Fozzy: Yay or Nay?

Chris Jericho is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. I’ve been following his career since his early days in World Championship Wrestling. He had the athleticism, he had the charisma, he was brash on the microphone, and he could easily transition himself into any role given to him while easily backing it up in the ring. In my opinion, he’s the total package. In the early 2000s, he made the transition over to music acting as lead vocalist for the heavy metal/hard rock band, Fozzy. I briefly wrote about Fozzy in another article I did last year so instead of rehashing their personal history, I’m going to break down their six releases one by one. While wrestling is loved by millions worldwide, it’s still considered a joke to many which Chris had to fight through for years fronting the band. Now let’s take an honest look and decide once and for all whether Fozzy is a legit rock & roll act or just a novelty with a wrestler as their singer.

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Fozzy released their self-titled record in 2000. The quintet all went by alias’ and sported an image reminiscent to 80s hair metal. The 10 track album consisted of eight covers and two original songs. It was put up or shut up time for Jericho and gang to see if he had the chops to be a credible rock star.

The record opens with faux crowd noise to give it a live feeling then quickly rips into Dio’s Stand Up and Shout. Jericho’s voice does the song justice with its modern production though it doesn’t touch the late legend’s original. It’s okay though since not many people can. We then go into the band’s first ever single, a cover of Eat The Rich by Krokus which I actually liked a lot and was the track that got me into the group. The band used this song to promote the record and even recorded a video for it featuring their former mascot, a walking pig named Arthur. They even performed it live on WWE’s Sunday Night Heat from WWE New York, a former Times Square restaurant dedicated to the wrestling company.

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We then go to a remake of Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry which may actually rival the original with the presence of fresh, crisp guitar work thanks to guitarist Rich Ward who is actually a phenomenal axeman. Jericho tried to hard to hit those high notes though, and he just winds up sounding nasally. The album’s highlight is by far, their rendition of The Prisoner by Iron Maiden. The musicianship is top notch and Jericho properly utilizes his vocal range, never overstepping his boundaries with the high vocal pitches only Bruce Dickinson is known for. This is something I can listen to repeatedly. Other highlights include their version of Motley Crue’s Live Wire and Ozzy’s Over The Mountain. Neither of the two original songs, Feel The Burn and End of Days, are anything to write home about and the outro is a version of Riding on the Wind by Judas Priest that is just brutal. All in all, a decent but not very good first effort from the band and they still had a long way to go to prove themselves.

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Two years later, Fozzy released their follow-up, Happenstance, in 2002. The group wanted to move away from being labeled a cover band so they released this album containing half covers and half original tracks. No covers would be used as singles. The opening track, To Kill a Stranger, is the third original song ever released by them and was used as the record’s lead single. The song is a decent little tune to help them find their footing in their music and draws inspirations from their biggest influences such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. The song has become a favorite among fans and is always performed at live shows.

We then go into a remake of Judas Priest’s Freewheel Burning which is ten times better than the Priest cover on their initial album. Their cover of Scorpions’ Big City Nights also trumps the sub par remake of Blackout also off their debut and their version of L.O.V.E. Machine by W.A.S.P. is pretty dope sounding. Jericho is no Blackie Lawless but his voice definitely improved on Happenstance. Perhaps he took vocal lessons.

I’m not sure what to make of the cover of the “so bad it’s good” metal anthem that is Accept’s Balls to the Wall. I mean, it’s hysterical just like the original but I can’t put my finger on whether it falls into “so bad it’s good territory” or “cringe worthy” terrain. I always get a kick out of the “God bless ya!” part. I’m actually sort of shocked that they decided to cover a Black Sabbath tune from the Dio era as opposed to Ozzy’s. Here, they do The Mob Rules, and it’s not bad but I’m here yearning for Electric Funeral or Hole in the Sky. Dejectedly, the album’s second single, the original, With The Fire, falls flat due to Jericho doing a bad Gene Simmons impression. Overall, better than their first but the band is still searching for their sound.

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By the time 2005 rolled around, the band decided to drop all gimmicks and pseudonyms and let their music do the talking. Their third album, All That Remains, contained no covers and guest appearances from the likes of Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti, Zakk Wylde, and former Megadeth guitarist, Marty Friedman. The album’s lead single was Enemy, a pretty good song which shows the maturation of the band lyrically and instrumentally. The album also contains It’s A Lie featuring  rapper, Bonecrusher which is is a callback to Rich Ward’s other band, the Atlanta-based rap/rock outfit, Stuck Mojo. Friedman proved that he still had it with a mind blowing solo on Born of Anger which absolutely destroys anything the band does on the track. Fozzy were getting there with finding their niche with this enjoyable release. It would be five years until the world heard another Fozzy album.

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After a hiatus, the band returned in 2010 with Chasing The Grail. They were determined to make sure people never forgot about them and that they can hang with the big boys. The album opens strong with Under Blackened Skies and goes into the single, Martyr No More which quickly reminds fans what Fozzy is all about. The two follow up singles, Broken Soul and Let The Madness Begin are nothing special but the album’s standout by far is God Pounds His Nails. The song is a damn fine anthem that any devil-horn wielding metal head will like. The energy is unlike anything Fozzy ever displayed before and reminds me of Maiden’s The Trooper. It was performed live at the 2011 Kerang Golden Gods ceremony which Jericho also hosted. To date, it’s probably the band’s biggest television exposure.

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The year 2012 saw the release of Fozzy’s fifth record, Sin & Bones. The members collectively had high hopes for this one with Jericho going as far as to call it their “Black Album” (referencing Metallica’s breakthrough, best selling record). Well the production was much more solid due to the band leaving the declining Megaforce records in favor of Century Media. The album’s first single, Sandpaper, features Avenged Sevenfold vocalist, M. Shadows, and sets the tone for the rest of the LP. We’re also treated to a nice little rip-off of Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood in She’s My Addiction.

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Sin & Bones also happens to have one of the band’s best written songs in the title track which is everything a metal song should be. I can officially say that with this record, the band proved that they were the real deal and were serious as a unit. In August of 2012, I was fortunate enough to see Fozzy live at the Gramercy Theater in New York City when they were touring for this CD. I was blown away at how tight they were and how huge Chris Jericho’s arms looked in person.

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Fozzy is still going strong with the release of their 2014’s, Do You Wanna Start A War?. It holds the insanely catchy One Crazed Anarchist featuring a headbanging chorus and the surprisingly decent, Died For You. Yeah, Steel Panther singer, Michael Starr guests on Tonite but it doesn’t bring this record down too much. I promise! I would rank this below Sin & Bones but it’s not a bad record by any means and keeps the sound they’ve found and morphed into. In a bit of a fun tidbit, the fivesome briefly returns to their roots as a cover band with a re-imagining of ABBA’s S.O.S. that is surprisingly pretty kickass.

 

They fought hard over the course of their 15 year career but I’d say Fozzy is definitely more than “that band with WWE’s Chris Jericho as their singer.” Though they did own that title for awhile, their consistently tight musicianship, Jericho’s voice improving overtime, their always improving songwriting, and awesome live performances, the band has become a force in the world of music and gained an entire flock of new fans, most of which aren’t even aware of Jericho’s work in pro wrestling.

Cover Photos: Robert Cavuto @ myglobalmind.com, nextmosh.com, Mark Holmes @ metal-discovery.com.

Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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