Artist: Daughtry

Title: Break the Spell

Label: RCA

Like a lot of artists looking to stay fresh after a first wave of success, best-selling rock act Daughtry has said its third album takes a few creative chances.

That may pique curiosity, but Break the Spell doesn't break the mold so much as it does tweak up the commendable energy level and relatable writing this American Idol-rooted band has always offered.

"Renegade" rips open the set with an extra boost of metallic scrape in the guitars, a rebel song heavy enough for motorcyclists and muscle car drivers. Similarly, Daughtry's overseas tour opening for Bon Jovi might have inspired the throwback squawking riff and stadium-sized drums in "Outta My Head," another early standout.

The obsessive relationship theme of the latter cut is explored to its extremes on hit-built first single "Crawling Back to You" as well as the intensely catchy title track, a rushing dark river type of rocker where straight-shooting lead singer Chris Daughtry confesses, I'm so addicted to the pain / I got your poison running through my veins. And the strong, dramatic voice unleashing those words is a perfect example of why he's selling more records today than the three Idol contestants who somehow got more votes back in 2006. 

Anyone attracted to the softer side of this tattooed quintet, first evidenced in multi-format smash "Home," will be glad to hear the romantic vulnerability in acoustic-based "Start of Something Good." But the most moving selection—and somewhat of a creative chance for a harder-edged outfit like Daughtry—is "Gone too Soon," a tender note to a miscarried child that could again resonate with an even larger audience.

Other artistic high points include "Losing My Mind," a cleverly phrased pop/rock love song whose chorus displays the unexpected beauty of Chris Daughtry's falsetto quickly followed by the raw power of his full vocal force. Closer "Spaceship" gives a lyrical nod to Elton John's classic "Levon" then builds on its spiritual undertones: If somebody's out there show me that you care / Give me a sign that comes out of nowhere.

Chris has also performed with Third Day in the past and thanks Jesus in the liner notes here, so the listener can be confident there's nothing morally offensive about the set. If you want solid radio rock that is twenty-first century relevant and twentieth century inspired (think Bryan Adams, Live, etc.), you may well enjoy falling under this Spell.

*This review first published 12/5/2011

**Listen to this album on Spotify