“Misters” is the first full-length release by John Zdrojeski. After his 2019 EP entitled “Primitive”, John took the time to conceive his alter ego and this album’s protagonist, Virgil Wilde, that has some strong opinions and struggles with the patriarchal society he lives in. Between the outside world corrupting him and his inner self fluctuating between the states of strife and comfort, let’s see how the story of this album unfolds.
The album begins with a 30-second intro that has some indistinct chatter that flows into the first real track, O Rock N Roll, and right off the bat, you know this is a record that belongs to the hard rock era of the late 70s and early 80s. The bass guitar has a rich tone, the guitar riffs are the song’s main drive, and the drums feel like they could cause an earthquake if played long enough. Last but not least, the lead vocals are yelled in perfect timing with those riffs, and the backing vocals make the chorus feel like a larger-than-life wall of sound that will fill arenas and stadiums. The second track, Devil You Know I, is part of a trilogy that sounds a bit more modern. This part is just some vocals layered with effects and clean guitars. The following track is Brad’s Drunk Interview, which has piano and horns and some high chest vocals in an arrangement that sounds like Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie collaborated with Aerosmith. This track will definitely land in your playlist of favourites after you finish listening to the album. Daryl, Elea’s Ex is a more bright-sounding track with some clean guitars and softer singing. I really enjoyed how the pre-chorus builds up to the chorus with so much ease and groove, it made me imagine myself in a rock club in the 70s having the time of my life while dancing and singing along to its pleasant sound. The ending section is just anthemic chanting with no instruments, which adds more to that raw feeling that a lot of today’s bands lack. Fragile begins with a super-charged bass and an intro scream. A total contradiction to the previous track, which goes to show how much range these guys have up their sleeves. This track is an epic battle between bass and guitar lines over the foundation of groundbreaking drums. The refrain guitar line that plays after the chorus has got to be my favourite part of the track. The wonderful yet contradictory thing about this track is that it could fit in the middle of an 80s rock playlist as well as a 2000s one. It has that timelessness and universal appeal to it.
In a similar vein to the first part, Devil You Know II also begins as a soft ballad. This time around with clearer vocals and acoustic guitars, the sound is also a little more hopeful than the first part, which beautifully progresses the story. Candy is another uplifting track that has a balanced sound between blues rock and hard rock. Its melodic solo is one of the record’s most pleasant moments. Snake Oil Strongman has a funky and stompy drum beat and guitar effects that make the song modern-sounding. Fans of Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys will definitely love this one a lot. The strong vocals make this one an unforgettable track. The unnamed track begins with some tweaking and unclear transmission sounds as if it actually is an unnamed demo, and then the whole vibe and melody change once the clean guitar begins playing. Soon it is joined by electric guitars, drums, and the almighty bass that has so far been the star of this album. It’s rare to find bands whose bass guitar sounds as prominent as this one, so kudos to whoever mixed this wonderful album. Devil You Know III is the last installment in this pleasant and calm trilogy. This one sounds a lot more theatrical; it’s almost like a scene from a musical more than a song. The rollercoaster of emotions in the lyrics has a corresponding rollercoaster of vocal tension and variation in styles and distortion. It felt like I was watching a whole performance, not just listening to a track.
Spoon Fed Jack (feat. Melissa Kaitlyn Carter), for me, is the most emotional and heart-wrenching track in here. It puts the listener in confusion as to whether Jack is comfortable with his partner by his side, or loathing how dependent he has become. The following track, Battle Of The Bands…in the Rain, has some more vocal acrobatics and I’m sure at this point no one doubts John/Virgil’s vocal abilities. Our story is nearing its end with this positive-sounding track which tells us the ending will be a somewhat pleasant one. The transition with the key change in this song was one more epic moment for me, right after it was some manic laughter (probably the devil you know appearing again). The transitions then keep on coming, as if to tell us that the different sounds represent different mentalities and personas battling one another. The choir adds to this multiple personalities/dissociative identity theme very beautifully as well. Keyboards, horns, guitars and almost every instrument plays a solo or a complex section to contribute to this battle of sounds and personalities that (in a magical way) still have a lot of musical coherence. The final track, Looking Up And Out, begins with an acoustic guitar strumming and some hummed vocals that the choir later joins in on. It sounds as if our character has either found his way or found comfort in the panic and decided not to change a thing. The only certain emotion here was how this melody was very liberating and soothing from all the tension created by the previous tracks.
The struggles of the album’s protagonist and rockstar, Virgil Wilde, have truly come to life with each song. For the most part, the album dealt with how patriarchy and toxic masculinity corrupt men on an individual level. These tracks have been descriptive of how the outer forces and society put pressure on the person. On the contrary, though, those that deal with his battles within himself in “The Devil You Know” perfectly depict inner struggles and how hard it can be to stay in line with one’s values and ideals. This album is not just about a fictional character’s rock show and his methodology of perfecting it, but rather a whole journey into the depths of personal issues and how we evolve and grow around them. I’m glad that after so many years of listening to old concept albums I finally have the opportunity to listen to a new one that sounds fresh, is in touch with its roots, and has enough moral and social commentary to sound like a protestant rock opera.