November 5, 2021 Fuel – Ånomåly (Album Review)
After many years away, Pennsylvania-originated hard rockers Fuel return to the scene with a new yet familiar sound and a new vocalist. Last year it was announced that the band had split from long time Vocalist Brett Scallions and Founding Member/Guitarist Carl Bell along with Drummer Kevin Miller were returning to the fold. After taking some time to reconstitute and gel, the band has returned with their sixth studio album, Ånomåly, out on Friday, October 22, 2021 through Moon Chair Media. For this latest endeavor, Bell not only performed on the record, but he also produced it as well. Now with new songs and a new voice, the once multi-platinum outfit now consists of John Corsale (lead vocals, guitar), Mark Klotz (guitar, vocals), Tommy Nat (bass, vocals), Carl Bell (guitar), and Kevin Miller (drums).
Eleven tracks in total, “Hard” kicks off the album with an easy melodic Hard Rock opening. On this track, it is difficult to reconcile that the rasp-tinged voice projecting the lyrics is not that of ex-vocalist Brett Scallions. Here Corsale shares Scallion’s rasp and nasal grit in certain moments that will likely boggle the mind of an old school fan. “Don’t Say I” is the obligatory Rock ballad that employs the use of ghostly echoes and sweeping, effervescent guitar chords. Corsale’s pleading tone eggs on the desperation in the theme and overall tone of the song. Despite the thematic sadness of the track, it makes for easy listening and has a catchy enough chorus that will have fans singing along after less than a handful of listens.
Moving on, “Landslide” opens with a strange staccato beat before kicking into a bouncier rhythm. While layering can add depth to a track there is something that feels overproduced here with that staccato beat acting as a bit of a distraction throughout the song making it feel less cohesive and repetitive. “The Only Ones” has bones that feel as though they harken back to “Won’t Back Down” with similarities in its opening chords and overall tone. On this track, there is something dark and unsettling at the core that seems meant to keep the listener a bit off-balance. The bridge here is a nice deviation from the repetitive nature of the pattern of this song and the riffing acts as a bit of a palate cleanser.
Then there is “See Your Eyes” which feels like one of the few places on this album where you get to really hear Corsale clearly and not the vocal effect he seems to have put on for the majority of the album. Here his sound is its most distinct from Brett Scallions and while the song isn’t anything spectacular, the stringwork is nice with its chugging rhythm and backend crunch. “Heaven’s Waiting 4 U” closes out Ånomåly with the most orchestral arrangement heard on the record so far. The layering of guitar sounds gives this track a depth unlike its predecessors and the riffing is more impressive here as well. There is something both ominous and lovely about this song while still urging the listener forward with its pacing.
Despite this being a new iteration of Fuel, there are several places on the album that feel like Corsale is trying to emulate Scallions to mixed results. While it’s entirely possible that his natural tone falls in the neighborhood of that slightly twangy, raspy territory that became Scallion’s trademark, there are times it feels more forced than at ease. Also, one of the biggest issues on this record was not with overproduction or emulation, but with enunciations.
While some genres make their whole brand being nearly unintelligible, for a Hard Rock band like Fuel, the point is to have fans singing along with you and there are several times where Corsale’s enunciation makes it difficult to understand what he’s saying. It’s not all bad though. Fuel has had a long history of making infectious rock songs that easily become earworms, destined to be stuck in your head and sung at random. This album is no different and this is likely largely attributed to the songwriting prowess of Bell. His ability to craft melodies, hooks and orchestrations that stick with you rivals many in the industry today.
In a time where reinvention is the name of the game, it’s important to remember that sometimes it’s best to start from the beginning and build again. Fuel could have benefited from a do-over by not trying to be the same band with a new singer, but instead a completely different beast altogether. However, they do get points for Bell’s work in composition and songwriting that lends some grace to songs like “Hard,” “Don’t Say I” and “Heaven’s Waitin 4 U.” So, for endeavoring to reinvent themselves and delivering an easy listen despite its shortcomings, Cryptic Rock gives Fuel’s Ånomåly 3 out of 5 stars.