The first item to address when we talk about Stone Temple Pilots is Jeff Gutt. The third permanent front man for STP already has a long standing link to the band having had former vocalist Chester Bennington present during the recording of the only album from Gutt’s first band of note, Dry Cell. Suitably titled Disconnected, the album was blighted with management and distribution issues, resulting in its release being shelved until 2009, seven years after the completion of recording. His talent was the obvious focal point for the nu-metal outfit, whose only significant career highlight was a spot on the soundtrack to 2002’s Queen of the Damned. Gutt would go on feature as a prominent contestant on X-Factor, receiving plaudits for his covers of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead among others. It would appear that he has a functional band to call his own now, giving him a solid foundation where he can really exercise his abilities as a vocalist consistently. With a rejuvenated STP eager to move on from the loss of two virtuoso rock singers, it’s pleasing to say that the two parties have found each other both in great form.
The album begins with ‘Middle of Nowhere’, an up-tempo number that rolls back the years inspiring sympathy for the three ever-present band members who after many pitfalls over the years, definitely deserve a lengthy unimpeded spell of just being in a rock n roll band together. Immediately, the listener can identify that Gutt has chosen emulation rather than innovation, as his raspy vocals on this track sound very similar to Scott Weiland’s. It’s a good re-introduction to a band that now seemingly has the freedom to finally move forward. ‘Guilty’ follows a short but sweet continuation of the strong start to the album with the typical hooks we’ve been accustomed to hearing from one of the most influential rock bands of the past 25 years.
‘Meadow’ and ‘Just a Little Lie’ takes the band down new territory, incorporating a more indie-rock feel than the bluesy grunge-esque style synonymous with STP. It’s a refreshing change and adds a different dynamic to the record. ‘Six Eight’ follows, with Gutt on great form, absolutely belting the chorus. His lead vocals and harmonies sound eerily like his two predecessors singing a duet, paying homage to the icons that held this position before him and proving he’s the right man to replace them. The rhythm section of this track is spot on, with Eric Kretz and Robert DeLeo throwing the listener in all manner of different directions at once.
‘Thought She’d be Mine’ slows the pace down for the first time on the record. This is a track that sounds like it was dug out of the archives of the Vol. 4 recording sessions. It’s a very easy listen, showing that this band is capable of showing many different sides to themselves. There’s a very sweet and delicate solo toward the end by Dean DeLeo, giving the track the additional seasoning required to take it from being a decent song to one of the highlights on the album.
The trip down memory lane continues with ‘Roll Me Under’, a track which would have felt right at home on Core or Purple. It is heavy, groovy and everything good that encapsulates the STP signature sound, and it’s an excellent way of bringing that into 2018. ‘Never Enough‘ is a straightforward modern blues rock track with chugging verses and a nice solo in the bridge. It’s decent, but nothing special. The creativity is cranked back up with ‘The Art of Letting Go’, a beautiful four and a half-minute ballad serenading the listener about letting go of someone special. It is perhaps a delicate dedication to Scott Weiland and Chester Bennington, who would certainly appreciate the band being in such fantastic shape. Melancholy themes of departure are expertly captured by the four-piece, ensuring that the track is not just a highlight on this album but up there with the very best in STP’s repertoire. The slower tempo continues on ‘Finest Hour’, with the band once again showing how their softer music holds its own against their older more traditional hard rock style.
There’s a return to the initial rock ‘n’ roll vibe set by the first couple of tracks with ‘Good Shoes’. The guitar work is worth noting in this track, with Dean DeLeo not letting up for one second and showing why he’s one of the most underrated guitarists in the world. The album closes with the slower ‘Reds and Blues’ providing another easy listen and capping off what is a very good album. It’s a great end to this reintroduction to an immensely talented band, leaving the listener hoping that this newly formed marriage continues for years to come.
In conclusion, this album sounds like a band who has found a new life and energy. This is thanks in part to appointing a phenomenal vocalist in Jeff Gutt, who has made the position of front man of Stone Temple Pilots his own. Considering the magnitude of the talent and enigma of his predecessors, only the best available option was going to do for the the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz. One feels that the decision to self-title this album is a nod to new beginnings; something attempted eight years ago with the bands previous album (also self-titled) but instead ended in disappointment and tragedy. There’s a variation of different styles on the record, and this versatility has served the band well as they showcase each dynamic of who they are as exceptionally talented musicians. There are some moments on the album which are moving and others that offer the STP brand of pure rock ferociousness. There is quality on each end of the scale, with a keen attention to detail paying off in a big way. Each band member is given their opportunity to shine and together they’ve been able to reignite some of the magic that in recent years has evaded STP.
That said, the album does feel slightly long. There were a few tracks that, while being decent, could have been left as B-Sides. However, it is nice to get a full twelve tracks in an era of music where it’s not uncommon for albums to have single-digit track listings. If this band can continue forward producing albums of this caliber, Stone Temple Pilots will recapture the momentum they once had as a driving force in alternative music.