Sound — 7
Perhaps the title describes the album best; what Tesla offers throughout their seventh studio album smears away the heavy metal approach of such recent outings as 2008's "Forever More," and instead shows the rock group returning to their classic roots wedged between the fan favorite debut "Mechanical Resonance" and the radio hit-studded effort "Psychotic Supper." In short, "Simplicity" is simply Tesla giving their finest studio performance in two decades.
When the band first entered the recording studio, fans were offered a moderate taste of what Tesla had started cooking up for their first album of original material in six years, the high octane "Taste My Pain." While the track showcased somewhat of a subtle yet noticeable return to the definitive Tesla sound, the decision was ultimately made to leave the selection off of the final product; a warmly welcomed thought, as it would take away from would have been otherwise the electrifyingly nostalgic end product evident throughout the fourteen songs which make up "Simplicity."
The album begins on a reflective note with "MP3," which shows lead vocalist Jeff Keith pondering how the music industry changed so violently from "The phonograph record to the MP3," a question which many classic rock fans already understand the answer to yet still occasionally reminisce. Bracketed by a compilation of power chords and familiar vocal melodies, it's a bold first start, yet not the full-fledged revisitation which longtime listeners have been anticipating. One song over on the track listing and we find this same performance on "Ricochet," which incorporates the reason behind Tesla's decision to return to their roots, a quality which we'll analyze further in the section below.
The appropriately chosen lead single "So Divine..." could be considered the 2014 revitalization of "Modern Day Cowboy," with soaring harmonies and impressive tempo changes leaving a warm impression on the listener. The next collection of songs, however, is a more diverse collection of recordings; "Cross My Heart" is a slow paced, romanticized blues rocker with acoustic guitar and accompanying piano arrangements which could find a comfortable home between "Love Song" and "Paradise" on the band's second studio offering. "Honestly" serves as a traditional tear jerking power ballad which Tesla are well known for, while the energetic "Flip Side!" brightens up the mood with slide guitar and harmonica work.
Selections such as "Break of Dawn" and "Time Bomb" are a more logical infusion of the band's recent heavy metal ventures with signature lyrical execution, while "'Till That Day" and "Burnout to Fade" are hastily welcomed rock anthems with particular emphasis towards acoustic guitar and climatic bursts of distortion during the chorus.
Lyrics — 8
Tesla lead vocalist Jeff Keith delivers an admirable performance throughout "Simplicity." While we don't find him matching the same lung bursting primal screams of "Edison's Medicine," his defining tone and range are in impressive shape, which in turn attributes that signature Tesla quality throughout this heavily diverse studio album. Some longtime listeners have previously made the assessment that without Keith there would be no Tesla, and especially throughout such a broad compilation of musical genres one can notice the validity behind that statement. From a lyrical standout, Keith tackles a variety of themes ranging from lost relationships in "Break of Dawn" to performing take-no-prisoners hard rock for their fans on "Ricochet." Picking up where I previously left off, "Ricochet" has Keith explaining Tesla's admiration for their fans and how they want to make them proud, which could explain the reason behind this dramatic revisitation to their original sound.
Overall Impression — 8
In short, Tesla venture across a vast terrain of stylistic frontiers on their new studio album, "Simplicity." The album has it's share of memorable power ballads and light hearted acoustic rockers, however the priority is centered towards revisiting the hard rock sound which previously appeared on their earlier efforts, and the end result will appeal to any familiar or dedicated listener, while established fans will more heavily appreciate the album's strong return-to-form.