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There’s this theory out there that it’s not the second album that’s the most important in a band’s career but the third. Think about it: the second is typically all about the woes of being away from home and tour stories because most bands try for a quick follow-up for their debut. There might be some experiments here and there but for the most part, sophomore albums don’t stray too far from the path.

The third album, however, is where a band truly makes its’ mark. They’re either still high from the fumes of the waves they made on their first two records or eager to prove themselves if victim of the dreaded “sophomore slump”. Regardless, they want to make a statement about who they really are on album number three.

On Gift, Taproot exploded in the midst of the nu-metal scene with a feral debut record, a much talked about stint on that year’s Ozzfest, and a feud with some guy named Fred Durst. Welcome was a mature follow-up which strayed from their token sound slightly but still managed to avoid the aforementioned slump. Blue-Sky Research, Taproot’s third, was the one. It captured everything that Taproot aspired to be. It was epically heavy combining layers upon layers to create something new but still sound like Taproot.

Then Taproot lost it on 2008’s Our Long Road Home. Besides the opening track, OLRH sounded like a completely different band. They threw out the heaviness of Gift. They threw out the maturity of Welcome. They threw out the soundscapes of B-SR. Two years later, Plead The Fifth was released on Victory and it was as if a phoenix had arisen from the ashes. Almost like a second debut, PTF was heavy beyond heavy yet still incredibly melodic. It didn’t tread any new ground for the band but at least they were back to doing what they do best.

Which brings us to 2012 and Taproot’s sixth album, The Episodes. Taproot wanna be that band again. They’re trying real hard and this album is the proof. The Episodes is a 10-track concept record that recaptures the spirit of Blue-Sky Research. The more you listen to it, the more it’ll draw you in. Beginning with the discordant “Good Morning”, featuring an ominous speak and spell bot that’ll pop up throughout, The Episodes is already interesting to say the least. Vocalist Stephen Richards goes through all of his ranges (Singing, screaming, etc.) while there are tinges of synths if you listen closely enough along with a ton of other sonic experiments.

There’s highlights aplenty on The Episodes. Take “Lost Boy” and its Deftones-esque buzzsaw riffing and vocals that go from a whisper to a scream. Or single “No Surrender” which is mostly a typical Taproot affair albeit the grand chorus. The two that stand out the most are “The Everlasting” and “A Kiss From The Sky”. The former is an acoustic driven rocker that could easily sit between “Facepeeler” and “Calling” on Blue-Sky Research. The latter, by contrast, is easily the biggest departure for Taproot to date. The piano meshed with guitar intro alone is leaps and bounds above what Taproot are known for. The rest of the song settles into normal Taproot territory but then the chorus kicks in, and the magnitude of The Episodes is realized.

Has Taproot recaptured the magic they had on Blue-Sky Research? No. But they’re really close and The Episodes is a good start on that path.

The Episodes is out now through Victory Records.

Grade: B

 

 

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