Sheer Mag aren't exactly “revolutionizing” rock and roll, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they’re revitalizing it at the very least, giving guitar-based music a much needed dose of energy and attitude. Something of a contradiction, they sprang up form the Philadelphia punk scene playing music more indebted to 70s hard rock than anything else: peeling out raunchy riffs and twin guitar attacks that have earned endless Thin Lizzy comparisons.

In Tina Halladay they have something of a modern protest singer who takes on the struggles of the working class and marginalized groups, or speaks out on political corruption with a fierce and passionate voice that often shreds with intensity.

Their run of three solid EP’s and equally great debut album Need to Feel Your Love rightly expanded their already devoted fanbase and also raised expectations. Depending on what you’re looking for, their follow-up A Distant Call might reaffirm your love for them, challenge whatever expectations you bring with you, or even leave you a little disappointed. It might even leave you with any number of those feelings at once.

It sounds as good as Need to Feel Your Love only with some added muscle this time around, which gives the band even more room to rip. And rip they do: 'Steel Sharpens Steel' stomps with a cocky strut that lands somewhere between AC/DC and Judas Priest, the sleazy burner 'The Killer' bursts with some especially nasty glam-metal solos, and 'Chopping Block' is a stomping, feel-good protest anthem in the making.

A Distant Call comes off as a straightforward rock album with plenty of room for headbanging and fist pumping, so much so that it feels at first as if it were lacking some of the same variety as Need to Feel Your Love. But it's there, even if it sometimes feels a little more subtle, as on the weirdly crystalline and breezy bridge of undistorted guitars on 'Unfound Manifest' for example.

'Keep on Running' is weirdly hypnotic with some particularly searing solos complimented by a kraut-like groove that could just as easily stretch out twice as long as its three-minute running time without being redundant. There's no better example though of how much Sheer Mag have grown as musicians than 'Silver Line', which also happens to be the most beautiful thing here. Tina Halladay delivers what is easily her most heartfelt performance singing about suffering a particularly hurtful breakup and losing her job while also referencing the Virginia teacher's strike. What could have just as easily been another burning rocker is instead something that comes closer to 70s AOR. Kyle Seely still peels off a monster solo but it's a ringing 12-string guitar and a lap-steel guitar (of all things) that together create a swell of emotions capable of leaving you with a lump in your throat.

Sheer Mag are known for their tightness and confidence of their songwriting. From the beginning, they have never shied away from taking on current socio-political struggles and responding to our endless (and often overwhelming) news cycle. This is easily the most rewarding thing about the album: be it our current turbulent political state or their growing strength as songwriters, A Distant Call contains what feels like some of their more impassioned and immediate songs.

Not exactly a concept album, A Distant Call does follow a theme loosely based around Tina Halladay's own personal struggles. 'Hardly to Blame' details a particularly hurtful breakup, and 'Cold Sword' confronts the mixed emotions over the death of her abusive alcoholic father. On 'The Right Stuff', she fires back at fat shamers that are supposedly "worried about her health" and on 'Blood from a Stone', she struggles with living day-to-day.

As personal as they are, it's a safe bet that just about any of us can somehow relate to them. From there, the band turns their attention to our own collective crisis. 'Unfound Manifesto' addresses the ongoing refugee crisis, 'The Killer' expresses righteous anger over government corruption and the backroom deals that come at the expense of the rest of us, and 'Chopping Block' is a fierce pro-worker anthem and a call to rise up against shitty employers and the system that enables them.

Tina Halladay has always been the (not so) best kept secret of the band, a whirlwind of intensity and passion whipping the rest of us up into a frenzy, and it's that uncompromising passion about the subjects she takes on that has always helped make an otherwise really good band even better. Nothing much has changed either: she still tackles every single issue here with the same explosive conviction as ever.

What has changed is that this time around is that she swapped out the usual 8-track recorder she usually used to lay down her vocal parts and instead recorded them with producer Arthur Rizk in an actual studio. Far from distilling any of the fury from her pipes (which sometimes sound on the verge of shredding themselves) the added clarity does a lot to boost the emotional wallop of her words especially on the more vulnerable moments.

The band may be the farther than ever from punk rock as a whole--and albums like this are proof of how far they are drifting musically--but what hasn't changed is the DIY ethic themselves. Regardless of how polished their music becomes, they ares still committed as ever to using it as a platform to lend their collective voice to those that need one.