[Album Review] Sons Of Texas: Forged By Fortitude

Sophomore album by Sons Of Texas due for release September 22nd.

After a string of support slots for the likes of Hellyeah and several festival appearances across America, the Texas quintet hit the studio in January to record the follow up to 2015’s Baptised In The Rio Grande.  At the helm was producer Josh Wilbur, who has worked with such metal pedigree as Lamb Of God, Hatebreed and System Of A Down.

Sons Of Texas’ southern brand of groove metal showcase their musical ability by taking a more technical direction on their new album. Mark Morales sings opener ‘Buy In To Sell Out’ with the authentic rage of someone who really has travelled the rough roads of the music industry and come out the other side worse for wear yet tenacious. Mike Villareal’s incessant pounding drums and a ripping guitar section further expresses the band’s defiant attitude.

Nick Villarreal starts off ‘Feed The Need’, single and second track, with a simplistic yet powerful bass line; when played live it will surely make the earth shake. You can feel the Pantera influence all over this song, especially the way it builds up to a catastrophic breakdown. ‘Feed The Need’ doesn’t relent on the heaviness, but has enough sing-along parts to be a real crowd pleaser at shows.

This band knows how to do a sincere and poignant song right. Instead of the twangy country-style ballads bands of this genre usually deliver, ‘Cast In Stone’ doesn’t let down the energy, and feels as if it has an angry desperation to be heard, making it feel instantly meaningful and memorable to the listener. The rhythm section and Morales’ mastery of both clean and unclean vocals make for a crushing combination. ‘Cast In Stone’ also stands out as the most lyrically impressive track on the album, with lines such as “I’m no man cast in stone, belonging to nothing, on my own”. The theme of detachment and uncertainty is especially relatable.

The bluesy intro to ‘Beneath The Riverbed’ instantly makes you think of the Wild West and Texas; clearly this is the band’s demonstration of pride for their native Lone Star State. This feel-good tune with its garnish of acoustic guitar would perfectly soundtrack a BBQ party on a late summer’s evening, complete with shots of Bourbon. ‘Beneath The Riverbed’ also stand out because it’s less heavy and quite a cheerful tune – it even has a sing and clap along section! The same enthusiasm sadly can’t be shown for ‘Turnin The Page’. This track is let down by the lyrics, which rely too heavily on clichés (there is also some Michael Jackson style ‘whoo-ing’ which is just out of place). The whole song just sounds a bit Nickleback and rather contrived.

Sons Of Texas might need to work on their flirting, because I’m not sure how flattered a woman would be if you described her as ‘penicillin’, which is a type of blue mold. Other than that, ‘Wasp Woman’ gets the album back on track and is an absolute screamer. ‘Wasp Woman’ has a double onslaught of grinding guitar from Jon Olivarez and Jes De Hoyos. It also has probably the best guitar solo of the album with fancy fretwork that’s guaranteed to shred your ears. Morales describes the ‘Wasp Woman’ as the ultimate dangerous seductress, culminating in the bellowing of “SHE’S FINE!” It got me singing along from first listen and subsequently fantasising about how huge it’s going to be live.

The title track ‘Forged By Fortitude’ is probably the heaviest on the album, with commanding guitars and drums and in your face vocals. Lyrically it’s another song about how tough the music biz can be and how naïve you are when you start out (“If I knew back then what I know now” and to drive the point home: “I’m choking on reality.”)

But the overall message of the song and indeed the album is a positive one, from the greatest hardships comes the greatest art. The record ends on a high with a slice of southern sleaze, ‘Slam With The Lumières On’. The final track has a fun classic rock feel and the perfect amount of whiny guitar slides, building into a killer bridge.

Forged By Fortitude showcases a musical intricacy that can be uncommon in this genre. It’s the natural progression from Baptised In The Rio Grande with a similar but sharper and more refined sound, but without losing any of the energy and aggression. Sons Of Texas are prime examples of the reliable meat ‘n potatoes metal that keep our heads banging; what they lack in originality they make up for in energy. The Sons are good at what they do – deliver what the fans want and you can’t ask for any more than that. Overall, Forged By Fortitude is a very satisfying album – you won’t be disappointed.

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