The world of traditional heavy metal was no doubt a genre that had its biggest days over two decades ago with bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, Riot, WASP, and countless others ruling the world with their own brands of metal anthems. The vocals were screaming, the guitars were intricate and melodic, and the rhythm section drove everything forward. The lyrics tackled subjects from the mythical and magical to every day experiences, and in the cliche end of the spectrum, partying it up and defending the lifestyle you love so much.
But what has happened to this genre today? There are about a million different subgenres of metal alive and well today, but one that seems to have been buried under years of dust is this simple genre of great, balls-out traditional/US power metal. The few bands still playing it are mostly stuck in complacency, failing to dazzle - and that is why White Wizzard, a hot new band out of California have begun to sweep the metal world with a raging storm of power.
The band's debut, "Over the Top" sounds like it came out in 1987, but with some of today's best production. Now, depending on how you feel about "retro" music with glossy production, that may annoy you, but for me, it's music to my ears. The album's title track wastes absolutely no time getting right to the point, and within seconds you have an idea of what you're in for - a band that is best described as a near-perfect cross between classic Iron Maiden (Piece of Mind, Powerslave albums) and late 80's Riot (Thundersteel-era). The guitar work is superb, combining great riffs, melodic harmony leads, and impressive soloing with screeching yet melodic vocals, reminiscent of some of metal's best singers. One thing any fan is quick to notice is this band's cue taken from Iron Maiden in the bass department. Unlike most other bands which bury the bass because it merely follows the guitars and does nothing interesting, White Wizzard have it right in the forefront of the production with a sound and style very akin to that of Maiden's legendary bass-man Steve Harris.
A strictly song-by-song analysis of this album seems somewhat unnecessary, for many of the songs follow similar formulas, but for anyone who has liked what I've already said of this band, that is in no way a bad thing. That being said, I will do my best to say a little bit about some of the tunes. Songs such as the album's title track, "Out of Control", and the incredible "40 Dueces" are sure to floor any old-school metal fan, with their aforementioned sonic assault of guitars, vocals, and actually interesting bass playing. The lyrics aren't that much to speak of, this is one band that is hardly struggling to write poetry, but in a sense, that's a good thing. These songs don't bring to mind carefully crafted lyrics conveying deeper meanings, but moreso the mood of partying, racing cars, picking up chicks, and just having a great time. This band has most certainly taken a detour from the over-thought, self-important stuff of some other bands in similar markets. The album does offer a few style/tempo breaks in the form of "Iron Goddess of Vengeance", which is quite atmospheric and progressive at times, honestly a bit reminiscent of classic John Arch-era Fates Warning, and the band's title-song, "White Wizzard" is not too far off, featuring more intricate arrangements and performances. "High Roller" is a near explosion of guitar fury with more of a "metal-swing" type of vibe. Even the fastest, most straight-forward songs of the bunch tend to find time and ways to dabble in completely different and varied middle sections, perfectly executed in the album's title track.
So, all in all, what White Wizzard have managed to do is make an album that spits in the face of critics of cliches and stereotypes by simply not trying to avoid them. Sometimes I think this can be a band's worst mistake, but in the case of this band, I think they have managed to hit the nail completely on the head and drive it home in a way that is sure to leave any fan of 80's metal realing in excitement. When I put this record on, I expected to think it was merely OK but wound up loving it from more or less start to finish, and think it is pretty much the perfection of this style of revival-metal, if you will. Unfortunately this can tend to be the sort of style that makes follow-up albums a bitch, with it being hard to evolve or just stop from producing a creative drone next time around. But thankfully that's not something fans of this band will have to worry about for some time while they enjoy rocking out to this album's excellent tunes.