STONE TEMPLE PILOTS
"Stone Temple Pilots"

(Rhino)

01. Middle of Nowhere
02. Guilty
03. Meadow
04. Just a Little Lie
05. Six Eight
06. Thought She'd Be Mine
07. Roll Me Under
08. Never Enough
09. The Art of Letting Go
10. Finest Hour
11. Good Shoes
12. Reds & Blues

RATING: 7/10

STONE TEMPLE PILOTS has returned with "Stone Temple Pilots". While there's absolutely nothing wrong with an eponymously entitled song or album, the group named its previous album "Stone Temple Pilots". One can't help but wonder whether or not the best decision was made this time around. At any rate, what matters most is that it's a fantastic release, destined to be one of rock's best albums of the year.

Some major events have unfolded over the course of the last eight years, the time at which the other "Stone Temple Pilots" was released. In 2010, it had been a couple of years since STONE TEMPLE PILOTS had reunited with volatile and iconic vocalist Scott Weiland. It wasn't meant to be. Weiland was let go in 2013, eventually replaced by LINKIN PARK's vocalist Chester Bennington. Said formation didn't last long, though. Only two years later, the group split on good terms. The rock world was subsequently rattled upon the discovery that Weiland had passed away due to an unintentional drug overdose in 2015. (Only two years later, Bennington was found dead as the result of apparent suicide.) The core trio—guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist/vocalist Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz—were already looking for their new frontman. In 2017, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS announced that the group's new singer was Jeff Gutt.

"Stone Temple Pilots", the album sometimes referred to as "2018", marks the ensemble's first album without Weiland on vocals. Not drastically unlike ALICE IN CHAINS's selection of William DuVall to replace Layne Staley, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS also thoughtfully chose a replacement that has a vocal resonance similar to the original without being a copycat, whilst being replete with unique qualities as well. Like Weiland, Gutt's range isn't mind blowing, but his soulful delivery is undeniable and alternately smooth and raspy. Gutt—who appeared on two seasons of the reality show "The X Factor", including one in which he placed second—is not quite as charming as Weiland. Additionally, his contribution isn't as salient as that of his predecessor, which in turn obviously highlights the trio's instrumental work more than it would otherwise.

"Stone Temple Pilots" (2018), the band's seventh full-length, should please longtime fans as well as a younger contemporary rock audience that might be unfamiliar with the legendary "nineties band." The release, the only one outside of the other eponymous album since 2001's "Shangri-La Dee Da", is chock-full of borderline psych-rock, radio-ready melodies and even some forays into country. It isn't as high charged as the material from STONE TEMPLE PILOTS' heyday, nor should it be. Aside from 41-year-old Gutt, the band's aging members are in their fifties. They don't need to prove themselves by writing a sequel to "Sex Type Thing". The DeLeo brothers continue to impress with their hook-laden hard rock that sounds timeless and vibrant. With the more stable vocalist "Stone Temple Pilots" (2018) suggests that the band's expiration date might be many years away, and that its second chapter might finally, and properly, be underway.

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