White Wizzard

Over The Top

Written by: GR on 16/02/2010 16:27:38

"Where were you in 2009 when the dam began to burst/ Did you check us out on a YouTube video/ Were we wearing denim, wearing leather/ Did you leave a quick comment/ Did you queue up our music after a download?" So might White Wizzard have sung on a bonus track for last year's repackaged "High Speed GTO" EP had they felt like butchering a metal classic with updated lyrics. What I'm trying to convey with this crude attempt at creativity is that whilst we are in the age of the 'facebook generation' (as the news likes to call it) the last year or two has seen a resurgence of interest in old-school traditional metal, above the normal underground level, with bands like California's White Wizzard receiving much attention. As you'll know if you agree with my review of their awesome previous release, it's not without merit that White Wizzard have gained the backing of Earache Records - but since that initial recording effort the line-up has changed significantly, so the release of this full-length presents the danger of not matching up to expectations.

Luckily for all us headbangers, White Wizzard's sound may have changed slightly but the knack of writing a damn catchy song has not been lost in the transition. Kicking things off as they did on the EP, with the title track, it doesn't take long to realise you're in for another old-school treat as the classic riffing is joined by the new and rather excellent vocals of Wyatt "Screamin' Demon" Anderson. Given the difference between Anderson's full-throttle pipes and previous vocalist James-Paul Luna's 'breezy' style, it becomes clear why a new line-up was formed - this is a more 'metal' sound and surely what band leader Jon Leon had been aiming for all along. The sound may have altered a little but the principle stays the same as before - gloriously uncomplicated traditional heavy metal that makes you want to bang your head, air guitar, drink beer and generally have a damn good time. From the galloping harmonies of "40 Deuces" to the dungeon & dragons lyrics of "White Wizzard", there is nothing in the way of originality on offer here but it doesn't really matter because the tunes are just so damn fun to listen to.

The most obvious reference points for the metallic stylings found on "Over The Top" are Iron Maiden and Judas Priest - indeed they are the first two bands mentioned under 'influences' on White Wizzard's Myspace page. Even without such a list (which continues with Mercyful Fate, Scorpions, UFO, Black Sabbath, Diamond Head, Saxon, Accept...), just a cursory look at the page tells you exactly what's in store; from the fantasy artwork to the promo shot of five long-haired, leather-clad and aviator-wearing dudes. On first listen I was reminded of the pure steel of the likes of Ignitor and Wolf, but the nine songs are also coloured by a more basic and raw NWOBHM-influenced approach, bringing to mind bands like Cloven Hoof and Angel Witch in their tone. One song, "Out Of Control", even name-checks influential Soundhouse DJ Neal Kay, who has proclaimed White Wizzard to be "the best band in the last twenty years". That statement might be going 'over the top' but I don't doubt that if this album had been released in 1980, White Wizzard would be revered as cult heroes today. Songs such as "Live Free Or Die" and "Strike Of The Viper" may be blunt slabs of energy but the band show they're also capable of a more epic atmosphere on the inventive "Iron Goddess Of Vengeance".

With duelling guitars, a thunderous rhythm section and a leather-lunged singer, White Wizzard might not be doing anything particularly different within the realms of trad metal (like, for example, RAM) but the song-writing and delivery are strong enough to put them near the top of the NWOBHM-inspired pack. At times some of the songs can seem a bit too lengthy and the decidedly old-school production may not appeal to everyone, but fans of the genre should be buying this straightaway (on limited edition vinyl, of course). Basically, if you know what song I was referencing in the opening lines of this review, then this is an album for you.


Download: Over The Top, 40 Deuces, Iron Goddess Of Vengeance
For the fans of: Cloven Hoof, Iron Maiden, Ignitor
Listen: Myspace

Release date 08.02.2010

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