Those of you who are die hard TAPROOT fans are going to love their latest Victory Records release, Plead The Fifth! Those of you who are keener on TAPROOT’s earlier material from Gift, and the Welcome-era are still going to love Plead The Fifth, just maybe not from start to finish. While many say TAPROOT’s debut Gift was the band’s prime, my favorite is their follow up to that, Welcome, because of its mysterious atmosphere and pretty damn heavy riffs, and hearing something like that in 2002 was different than what a lot of other nu metal bands were doing – closest comparison at the time would be The Deftones. I’ve always been a fan of vocalist Stephan Richards’s distinctive voice, and you’ll be glad to hear that the Michiganders in TAPROOT are back to the heavier side of things, because Blue Sky Research and Our Long Road Home just didn’t make the cut in my eyes. Our Long Road Home was way too soft and unfitting for me, so to hear from the get-go that energy and intensity that TAPROOT can do so well gave me a big sigh of relief.
The album opener “Now Rise” starts Plead The Fifth off heavy with plenty of slamming distortion, and you’ll be happy to hear that the heavier and more aggressive side of TAPROOT is indeed back at full force. The guitar tones from guitarists Michael Dewolf and Stephan Richards (who also contributes some guitar on this album) are thick, and the bass is also exceptionally thick, if you listen close. I always love when the production has the bass equally contribute to make an even heavier and lower sound, and Plead The Fifth accomplishes this on TAPROOT’s heavier moments. “Now Rise” gets a big nostalgic nod from me, as well as a 2010 thumbs up. I can tell already that this will definitely be one of the new crowd pleasers. But there are still more crowd pleasers on this release…
The next track “Game Over” follows in the same path as “Now Rise” does. There’s plenty of low end, and the guitar riffing reminds me of the Gift-era TAPROOT, with a touch of progression. Would I also be guilty to say the band has taken on more modern metal influence than they have in the past? I think it’s safe to say so, since metal is bigger now than it ever has been before (thanks to a bunch of gateway bands, which you could include TAPROOT as one), and you’re hearing plenty of nu metal bands now-a-days taking on a much heavier sound on. Anyways, the old hooks are definitely still here, and “Game Over” gives a pretty mysterious chorus with both the vocal tone of Richards and the echo of the guitar, and TAPROOT does what was intended: grasp the listener’s attention.
Moving into the album’s third song which is also the album’s hit single, “Fractured (Everything I Said Was True)” arguably shows TAPROOT at their catchiest in pop sensibility terms. The chorus is TAPROOT at their catchiest on Plead The Fifth and you’ll easily be singing along. The verses give a significant stomp and a killer groove. Lyrically, this song is also meaningful, as a big part of the song is about love and both its complications and its truth, and the way the band puts this all into “Fractured (Everything I Said Was True)”, you may now have to agree they’ve never been catchier. TAPROOT proves that they can successfully craft a quality pop song and still rock the fuck out. It almost seems like new life has been put into the band.
“Trophy Wifi” is a beast of a song that is equally as heavy as it is catchy. There are plenty of sing-a-long parts with Richards giving almost Breaking Benjamin-esque wails in the chorus, but it’s definitely the guitar riffs that make “Trophy Wifi” the song. The low end builds up the foundation, and the cleaners parts of “Trophy Wifi” will definitely get a toe tapping, if not a foot stomping. Again, I’m very glad TAPROOT is back to being heavy.
“Words Don’t Mean A Thing” is where TAPROOT slows things down and take a more melodic approach, and surprisingly this is my favorite song on Plead The Fifth. Where I didn’t really like their slower moments on Our Long Road Home, they’ve got it on lock now. The intro welcomes us back into the Welcome-era where TAPROOT uniquely demands control, and Richards unleashes incredible pop sensibilities and enough attitude in the verses to really make an impression. The transitions in “Words Don’t Mean A Thing” are perfect as a catchy chorus automatically moves into the more experimental and mysterious side of the band, creating suspense. This song speaks to me. Hold on a sec, I gotta put this one on repeat…
The great songs on this release are fantastic, but the songs that are just not so great feel like filler songs, and need not be there. I’m glad TAPROOT is back to their signature sound, but I’d like to see a few new tricks next time around to continue the evolution of the band. Though one could say nu metal is a fairly simple genre, TAPROOT is still at the top of the pack in their own unique way. Anyways, the band definitely has my respect for what they’ve done so far. At least with the good on Plead The Fifth, you need to go out and buy this release now.