Fozzy is a band that has no right being successful. The combination of Rich Ward from rap-metal stalwarts Stuck Mojo, and wrestling superstar and lifelong metal fan Chris Jericho, topped off with a ludicrous back story explaining that they were the true legends of heavy metal whose songs had been stolen, was the sort of joke that was barely funny the first time you hear it, and only gets worse with repetition. But a funny thing happened along the way, and Fozzy somehow turned not only into a serious project, but one that garnered plenty of acclaim for all involved.
Shifting into a serious band with “All The Remains”, Fozzy showed that they had talent, as they put out an album that bore its share of growing pains, but bristled with enough sparks that it was obvious something was there. “Chasing The Grail” proved this, a highly refined improvement in terms of the skill the band showed, even if the songs didn't have the energy and immediacy of its predecessor's best material. That album laid down the gauntlet, and made it impossible for anyone to question the sincerity of what Fozzy was doing. They were a serious band, they had the skill to back it up, they just needed time to find their way.
“Sin And Bones” continues the band's journey towards world domination in the most un-metal way possible, a chiming guitar playing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. This non sequitur isn't thematically unfound, as “Spider In My Mouth” offers a darker take on arachnid experiences, but it does take a minute or two before the song sinks in unconnected to the nursery rhyme. A mix of groove-laden slashes of guitar and a highly melodic chorus, the song is exactly what Fozzy aims to be, a modern take on the old-school melodic heavy metal that birthed the legends of the genre.
“Sandpaper” continues in this vein, and shows both the good and the bad of this approach. The spoken word sections introducing the verses aren't captivating, and sound out of place on this type of record, but then the chorus kicks in, and the melody begins to win you over. It's not a bubble-gum approach, but ingratiating enough to warrant return visits. Jericho's voice isn't the strongest instrument, but he has a distinct tone, and keeps himself in the sweet spot of his range. It's not a perfect song, but you can't help but enjoy it.
The same can't be said for “Blood Happens”, which melds a third rate chugging riff to a chorus that amount to the title gurgled through a haphazard harsh vocal several times, never building to anything more than what should have been left on the cutting room floor. It's a mistake anywhere on the album, but especially being placed early enough that momentum had yet to build. If you're of the opinion that an album is only as good as its worst material, this is not a good omen.
Redemption comes in the form of “Inside My Head”, a softer quasi-ballad that rights the ship by getting back to what Fozzy does best, fill their muscular riffs with melodies. The overlapping vocals in the bridge are an especially nice touch, not only well executed, but a way of giving the song an additional dose of unique identity. Purists may detest slower, softer material, but the song offers a solid defense of why metal bands have always gone down this road.
“A Passed Life” begins similarly, spending what feels like forever in a haze of chiming arpeggios and crooned vocals before a riff comes in, bringing a sense of relief with it. It's off-kilter, wavering, and exactly the kind of riff Tony Iommi loved to utilize when he had Ronnie James Dio to anchor his less musical flights of fancy. Unfortunately, the structure of the song falls apart as it unfolds, the parts coming and going without building to greater things. They link into a song, but tell no story.
Jericho's love of the 80's comes through in full force on “She's My Addiction”, an uptempo number that wouldn't have felt out of place on any classic hair metal record. It's quite the left turn after the prior dirge, and a necessary step back towards levity, a respite before the final salvo. “Shine Forever” lurches to life with a hulking, down-tuned riff heavier than anything Fozzy has ever done. The melody tries to lift the song, but the weight of the riff keeps it from ever soaring, sticking instead to the solid middle-ground of good, but not great material.
Fozzy is at the point in their careers where good is no longer good enough. Their last two records showed they were a band to be taken seriously, and had enough great songs to raise expectations. “Sin And Bones” should be the album where all the elements come together to create their ultimate statement, but something fails to click. It's a good album, that much is certain, but it doesn't move the ball forward from where “Chasing The Grail” left it. This is the same Fozzy we've already known, and while it's true that many bands go their entire careers without pushing themselves to do anything different, I expected more from Fozzy. I know they're capable of more, which is the only reason “Sin And Bones” feels a bit disappointing.