Cast your mind back to the middle years of the last decade and imagine (or try to imagine, depending on your age) the metal scene, in all its baggy Adidas tracksuited/po-faced corpsepainted glory (delete as appropriate), getting all giggly over an album featuring clean guitars, shrieked vocals and lyrical subject matter that would make Saxon wet themselves with envy – it just wouldn’t have happened, would it?
With the exception of Iron Maiden or maybe the aforementioned Saxon, there weren’t many bands who could get away with straight-up trad metal during those downtuned, crossover years (and only one of them was firing on more than one cylinder at the time) – so it seems quite funny to be praising the antics of an LA-based NWOBHM soundalike band. But time is circular, and it seems that this 80s metal worship is in full flow in 2011.
So for their second album, Earache signings White Wizzard have cranked up the retro-isms to the point of ridiculousness, but all in a very good way. Opening track ‘Fight to the Death’ sets the standard for the first half of the album, as the galloping rhythms and dynamic riffs sound like vintage Iron Maiden with singer Wyatt Anderson giving his best Joey Belladonna-style wails over the top. Also in this opening flurry is the power ballad ‘Starchild’, an arena rock behemoth that sounds like 80s Kiss in full chart-bothering mode, and the pure Maiden tribute that is the title track.
It’s on the second half of the album where the band start to stretch themselves and add a bit of diversity to their sound. Although they still sound like Maiden/Priest/Dio/Saxon or any other 80s trad metal band you care to mention, there’s more of a sense of dynamics and even a thrash influence creeping in. ‘Fall of Atalantis’ thunders along with double-kick drums blazing and time changes aplenty, sounding more like Iced Earth than anything from the 80s. Elsewhere, ‘Blood on the Pyramids’ exhibits a main riff no too dissimilar to Megadeth‘s ‘In My Darkest Hour’, only sped up, and the lengthy ‘Demons & Diamonds’ is almost prog rock in its delivery. Closing track ‘Starman’s Son’ takes the epic scale of the second half of the album to its logical conclusion with its mix of shredding solos, acoustic breakdowns, a thunderous middle eight and Anderson’s impassioned warble culminating in quite a remarkable finale.
Overall, this is a great album from a band who are totally passionate about the music and driven to make the best songs they can. They display more of their own identity, especially on the latter half of the album, than on their previous album Over The Top, and get to show what incredible musicians they are. Some may grumble about style over substance when it comes to retro metal bands but White Wizzard prove that there’s more to them than just mullets and leather jackets.