Review Summary: Fozzy proves the joke is now on anyone who doubts their sincerity.
The brains behind a rap-metal band, fronted by a professional wrestler, has turned into a solid heavy metal band. The premise sounds impossible, yet it proves once again that the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Fozzy was a joke when Rich Ward and Chris Jericho started out, a cover band telling the story of how they were exiled from America and were the rightful writers of heavy metal's greatest songs. The rouse was amusing, but underpinned two albums of mediocre covers of songs already done better.
Along the way, Fozzy gained attention. With Jericho's fame leading the way, and his obsession with classic heavy metal pushing out from the shadows, Fozzy took the first step toward becoming a real band. All That Remains, the band's third album, was their first collection of all original material, an album that made the metal circles stand up and take note that Fozzy was not the joke they were believed to be. Filled with heavier than hell riffs, a few sticky melodies, and passable vocals from Jericho, the record was a staggering success for the band.
Chasing The Grail finds the band upping the ante, moving further into the realm of respectability. The last traces of rap-metal that pock-marked the otherwise solid All That Remains are gone, leaving behind a slab of traditional heavy metal the likes of which fell out of favor long ago. Ward's riffs retain their weight, the tone thicker than almost anything to be found. The guitars swing on the muscular grooves of "Martyr No More" and "Let The Madness Begin", both tracks drilling the hook into your head without the slightest hint of pop sensibility.
The band rips through the songs, the thrash-inspired riffing of "Paraskavedekatriaphobia (Friday The 13th)", the relentless "Under Blackened Skies", and the addictive "Grail". They only let up for the 80's metal ballad "Broken Soul", a lighter-raising track punctuated with a soaring melody and not a hint of maudlin sap. But the highlight is the thirteen minute closer "Wormwood", a winding progressive track swaying from solo acoustic guitars to raging electrics and stirring harmonies, from Deep-Purple inspired Hammond organ swells to a rousing chorus that is a thing of beauty. It is, without question, the best Fozzy song yet.
The only thing holding Fozzy back from becoming a leader in the traditional metal world is the one thing that gives them their greatest advantage; Chris Jericho. His fame gives the band the platform from which to be heard, but his vocal abilities cannot keep up with the music he loves so dearly. On Chasing The Grail, he is clearly a more confident vocalist than at any time in his career, but his voice still lacks the depth of the greats to pick up a mic. He is competent, but his tone sounds like the aftereffects of auto-tune when he pushes into his higher registers.
Still, Fozzy has done what they set out to do. They have left behind their origins, becoming a true heavy metal band. No longer are they a joke set to music. Fozzy is chasing the grail, and they're closer to finding it than many of the more 'serious' bands reaching for the same goal.