If the name Aftershok rings a bell with U.S. metal devotees, it should. The Pennsylvania-based band, originally featuring in its ranks Shok Paris singer Vic Hix, released two strong albums on the legendary Auburn Records imprint in the early 2000s. I was particularly fond of Aftershok’s second album, 2004’s ‘Burning Chrome,’ and was disappointed when year after year passed without another word from the band. I assumed that Aftershok was destined to join the list of talented bands that came out of the gates strong then vanished without a trace. Needless to say, I was thrilled a couple of months ago when Auburn head honcho Bill Peters announced the imminent release of Aftershok’s third album, ‘Detonate,’ fully 12 years after its predecessor.
As one might expect with the passage of a dozen years, there’ve been some changes in the Aftershok camp. Most notably, Vic Hix is no longer behind the microphone; however, guitarist / principal writer George Mihalovich (now also playing bass) and drummer George Borden remain in the fold. The new Aftershok vocalist is Gord Sheffroth, a Canadian native who does an excellent job and is more than up to the challenge of replacing Hix. Sometimes Sheffroth sounds a little like Hix, other times he reminds me of Tim “Ripper” Owens when Owens is in his clean, powerful midrange (not the stratospheric screams, which really aren’t what Sheffroth is about). All the time, Sheffroth sounds great and fits the profile of a classic heavy metal singer with range, power, control and charisma. Certainly, Vic Hix is a fantastic, highly respected vocalist, and rightfully so. But after listening to this ‘Detonate’ CD, you won’t be thinking about how much you miss him, simply because Sheffroth nails the gig.
What hasn’t changed in the Aftershok camp is George Mihalovich’s penchant for writing straightforward old-school anthems that straddle the line between heavy metal and hard rock. Don’t let the “hard rock” reference scare you off, either. These songs occupy the same sonic space as the early Dio albums, or Leatherwolf or Malice or Dokken or Loudness or, hell, Shok Paris for that matter. Stylistically, things haven’t changed much since the ‘Burning Chrome’ days. To be sure, I’ve seen a few references on the Internet to Aftershok veering slightly more in the “metal” direction this time around, and that may well be true, but Aftershok fans will not notice any significant curveballs on ‘Detonate.’ It definitely sounds like the same band. Now, my personal tastes predictably lean towards the faster, heavier cuts like “Hang ‘Em High” or “Under the Gun,” but even the more midtempo tracks like the godly “When the Shadows Fall” or “The World United” or “In the Eye of the Storm” shine and win me over bigtime. Mihalovich has not forgotten about quality control, either. Even though Aftershok serve up 13 tracks (including one intro) on ‘Detonate,’ there is no filler. Everything is quality, everything is classy. Production values are top-notch too, and the record sounds great to these ears.
Predictably, it has not taken long for accolades to begin pouring in for ‘Detonate’ from around the world. It’s a really well done album with a timeless sound. Aftershok aren’t hopping trends or jumping bandwagons or trying to be the flavor of the month here. They’re simply leveraging the inescapable truth that nothing beats a classic riff, a powerhouse vocalist, and a memorable hook. It’s the heart and soul of good, honest metal. I’m always ready to clear some space on my CD racks for a band who fits that bill, and that’s exactly what Aftershok have given us on ‘Detonate.’ Here’s hoping Mihalovich & Co. find a way to bring these songs to life on festival stages in the U.S. and Europe, as I think they’d be a big hit.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~