After nearly dying from an overdose and resuscitated by his girlfriend, Josh Brown left the band he co-founded, one on its way up the commercial metal tiers, FULL DEVIL JACKET. A tempest of shakeups to the band's roster including two consecutive singers, Ben Hatch and Jamie Martin, plus the unfortunate passing of Michael Reaves, and FDJ was doomed to fold for a spell.
Having reclaimed FULL DEVIL JACKET while rolling out A NEW REBEL with SAVING ABEL's Jonathan Montoya, Brown, along with Foster, Paul Varnick, Keith "Moose" Douglass and a slew of guest performers make another run with a new album, "Valley of Bones".
"Killers" is an almost careful opener despite Josh Brown whispering "I feel the sick-sick-sick-sick-sickness kicking in, it's the same old fucking darkness it's always been." The song pulls itself from the proverbial dirt (and by attrition, Brown himself), clawing toward a climax that doesn't really come, but sets up the faster pace of the title track. Brown gets confessional on "7X Down", a song riding the nu metal pop chugs of the late Nineties. One can at least excuse the whole thing upon hearing Brown scream "three days to kick the sickness, feelin' it, God help me to get free!" As candid a self-indictment as you'll hear from a recovered addict.
For the party-down crew, the peppy "We Got the Love" is the rockout jam of the album, even if a needless though brief breakdown-screamo moment bashes its way in. The most poignant moments of the album come with the ballads "August" and "What If I Say", the latter of which builds like "Killers" does, only this time it pays out nicely. FULL DEVIL JACKET attempts to toughen up on "Blood of the Innocent", even if you've heard its would-be agro blasts many times before from their contemporaries. Another ballad, "Paper Crown", trails along soothingly as another of the album's sweeter cuts.
Josh Brown's confidence is "Valley of Bones"' selling point (his soulful emissions on "August" are downright beautiful), even if the material is largely played radio-friendly safe. As far as AOR goes, "Valley of Bones" is snap-tight and refreshingly honest, a back-patting welcome home for Brown and FULL DEVIL JACKET. It's to the good Brown's chosen to use music for his bloodletting without making it maudlin. "The Moment" is about as soppy and melancholic as "Valley of Bones" gets, and it's still a solid tune. Nonetheless, solid is about all anyone outside of the mainstream rock circles can claim of this album. For those who dig what FDJ's selling, "Valley of Bones" will ring agreeably, if bittersweet.