After 4 years since their last release, the long awaited third album from Sick Puppies is finally out. Connect is kind of a mix of both previous albums (as well as Polar Opposite), in which it varies from heavy to soft and demonstrates their versatility as a band.

From the opening riff of “Die To Save You,” you know that Sick Puppies don’t mess around. Right from the start, Emma Anzai’s bass smacks you right in the face. The best part of this album is that the band listened to their fans, who continuously begged for Anzai to sing more. Shim Moore and Anzai’s harmonies have always been great, and as time progressed, they’ve only gotten stronger.

First single “There’s No Going Back” was surprising at first, because it was unlike previous singles, in the fact that it’s mellower. Nevertheless, the first time I heard it, it was stuck in my head and got me excited for the rest of the album. With sing a long chants and a gripping melody, combined with Moore’s always personal lyrics, it will definitely be a crowd pleaser.

“Walking Away” is another fully charged song. More demanding than Tri-Polar’s “Don’t Walk Away” (probably not even related at all), “Walking” begs answers from a tired lover on top of Mark Goodwin’s furious cymbal crashing.

“Gunfight” kind of leaked a bit earlier on in the form of a live video from a festival. Politically fueled with angry vignettes of celebrities and presidents combined with a killer hook, “you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, you’ll lose,” “Gunfight” is a rager, and combined with Moore’s stage presence, the crowd is going to lose it.

“Poison” sweetens things up a bit, with a bit of Moore’s Australian twang in the vocals. With an electric acoustic, and a blip of heavy rocking guitars and screaming it’s reminiscent of some earlier Puppies material from Dressed Up As Life. Continuing the softer, sweeter side, “Where Did the Time Go” is most likely third single material, featuring Anzai’s echoing vocals on lyrics that seem like Moore is ripping his heart open about touring for a long time and coming back to a different life.

A “bootleg” track for fans who preordered the album at shows last fall, “Telling Lies” opens up the innate quality of humans which is telling lies to avoid creating tense situations. Along with the album title, the band wants to connect with the listener, and bring themselves into the equation by humanizing their music. Much like “Gunfight,” “Telling Lies” paints pictures with vignettes of personal circumstances. With an almost jungle like feel (congo drums, swirling guitars, haunting, whirring echoes) the track is audibly appealing to draw attention to the lyrics.

Title track “Connect” summarizes everything the band desires, which is making relationships with their fans, “There’s a thousand miles between us as I feel your breath on my neck. … I want to connect with you” The fingerpicking and banjo in this track tie it all together, and the main riff is one of the oldest Moore has written.

One of my personal favorites (even before I read an interview stating that it’s one of Moore’s favorites too), “Run” has an absolutely beautiful message, “You better run as fast as you can / cause this world tries to stop you, stop you, stop you / whenever it can.” Inspirational songs have helped get this band to where it is (“All the Same” and the Free Hugs campaign), and this song is no different.

“The Trick The Devil Did” is short, but impactful. With roaring electric guitar and Moore’s grovel-y shouts alternating with dangling notes and his enunciation, “Trick” shows the band’s capabilities to pack a punch without needing a long time to do so.

Returning back to the softer side, “Healing Now” has a twangy guitar and sugary vocals. It’s almost an ultimate heartbreak song, not even just with a significant other, but maybe a friendship, job, anything that once hurt you, which is what this band is good at, connecting with fans by making their music relatable on any level the listener needs. The song progresses from slow instrumental and sad situations, to a heavier bridge and reassurance in Anzai’s bright vocals.

The song everyone anticipated when the band said Anzai would be singing on the new album, “Under A Very Black Sky” features her tender vocals throughout the majority of the song. The chorus erupts like a thunderstorm, with booming harmonies that showcase Anzai’s power.

Overall, Connect demonstrates the band’s cohesiveness and ability and versatility to rock and rage or tone it down to an inspirational ballad. With many years together, and many years touring, their progression while combining elements from previous albums is critical to the connection with fans, and I think they succeeded in doing that with Connect.

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: Die To Save You, There’s No Going Back, Run, Under A Very Black Sky

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