The best album of Aftershok's twenty plus year history
I'm always the first to defend generic song titles like "Ready to Rock", "Under the Gun" and "Forever in Metal", three of the thirteen cuts that make up this new Aftershok album. Naysayers generally use terms like "generic" or "has been" when they point out what they consider faults or familiarity in the traditional metal sound. They fail to realize that traditionalists like George Mihalovich, co-founder of Pittsburgh's Aftershok, follow in the footsteps of the original metal composers for a reason.
It is in their souls.
Just ask defenders of the faith like Geoff Thorpe, Kurdt Vanderhoof, George Call, Joe Sims, Bob Mitchell, Rob Rock or the hundreds of other blue-collar metal militia that bust their asses writing, recording, and playing true heavy metal. They carry the torch, it's their burden to shoulder. They are just as much slaves to it as performers.
If you had to look up those guys, then Aftershok may not be for you. It may not speak to you in the same way it speaks to me.
'Detonate' is the best album of Aftershok's twenty plus year history. But don't let the years fool you. This is only their third album to date after an eleven year wait between this and their sophomore album (Burning Chrome 2005). Plenty has changed though, most notably the replacement of co-founder and former vocalist Vic Hix (Shok Paris). The replacement? Well...Hell, that isn't easy. Hix is one of the many superb voices that represent the classic 80s US metal scene – and beyond. After a grueling search Mihalovich found his man – Gord Sheffroth. The Canadian singer was originally in a 90s metal act called Salvation Front and, as Mihalovich conveyed to me earlier, the fans are describing his voice as Halford and Dio having a baby. I couldn't agree more.
Strong cuts like "When the Shadows Fall" and "Ready to Rock" are the ear candy poster children for this album. Nothing says it better than addictive melodies and that "sing-along" writing style that stays with the listener for days. They effectively represent an album that is chock-full with the classic metal formula, all neatly fitted together to make this one solid play.
It is 2016 and songs, promotional videos, EPs, and demos are flying around like bees and demanding our attention. With so much imagery and sound it's hard to even stay with one song more than a minute if it doesn't immediately speak to the listener. 'Detonate' has enormous playability through its whopping thirteen cuts. That's not an easy feat and reminds me of the days when a Dio or Priest record just required play. The long term playability is valuable and just can't be taught. Consideration is given to well written songs and arrangements, but huge praise goes to the vocal prowess of this new singer. Sheffroth is hard to turn off because he is just so damn engaging with his clean vocal delivery.
While the record is quite lively on cuts "Forever in Metal" and bluesy "Friend or Foe", the writing has a lot of real world messages too, prevalent on "Hang'em High", "Under the Gun" and "The World United". These tracks revolve around current affairs and the heightened sense of terror and destruction consuming our planet. "The World United" is a well written request for peace and its placement after "Hang'em High" was brilliant. I loved the modern tendency of "The Hunger", a slower paced track that was haunting like today's Dokken. Attention to detail isn't lost either, just listen the cacophony of percussion that leads into "In the Eye of the Storm", a throwback to Iron Maiden's ability to come on slowly but strongly.
Overall, 'Detonate' will sit highly on my best of list for 2016. It's another monumental heavy metal album from a blue collar, working man American band. Let's hope the guys don't wait so long for a fourth album...but maybe the old adage of good things come to those who wait rings true with this act.