Michigan-based hard rockers Taproot came up in the early 2000s, a period when Michigan’s music scene was all about hip-hop and electronica, and the boys carried the torch for riff-heavy, alternative metal with a razor-sharp edge. On ‘The Episodes,’ Taproot hold onto shades of the sound that made them a chart-topping rock band, while expanding and updating it for 2012.

From the first, faint notes of ‘Good Morning’ to the epic conclusion of ‘We Don’t Belong Here,’ the new album has it all: heavy riffs, distorted vocals, angst-packed growling, melodic passages. Lead vocalist Stephen Richards has always carried a broad range and smooth, slippery, delicate style of singing that provides a unique compliment to his screaming and the band’s heavy dynamic, and that really shines through here.

Lead single ‘No Surrender’ hits the listener fast and hard, with guitars that twist and turn coupled with empowering lyrics, in the Taproot tradition: “These are the days you can’t forget / These are the times you can’t regret / This is your time for no surrender, surrender / This is your chance to do or die / This is your path so run or hide / This is your time for no surrender, surrender!”

As for ballads, ‘The Everlasting’ is a favorite. The song starts with quiet instrumentals and Richards’ hushed vocals, brooding and slowly breaking into an anxious chorus with thick chording and melodic vocals. “The world around comes crashing down / I ask myself how I’m still around,” Richards croons. On the heavier side, ‘Lost Boy’ explodes from the get-go, with Richards’ thick vocal layering and screaming, building up an intense track with hard-hitting stretches.

Something we love about Taproot is that these guys are serious about their music. There are no gimmicks or tricks here; just solid rock ‘n’ roll, good songwriting and a lot of hard work. Moreover, on ‘The Episodes,’ Taproot show off their ability to create complex, near-experimental music, as they drift into instrumental interludes and complex vocal harmonies. Taproot excel as musicians on ‘The Episodes,’ and the album is one they should be proud to have in their collection.

4 Stars