The first time I heard of Fozzy was at Download 2014 with people saying they were a band to check out. “Oh, yeah? Why?” I’d then be informed that it was because Chris Jericho was the singer and the people recommending them were massive wrestling fans. “What kind of music do they play?” Rock or metal was usually the answer. However, it’s a bit of a broad term when you’re at a massive rock and metal festival. So I avoided it, thinking this was some new project of his and killed time whilst waiting for Twisted Sister and Status Quo.
Fast forward a few months and I end up at Fozzy’s Glasgow gig under the guise of “It’ll be a laugh”. By the end of the first song, Jericho proved this wasn’t a gimmick. He was for real and having since found their back catalogue, whilst he juggled it with his wrestling career, it was never merely a distraction. With Jericho throwing himself more and more into Fozzy as the years went on, the albums only became better and Judas is the culmination of this.
Straddling that line of hard rock and metal, there’s a dark, grungy undertone to it on tracks like “Painless”. They do manage to branch out into other areas like the riff in “Burn Me Out”. It sounds like it could have been on the first couple of Black Stone Cherry albums with its massive, chunky sound. Meanwhile, opening and title track, “Judas” is more of a slow-burner as it swells into a monolithic beast as “Drinkin’ With Jesus” follows and it’s closer to what you’d expect from a Fozzy song.
There’s a lighter, poppy sound on “Weight of the World”, synthy and a bit techno but it works. Meanwhile, “Three Days in Jail” leans further into it, complete with rapping to give it an early Linkin Park vibe and if anything, it feels shoe-horned in as an experiment. It shows the band are willing to move out of their own comfort zone and they’re capable of making other songs. Whilst not a bad track, it’s the weakest of a strong bunch.
Then there’s “Running With the Bulls” and “Capsized”. Tucked deep into the recesses of the back half of the album, it’s a prime example of what fresh, energetic hard rock should be in the modern age. With soaring melodies and the latter possessing a guitar solo to make the best of them weep, long enough to engulf you yet short enough to avoid self-indulgence. However, there’s a grandiose edge to closing track, “Wolves at Bay” as Jericho’s vocals change to the point of questing if it is indeed Jericho singing. It’s a three-minute jab to the guts which sets to underline the point Fozzy have been making for several years now. Those three songs alone prove they’re a hard rock band to be reckoned with and push the genre forward.
It’s an album which starts off good and with every listen gets better. In Judas, Fozzy have made their best album to date, taking everything which makes them and dials it up to the proverbial eleven. With a less cohesive sound than previous albums, they’ve tinkered with it in places, adding in playful new elements and for the most part it works. More important than that, it’s still recognisably Fozzy.