As power metal group Shock called it quits back in 1990 with no album to their name, I never ever thought that the day would come when the group would resurface with one album, let alone two. Having grown up in Canada’s nation capital in the mid to late ’80s, Shock were on par in my eyes with a lot of the other heavy metal acts gracing magazine covers except that they did not have a record deal and the recordings of their classic metal songs that I got to listen to were usually of subpar quality. Fast forward to mid or late 2012, I was very surprised to discover that the band was active once again. I quickly set up an interview with two of the band members and a few months later, Shock released their debut album Once Denied, which received critical acclaim from virtually everyone that heard the record including Sleaze Roxx. Once Denied in fact turned out to be my favorite album released in 2013.
The big question was how Shock would be able to follow up their stellar debut album Once Denied since arguably the band had already picked, chosen and used its eight best songs from its 1985 to 1990 era for its debut album more than 22 years later. However, being familiar with a good portion of Shock‘s back catalogue of songs from their mid to late ’80s era, I knew that there were three songs — “Your Money Your Life” (now called “Barely Alive”), “Ringleader” and “Sonic Assault” — that could have easily have made their way onto Once Denied but for whatever reasons, did not. The ship has been righted as all three tracks appear on Shock‘s sophomore effort Forewarned. Since all three songs were written around the same time period as the ones that appear on Once Denied, it is not surprising that they provide a nice continuation from Shock‘s debut album.
“Sonic Assault” is one of the first tracks penned by Shock and has the same simplistic but bombastic feel as “Full Speed Ahead” that was on the band’s debut album. The aptly named “Sonic Assault” is a no frills classic metal track that borders on old school thrash metal. “Barely Alive” — which I will likely always think of as “Your Money Your Life” — has the same vocal urgency and great melody lines from Tony V as a song like “Slashing To Live” on Once Denied and with one scorching guitar solo to boot. “Ringleader” screams old school metal and while some of the melodies may seem a bit dated, had always been a Shock fan favorite from back in the day.
I knew that the aforementioned three tracks were going to be really good and even better once they got the Shock makeover arrangement twenty plus years later and Shock delivered on those three songs as expected on Forewarned. The five tracks that had me intrigued were the remaining tracks chosen by Shock for Forewarned given that I admittedly lost track of the band as the eighties drew to an end and since the group started playing more progressive type metal as time went on. As anticipated, the remaining tracks on Forewarned are more complex with more intricate and at times unorthodox song structures, which means that more time is needed to fully appreciate them.
The opening track “Bend Or Break” reminds me of classic Megadeth with Tony V‘s vocals during the verses and the various guitar riffs and melodies. “Collide” is probably the song that bridges the old school Shock tracks such as “Sonic Assault” with the newer progressive ones like “Bend Or Break” combining the best elements of the group’s two musical eras in my view. “Patriot” is one of my favorite tracks in terms of Tony V‘s vocal range and capability. The surprise track on Forewarned turns out to be “The Reins That Lead” that starts off slowly and has many different tempos but also an epic feel to it and again reminds me of Megadeth. I particularly like the “oh oh oh” part bridging the verses and the chorus, which would likely be really cool to experience live. “Not If But When” is the biggest departure from Shock‘s original classic straightforward metal sound as the song has a real progressive feel to it but is still enjoyable nonetheless.
Just like Once Denied, the musicianship on Forewarned is very tight and the production is top notch. The rhythm section of bassist Steve Monette, presumably guitarist John Tennant and drummer Taylor Calderone provides a strong backbone for all the songs. The notable yet seamless difference is that the rather young Calderone is now handling the drums this time around. While Calderone‘s drum kit may be a fraction of the monstrous drum kit utilized by the band’s former drummer that played on Once Denied, Calderone‘s drumming fits oh so well and packs a real punch. The star of the album — just like on Once Denied — is lead singer and guitarist Tony V who delivers varied and intense vocals while also delivering scorching guitar solos. While I am giving credit to Tony V for the guitar solos, I am mindful that Tennant might well be responsible for some of those guitar solos and he deserves his just due in that regard as well.
In terms of how Forewarned fares to Once Denied, I prefer Once Denied simply because it contains the majority of the Shock songs that I grew up listening to back in the day. That being said, Forewarned is a worthy follow up to Once Denied and a must own for anyone who likes quality classic heavy metal music.
01. Bend Or Break
02. Sonic Assault
05. The Reins That Lead
06. Barely Alive
08. Not If But When
Tony V – lead vocals, guitar
John Tennant – guitar, vocals
Taylor Calderone – drums
Steve Monette – bass, vocals
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, November 2015
The first video from SHOCK’s new album Forewarned. Release date Friday, November 13, 2015. www.shockmetal.ca