Monday, February 16, 2009

Fozzy (music CD)

Band Name: Fozzy
Music Genre: Heavy Metal
Release Date: October 24th, 2000

Anyone who pays attention to World Wrestling Entertainment at all probably knows who Chris Jericho is. A very talented wrestler, he's easily one of the better wrestlers they have, without a doubt. Not quite as many know about his love for rock and metal; not to mention the fact that he's frontman for his own band, Fozzy.

I'd heard of the band and I quite enjoyed a cover of Iron Maiden's "The Evil That Men Do" that Jericho did vocal work on for a Maiden tribute album, so I decided to check out his bands own work, starting with the first album.

To be honest, I've got mixed feelings when it comes to this album. This is from back in the days when Fozzy was more of a gimmick band than anything else, complete with it's own fictional backstory that the band was away in Japan for twenty some years being huge rock stars unknowing other bands had ripped off their songs. As such, much of the album consists of covers of popular metal songs from such talents as Motley Crue, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and so on. There are only two original song of Fozzy's own design on the album, the in-character explanation being that they were new and bands hadn't gotten the oppourtunity to rip them off yet.

Good cover songs generally have a few criterion that generally must be followed for them to be acceptable, much less any good. They need to keep the spirit of the originals in some way, keep to the same genre and put a new spin on it. Deviating from those general rules is subject for disaster; see Britney Spears mockery of a cover of "I Love Rock and Roll" for proof. Fozzy sticks to all three, thankfully, so it's a matter of whether the cover is of great quality. With this album, it's something of a half and half affair. A little more than half of them are good, while the other half range from decent to bad.

Chris Jericho's vocals are unique in their own ways; you're not going to mistake him for some other band leader like much of the rock of the 2000's have wrought. This is both good and bad; Fozzy covers songs from quite a few different bands on this album and Jericho's vocals don't quite work with some of them.

The album kicks off with a very strong rendition of Dio's "Stand Up and Shout". This particular cover is one of the better ones on the album, keeping to the original while sounding distinct thanks in part to Jericho's vocals. "Eat the Rich", a Krokus cover, is decent but somewhat unremarkable. The third cover is of Twisted Sister's "Stay Hungry"; this cover is one of the more enjoyable ones.

The fourth track, however, is probably the worst of the album. It truly highlights the problem I mentioned earlier moreso than anything else on the album. The track in question is a cover of Iron Maiden's "The Prisoner", a classic track from the Number of the Beast album whoms subject material is on a fantasic british television show known as, aptly enough, The Prisoner. Jericho's vocals just never click at all. It feels like the tones and pitches are too far off to be effective and the chorus, one of the best parts of the original, is just somewhat grating here, with the rest of the bandmates joining in instead of simply Jericho singing it. It's a very weird sounding cover of a classic; and not in the good way.

Number five is far, far better though. It's a cover of Motley Crues "Live Wire". This is arguably the finest cover on the album and the one most worth going out of your way to listen to. The guitarwork and instruments in general follow the original song fairly well, but it's Jericho's vocal work, which was a major strike against the last song, that works so much better with this song. It's quite possibly as good as the Motley Crue original in it's own way; high praise indeed.

The sixth track is the first of the two original songs on the album I mentioned earlier, "End of Days". It's definitely a style of Fozzy's all their own. All instruments in the song work together well along with Jericho's vocals, which feel so much more free here without needing to attempt to emulate another bands vocalist in some respects, such as the vocal range of a man like Bruce Dickinson. Listening to this song was probably the point where I was convinced to go looking into the two furthur albums so far; Fozzy moved towards more of their own material after this after all.

After that is a cover of an Ozzy Osbourne song, "Over the Mountain". It holds up well and Jericho does well here considering Ozzy songs aren't the easiest to cover well; they often don't quite sound right without Ozzy's distinct vocals. The next song, a cover of Scorpions "Blackout", is another matter entirely. This song divided me more than anything else on the album. There were parts I liked and parts I didn't. Like the earlier Maiden cover, it's Jericho's vocals that don't quite work as well. On regular verses, he does just fine for the most part, except that for the second line of each one he raises the pitch of his voice and it simply doesn't quite work. The way they did the chorus, however, is what ultimately nearly ruined the song; the way it was sang just sounded completely weird and offputting. It's an interesting listen, but I honestly cannot say it was a strong cover.

From there we go to the second original song, "Feel the Burn". This song is much heavier on the whole than End of Days. It works for the song though and it's an enjoyable listen, one which makes me glad Fozzy eventually went for creating more original material than covers. The album closes with a cover of Judas Priests "Riding on the Wind". To be honest, it's nothing to really write home about; the guitar work is strong and Jericho keeps up well enough, but it sounded like his vocals weren't quite as loud this time. It's still a decent cover though and not a bad way to cap things off.

The Score: 6.5 out of 10

This album is a bit better than "middle of the road". Regardless, it's definitely more for fans of cover bands interested in hearing a take on classics with Chris Jericho on vocals. The original tracks are the highlight of the album along with the cover of Live Wire; all three are worth a listen at the very least. It's not a bad album, honestly, but I wouldn't highly recommend it as a purchase until you've at least listened to it and know if you'll like it or not.

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