Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
UK Hard Rockers Wayward Sons return to action with their third album. Even Up The Score on Frontiers Records. Recorded when the Covid pandemic was at its height, Even Up The Score contains some new tracks and also a number of tracks left over from the writing sessions from their previous album, but don’t get the idea that this is an album of sub-standard rejects – far from it! Strap yourself in, folks, because this is a belter!.
Opening with the up-tempo monster riffery of ‘Even Up The Score’, Wayward Sons waste no time in setting out their stall of extremely high-quality kick-ass Hard Rock. As with their previous albums, Toby Jepson’s excellent vocals sit front and centre commanding proceedings with considerable aplomb. The song batters the listener into submission with huge guitars and the sort of chorus melody that can cause structural damage and screams ‘Buckle up, listener: you’re in for a kick-ass ride!’
‘Big Day’ follows in similar vein with melody overload and more huge slabs of deliciously filthy guitars. The solo in this one is particularly fine, echoing some of Paul (Mr Big) Gilbert’s more frenetic moments. Only two tracks in and we’re already sensing that this is a big one!
The tempo and quality remain extraordinarily high with ‘Sign of the Times’ and listening to this again, I’m struck by the way that, unlike far too many Rock acts these days and historically, Wayward Sons don’t content themselves with the usual cliched lyrics. Guitarist Sam Wood also shines again with a solo that somehow manages to combine influences from Slash, Brian May and Thin Lizzy into one irresistible cocktail. Jepson’s vocal has echoes of Ronnie Dio in the tone and delivery of parts of the chorus on this mighty fine slice of super melodic Hard Rock bombast.
‘Bloody Typical’ has a slightly different feel, with a slightly more Power-Pop kind of feel. It’s the most lightweight song on the album but is none the worse for that. Chugging guitars define the verses, providing plenty of space for Jepson’s vocal to shine, before the hyper-melodic chorus kicks in. More Thin Lizzy-esque twin lead guitars add even more melody to what is a ridiculously infectious track (and a personal favourite.)
‘Faith in Fools’ returns us to the Hard Rock stylings of the first three tracks, but at a reduced more mid-tempo feel. Characterised by well-written lyrics, plenty of light and shade in the production and more of those catchy melodies on both vocals and guitar, this is pretty much the perfect mid-album track, setting the listener up for, what in the ‘good old days’ would be ‘side 2’.
‘Fake’ opens with a huge guitar riff, but just when you wonder if this is gonna be just an average and ordinary Hard Rock track, Wayward Sons kick in with the sort of Power-Pop chorus that could level mountains and cause tsunamis. As a listener, you just find yourself riding the huge waves of melody with a massive grin on your face! That’s the sign of a great album right there.
‘Downfall’ is an angry little rant of a song, with Jepson spitting the verse vocals out with considerable amounts of angst! Don’t get on the wrong side of this fella when he’s in this kind of mood! The song itself has an angry, spacious production, sweetened slightly by choirs of ‘aaaaaahhhh’ backing vocals that sit strangely comfortably behind the vicious lead vocal melody. The very fine guitar solo in this one builds beautifully from melody to shred echoing the tension in the vocals. Powerful stuff!
Wayward Sons keep the tempo and energy levels high as they move into ‘Tip of my Tongue’, which has very interesting chordal riffs within the choruses, further proof that the band are not content to sit on their laurels and produce ‘cookie-cutter’ Hard Rock. Far from it.
On this, and pretty much every other track, the song-writing, arrangement and production styles are of a very high quality, giving Wayward Sons an excellent sound that is truly their own while at the same time retaining a nod to the plethora of influences they’ve drawn from all the great Rock music of the past 40+ years.
‘Looking For A Reason’ is more of the same: up-tempo, huge guitars and angrily powerful vocals hammering the song’s message home. Jepson stretches his vocal range in this driving high-energy rocker, which will absolutely slay if they play it live when they tour.
Hitting the home-straight with ‘Land of the Blind’ and ‘They Know’, Wayward Sons don’t let the quality drop one iota on two more massively melodic up-tempo rockers that basically offer more of the same that we’ve seen throughout the album. But don’t get the idea that this is getting samey! Oh no: Each of these tracks has its own unique charm with the entire band on fire throughout.
Ending on ‘This Party’s Over’, Wayward Sons choose to finish the album the way they’ve driven it throughout, with more massive guitars, monster vocal harmonies and melody overload.
Phew!! What a monster album! There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years suggesting that Rock is dead. Well this stunning album from Wayward Sons proves beyond all reasonable doubt that such ideas are utterly ridiculous! With ‘Even Up The Score’, Wayward Sons have produced one of the best Hard Rock albums this reviewer has heard in quite a while.
Gloriously up-tempo and high energy throughout (with not a ballad in sight), it’s a thrill-a-minute rocket ride through some truly excellent songs. As I write this, the album is sitting proudly and deservedly straight in at number 2 in the UK Rock and Metal album chart. This tells you pretty much all you need to know. Buy or stream it immediately – if not sooner!
Absolutely, completely and utterly essential!!
- Even Up The Score
- Big Day
- Sign Of The Times
- Bloody Typical
- Faith In Fools
- Tip Of My Tongue
- Looking For A Reason
- Land Of The Blind
- They Know
Toby Jepson – Vocals, Guitars
Sam Wood – Guitars
Nic Wastell – Bass
Philip Martini – Drums and Percussion
EVEN UP THE SCORE. Buy or Stream: https://orcd.co/waywardsons