebook page.

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