White Wizzard

High Speed GTO

Written by: GR on 09/11/2009 22:07:54

Let's start with a little background info - White Wizzard are a Los Angeles based traditional metal band, formed in 2007 by bassist Jon Leon and a bunch of other old-school minded dudes. They swiftly entered the studio to lay down an EP, which presumably only saw a limited local release, filmed a brilliant video for the track "High Speed GTO", then were dissolved by Leon as he didn't feel the line-up had the chemistry he was looking for. The following period of inactivity ended when Earache Records heard the EP and decided to include "High Speed GTO" on their "Heavy Metal Killers" compilation and a couple of months later signed White Wizzard to a multi-album deal. Leon put together a new line-up and they have recently finished recording their debut full-length, set for release next year. So what do we have here then? Well, this is the out-of-print EP recorded by the original lineup, renamed, repackaged and released by Earache as a mini-album/EP, to let the world hear what White Wizzard are all about.

What they happen to be about is the sort of highly melodic, hook-driven, NWOBHM-influenced, good-time heavy metal that fits my taste in music perfectly. Usually the descriptions provided by record labels can be somewhat ambitious and over-flattering, but when Earache say White Wizzard "brilliantly mix the hard, edgy approach of NWOBHM legends such as Diamond Head with the sunshine breeziness of Van Halen" I'd have to completely agree with them. It's clear already, then, that this is a record which will appeal to those with a love for 80s traditional metal and hard rock - but before the rest of you write it off as some retro nonsense, I'd advise you to take a listen to any of the 7 tracks on offer. Sure, they don't offer anything original or innovative with their tales of fast cars, girls and skeletons, but they're so damn catchy, so damn fun that I defy anyone not to enjoy them at least a little bit.

The EP starts off with the title track and White Wizzard waste no time in setting out their stall - a pounding drum intro is followed by a hyper-catchy twin guitar attack, the harmonies harking back to the early days of denim, leather and, err, spandex. Vocalist James-Paul Luna soars over the top of the upbeat backing, his voice having a high-pitched, slightly juvenile quality to it that might lack the sheer power of most trad-metal singers but adds a fairly distinctive character to the overall feel of the songs. In fact I'd say it's the youthful and somewhat commercial nature of his voice that gives the band their "sunshine breeziness" and makes them a more interesting proposition than if he was a balls-to-the-wall screamer. This track, along with most of the others, really hits pay dirt at the chorus - gloriously memorable sing-along anthems that are sure to put a smile on the face of many a metalhead. The band's major influences are pretty obvious from the get-go too, particularly within the instrumentation; Iron Maiden being one of the most prominent and identifiable. One instrumental section of "March of the Skeletons" is so pure-Maiden that even those without much knowledge of the genre would surely recognise the reference. Elsewhere there is a real Tygers of Pan Tang vibe to the opening riff of "Into The Night", a definite highlight, and at various other points the likes of Diamond Head, early Saxon, Lyadrive and Cloven Hoof come to mind, with hints of the more commercial feel of The Scorpions and Van Halen too.

What makes this such an enjoyable release is that the song writing is consistently strong across all the tracks, with no real weak links to be found (besides maybe the odd dodgy lyric). With this in mind, I can only hope that band leader Leon was responsible for most of the song writing (the prominence of his driving bass lines in the mix would suggest so), because with an entirely new line-up now in place, White Wizzard will suffer if next year's album doesn't match up to the quality on offer here. Also given that the upcoming material will feature a new vocalist, there is a danger that some of White Wizzard's charm will be lost through the absence of the aforementioned Luna. We'll have to wait until the release of the full-length in February to find out, but until then "High Speed GTO" provides us with a damn good time.


Download: Into The Night, High Speed GTO, March Of The Skeletons
For the fans of: Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pan Tang, Van Halen
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 13.07.09

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