Change is inevitable. We need to embrace it to be able to advance through life. The same can be said for technological progressions. For example, if we wanted to listen to music on the go in the 70s and 80s, we would’ve probably had to use a boombox. An absolute unit of a portable radio-cum-cassette player carried on the shoulder. 40 years later, we can just pull out our phone and stream something. Hard rock band FOZZY not only hark back to days gone by but lean into their own progression with their seventh studio album; Boombox.
Joining us from Clifton, New Jersey during the band’s Save The World tour, guitarist Rich Ward radiates excitement as we dive into the upcoming record. Like so many other projects, Boombox’s release had been disrupted by the pandemic. Rather than let it fester, the band seized the opportunity to explore more options. Rich goes on to tell us “even with the songs we had [we were] saying ‘this is a great song; can we make it better? What were some areas on the margins where we can make some improvements?’”
Those improvements resulted in Boombox and the completion of FOZZY’s transformation from the pure-bred metal of 2012’s Sin And Bones to electro-infused party rockers. The shift in sound wasn’t the only change within the camp. Long serving drummer Frank Fontsere announced he would be stepping away from the band to focus on his family earlier this year. “This was the last thing any of us wanted,” Rich comments with a tinge of sadness. “You have to realise life is a series of unplanned events and it’s a matter of trying to make the best of it – learn how to react in a way that you become better on the other side.”
Approaching Boombox differently, recruiting 27-year-old drummer Grant Brooks, working with producer Johnny Andrews on a full-time basis, these were the ways FOZZY have been trying to become better. Between Nowhere To Run’s anthemic chorus and Ugly On The Inside’s hip-swaying bounce, the band hit the ground running with a new lease of life.
Following FOZZY’s 20-year career, their model has been to constantly improve and strive for the top of the mountain. The story of their determination plays out in recent single I Still Burn, a slow burner of a ballad boundary treader. Comparing their career’s trajectory to climbing a mountain, Rich muses “there have been a few times where we pause to boil water with the Sherpas and make a meal but we’ve never slipped back. It’s been a steady climb for us.” When asked what keeps the band going, the guitarist gives us a simple yet refreshing answer; “we love it so much and we have so much passion that we’ve done it regardless of what has gone around us.”
That passion and determination paid off for FOZZY with 2017’s Judas. The title track was given second wind by All Elite Wrestling (AEW) programming when the band’s vocalist, Chris Jericho, used it for his entrance music. From the ferocious popularity of wrestling fans, the single would receive gold certification from the RIAA. Following the Judas record was never going to be an easy feat. Yet it wasn’t a task the band shied away from.
In FOZZY fashion, Boombox is a 12-track collection of dark subject matter ranging from dwindling mental health to the poor behaviour of fellow man. ‘Nothing’s gonna change, it’s all impending’ cries Omen’s spiral while Purifier’s ‘throw your stones from a glass house broken’ turns the vitriol outward. Hiding within the stirring I Still Burn or motivational Army Of One is the fragile soul FOZZY has always carried. As a result of that and Jericho not wanting to “beat people over the head with dark themes” in the middle of a pandemic, the lighter spectacles of the album’s artwork and title were a conscious choice.
Regardless of how present FOZZY’s core themes still are, Boombox houses a lot of difference. Rich puts a lot of those things down to how the band has evolved over time through various line-up changes and even progression as human beings. With that reason in mind, we address the trepidation that some may not receive this record as well as 2010’s Chasing The Grail. “We can only hope the fans who’ve been with us for years will still continue to love what we do but the door will always be open for them.”
Coming away from our talk with Rich, we’re left with two things. The first being arrangements to go shopping for extravagant jackets and shoes the next time FOZZY visit our shores. The second is sage life advice on how to deal with the inevitability of change. Showcasing the wisdom we have personally come to know for almost a decade, Rich tells us, “with anything in life, there will be opportunities for us to make improvements. Everything has a purpose. There aren’t any accidents in this world, it’s just for us to figure out what we are to learn from it.”
What we have come to learn from Boombox will be told in due course. What we have learned from both FOZZY and Rich Ward however is the beauty of perseverance and the heights we can achieve over time if we’re willing to work for it.
Boombox is out now via Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group.
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