Review Summary: Where Nickleback is everything wrong with Post-Grunge, Fuel is everything right.
Post-Grunge Gods Fuel were once one of the pinnacles of Hard Rock and PG in the late 90's and early 2000's. Their erratic blend of hard guitar riffs, stylish percussion, and Brett Scallions powerful howl of a voice; enraptured the minds of Hard Rock and Alt Rock junkies from Kansas to Mississippi.
Originally founded as "Wanted", a young college group consisting of friends Carl Bell and Jeff Abercrombie; this young band underwent many name transitions over the course of their tenure before becoming Fuel. They changed their name to "Phoenix" during the later years of their college time, then changed it to "Real Too Real" as a cover band along the Tennessee Rock circuit. It was during this time Jeff heard a young Brett Scallions sing at a local bar, and he then joined the band. By this time they moved to Harrisburg, and Real Too Real became popular in many clubs around Pennsylvania. They then changed their name to "Small The Joy" as they released their debut EP. This name didn't last very long, as the band changed their name again to "Fuel" during the release of their second EP.
After the release of their fourth EP, Fuel signed to Epic Records and they began recording for their debut studio album. At the time, Post-Grunge had been achieving massive popularity since Foo Fighter's unleashed the PG floodgates in '95. It comes as no surprise that Fuel would want to capitalize on the general style of PG which they had done for their previous two EP's. This time, however, the band opted to introduce more Hard Rock ballads (which they started during their fourth EP) into their tracklist; adding a more technically proficient instrumentation and sophisticated lyrical quality. The result of these blueprints was Sunburn
One of the biggest strengths of Sunburn
is that the first half of the album is stunning. Songs like Bittersweet
and New Thing
contain usual PG attributes like meshed guitar sounds mixed together, vague lyrics, and damning percussion sequences. This is the opposite of tracks like Sunburn
and Song For You
, in which the instruments are easily differentiated from each other while the vocals become more soft in their tone. One of the more standout tracks is in the Hard Rock single Jesus Or A Gun
, featuring pounding percussion beats and brilliant guitar playing. The key here though is in Brett Scallions voice, an unfiltered roar that crashes through the instrumentals to create this pounding sensation of power and force.
Truly the greatest of all the tracks is int he PG track Shimmer
. Besides being one of my personal favorite Fuel tracks, Shimmer is one of the most perfect examples of the talent in Fuel as a collective. It features amazing string sections along with stellar guitar work, and subtle drums. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention Brett's amazing vocals in this song. I have always referred to Brett as "Wolf", not just because it sounds cool, but because Scallions doesn't sing, he fucking howls. His vocals are something no other vocalist in the business has done (or done properly) making him one of a kind.
As a debut album, Sunburn
excelled beyond any expectations, and provided some of the best competition for PG heroes at the time, Foo Fighters. It was a massive commercial success and propelled Fuel to Post-Grunge stardom, and there was nowhere to go but up in the near future.