WARLORD – Free Spirit Soar

WARLORD – Free Spirit Soar
Label(s):
High Roller Records
Released Year:
2024
Type:
Full-length
Tracklist:
1. Behold a Pale Horse2. The Rider3. Conquerors4. Worms of the Earth5. The Watchman (bonus track)6. Free Spirit Soar7. The Bell Tolls8. Alarm9. Twin (bonus track)10. Revelation XIX

What we got here is the result of the hard and careful in very detail work of Mark Zonder -founding member-, Giles Lavery and the rest of the current Warlord line up. A full length album that highlights the music of the band’s main composer William J Tsamis, who unfortunately passed away in May, 13th 2021. The album includes completed versions of Tsamis unfinished songs, themes and ideas, two re-recorded Lordian Guard classics plus reworked versions of selected songs from the band’s early era, that are now presented in full versions.

Sound and production

You may find references about the overall sound and production in the very end of similar reviews, but I would like to start my reference on the album, pointing this very specific feature which I consist as one of the strongest ones for this release: “Free Spirit Soar” is an excellent produced album. It highlights a warm, organic sound that would make the listener to parallelize the overall sound result with the sound of big Heavy Metal classics and specifically with the sound of the classic “Deliver Us” Mini LP. I would like to refer to the warm sounding guitars -faithful to Tsamis sound-, the shining drums that sound loud, heavy and clear without the usage of any triggers and the bass that is high in the mix straightly reflecting to the classic Lordian Guard approaching as per this specific instrument.

A triumph of the W aesthetic

A careful listener would take the album’s production and sound as a gate opener to realize that “Free Spirit Soar” is something much more than a tribute album. It is a deep study to the Warlord aesthetic. There are various elements that would make a trained Warlord listener smile with happiness, discovering them in each and every song. But which are those main features? Well, let’s take a look:

The keyboards: I was quite surprised to discover that the classic keyboard sound of the “Deliver Us” debut is back again on the Warlord frame. The very same Mini Moog Synth sound that has been used on the classic debut, returns on this newest release! The keyboard arrangements are something that make me really excited about the overall aesthetic result. Well, it is not just the Mini Moog sound. It is the fact that the keyboard arrangements have been generated under a perfect harmony balance, highlighting the melodies and on the very same time creating those mystical soundscapes of ambiance that became a trademark especially in the first Warlord era. On the overall result someone can even hear this very carefully pomp rock touch which reflects straightly to Tsamis approaching as per the keyboards instrument. Those David Arkenstone & Mark Free demo recordings back from 1983 -Tsamis favorites and quite a big influence for the “Deliver Us” keyboard sound- came into my mind many times as I was listening to the fabulous keyboards on the new Warlord masterpiece, oh and the Alkana album as well. At the end of the day something has been done very correctly in here. Jimmy Waldo has done an excellent job in here.

The vocals: Giles Lavery have composed the most of the vocal melodies and wrote a big part of the lyrics on the album. However, in the case of this particular material, the well-developed vocal melodies and the great lyrics may not be enough. Each and every vocal approaching on those songs has to be combined in total harmony with the overall aesthetic result. And Lavery knows it very well. On the only studio recorded Warlord song that we had the chance to listen him “Killzone” from the “Holy Empire” album (guest vocals)-, his high range was on the first spot. Well, this is not the case on those newly recorded masterpieces, as Lavery chooses a way of singing that muches perfectly to the overall “Free Spirit Soar” sound portrait: He brings to front his mid-range vocal abilities, choosing an expressive way of singing that brings to my mind mainly the Damien King III -Rick Anderson- and his overall vocal work on the “Holy Empire” album. I can also hear some Rick Cunningham -Damien King II- mysticism on his overall vocal approaching. As I was listening Lavery singing I caught myself reflecting to those emotional moments of Jack Rucker -Damien King I- that were mainly highlighted on the demo 1981 recordings -on the 1981 Soliloquy version for example-.

Drumming: There is not much that has not already been written about Mark Zonder’s magical playing. But in here he is entering on transcendence. The drumming in here is a key feature. I would consider this particular recording as one of the best that Zonder ever offered. His overall performance really makes the stuff of this album to shine -as I am typing the word “stuff” I am bringing Bill into my mind, correcting me for the 1000th time: “Chris do not use the word “stuff”, use the word “material” instead”-. Oh well, some memories have became part of a lifetime. I wonder how some people are even able to stand against Warlord nowadays.

Song by song

Behold a Pale Horse: The classic Lordian Guard song that was released as picture 12″ vinyl back in 1996, is presented here on an excellent version. The bass lines on this one sound amazing. In general Philip Bynoe’s performance is one of the record’s highlights.

The Rider: A classic mid tempo Warlord anthem. Amazing development of the lead guitar melodies. The keyboards are adding this mystical pomp touch carrying the song’s trademark melody. The song is based on one of the very last Tsamis captured riffs and it is magnificent.

Conquerors: One of the album’s most epic moments. The title may be familiar to some of you as it exists on a demo version in the latest reissue of the “Haunt for Damien” album on High Roller Records. Here the song is presented in its completed version. Fast tempos, pounding guitar themes and blazing vocal melodies. “Father” and “Kingdom” key references to the lyrics written by Lavery, are reflecting the ultimate Warlord Spirit. A Tsamis classic without a doubt.

“Worms of the Earth”: One of the oldest Warlord songs. An early instrumental version of it exists on the rehearsal 1981 recordings. Now we can enjoy it on its complete version. Lavery has done a fabulous job as per the vocal melodies development in this one. His lyrics referring to the world’s corruption are a key feature on the song as well.

“The Watchman”: A Xian Metal opus. Based on keyboard ideas of William. However the song’s straight development reminded me pretty much of the demo 1985 material as per the vibe. Yeah, the keyboard lead part sounds fantastic and the chorus is so catchy memorable that I want to listen it again and again. Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies for this composition. Warlord and Lillian Axe? Well yes, it can happen!

“Free Spirit Soar”: There are three different themes that William composed having used this particular title, that eventually became the album’s title. The final result can only be described as pure Warlord excellence. The song straightly reflects the “Holy Empire” vibe thanks to its main lead parts and to Zonder’s out of this world drumming. A careful listening may reveal other important references like the ala “Battle of the Living Dead” melody at the end of the main guitar solo part. This is a Warlord classic; a trademark song and I have to say that some of its best parts are based on the keyboard material that Bill have originally composed in the vein of Sea of Tranquility.

“The Bell Tolls”: Another one from the ancient Warlord age. It was captured on the rehearsal 1981 tape, under the “For Whom the Bell Tolls” title and now it is presented on its completed version. As the song was instrumental on its original version -Warlord were working on their material without a singer back on those early days, it was just Bill and Mark doing their thing-, the key feature on this completed version are the excellent vocal melodies. I also enjoyed very much the lead and solo guitar parts in this one. Yes, the title was changed a little for the obvious reasons. The lyrics on this one are co-written by Giles Lavery and Jon Wilde.

“Alarm”: A composition full of agony totally reflecting the “Holy Empire” vibe. It is actually the “Killzone” sequel song. The strongest feature of this song is actually its structure, wisely combined themes that are generating a “harmonic antithesis” between the epic / pounding and the melodic moments. Oh, how I love the keyboards for one more time. Just like “Conquerors”, “Alarm: was featured on an untitled instrumental version on the “Haunt for Damien” compilation 2023 repressing on High Roller Records.

“Twins”: This song was based on a very rough keyboard demo of Bill that Giles located. This song is pure Tsamis gold. Bill was extremely talented on composing melancholic mid-tempo anthems, and this song is one of them. The amazing guitar solo is rounded upon an ala “Winds of Thor” theme. The keyboard theme that drives the composition on its final lead part, is actually one of the best parts that someone can hear on the entire album. This is the ultimate Warlord perfection, end of story.

Revelation XIX: Well, I have to repeat myself in here. Another Lordian Guard classic, presented here on a greater than great version. I am speechless.

Conclusion

The album is a masterpiece. Some of Tsamis best compositions are respectfully highlighted through the “Free Spirit Soar” release. This is the ultimate tribute to his music, his legacy, his legend by his band mates.

Musically it includes stuff from all the Warlord periods a feature that would help the album to stand the test of time. For me it already stands next to the classics.

William J Tsamis will remain immortal as long as his music lives on. This mission is accomplished through this album.

Hail to the one!

Chris Papadakis

________________________________________________________________________

William J. Tsamis was 22 years old when the monumental “Deliver Us” EP was released, in April 1983.

With this six-song EP, the single “Lost and Lonely Days/Aliens” and the full-length “And the Cannons of Destruction Have Begun” of the following year, WARLORD created something utterly unique, as there’s NO OTHER METAL BAND that can claim to have left behind such a legacy with only a handful of releases; WARLORD’s impact on epic heavy metal music and the shaping of its lyrical sound is unparalleled and the loyalty of the band’s followers is PHENOMENAL!

A whole 18 years later, when “Rising Out of the Ashes” was released, this kind of loyalty proved to be indelible, spreading a wildfire of devotion and worship in the underground metal community.

And it continued to burn even after 11 more years, when “The Holy Empire” was released.

Now, another 11 years have passed; William J. Tsamis would be 63 years old when “Free Spirit Roar” will be released in May 2024.

It will have been a full 41 years since “Deliver Us”.

AND WE’RE STILL HERE!

The faithful, the dreamers, the loyal!

I tortured myself unbearably about what to feel for an album which will bear the name of WARLORD without the one and only Bill “The Destroyer” Tsamis.

Well, this is an album which will indeed bear the name of WARLORD, doing so primarily as a tribute to William J. Tsamis – because he is in it too, with his own songs, his own vision, his will that the band should continue his invaluable work even without him.

And that’s EXACTLY what Mark Zonder (drums) and Philip Bynoe (bass) together with Giles Lavery on vocals, Jimmy Waldo on keys and Eric Juris on guitars did!

Before saying anything about the music, I must admit that I am deeply moved seeing the cover of “Free Spirit Roar”, a synecdoche of “Deliver Us” which closes a circle of this legendary band, the best way possible; with COMPLETION – this album is for those who share, understand and feel this deep, beyond words, emotion; WARLORD ARE BACK!

I decided that there will be no track-by-track rundown for “Free Spirit Soar” in my review because I feel that this album is BEYOND my own critique. It’s an ETERNAL MUSICAL EMBLEM of WARLORD’s truest resurrection!

Still, I have to give praise to Giles Lavery, now and forever Damien King IV, for a BRILLIANT voice performance and I cannot emphasize strongly enough that Eric Juris delivered an AMAZING guitar work, bearing the burden of his responsibility deservedly, answering to the band’s call for a duty too heavy for the most guitarists out there! Jimmy Waldo plays a significant role in the album’s rich and sensuous sound and last but not least, the rhythm-section offers the VERY MEANING OF A BAND’S STRENGTH with Mark Zonder and Philip Bynoe presenting a heartfelt repertoire during the whole tracklist! Regarding the guitar parts Giles Lavery specifies: “Bill is there where we could pull his tracks off the demo recordings … Eric does most of the heavy lifting on guitar, but all music was written by Bill and we stayed very very faithful to what he wrote.”

“Free Spirit Roar” is more direct and powerful than the “The Holy Empire”, not lacking the trademark songs of WARLORD’s epic lyricism but focusing on less lengthy and solid compositions. Apart from LORDIAN GUARD’s Behold a Pale Horse” and “Revelation XIX” that have been magnificently WARLORD-ized, we hear marching hymns like “The Conquerors” and “Worms of the Earth”, the dark opus named “The Bell Tolls” and inspiring anthems like “The Rider”, “Free Spirit Soar” and “Alarm”.

I really feel that saying anything more about WARLORD’s new album is unnecessary.

This is HISTORY written first-hand; I urge you to witness it!

Mamercus

________________________________________________________________________

“Free Spirit Soar” will be released on May 10th High Roller Records on every physical format – LP, CD and MC. The CD and MC versions will feature two bonus tracks.

Check the discussion about the album in our forum pages.


You can pre order MC, CD and LP here.

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I breathe for music. And I am more than sure that my mission in this universe is to make everybody agree that "Awaken The Guardian" by FATES WARNING is the best album ever released, yes in all musical genres. My next mission is to feed homeless cats and when I am not busy with all this stuff I listen to US Prog / Power and Epic Doom Metal. And I cast spells in rituals in order to awake the old ones. After my subscription to the "Happy Otters" team on Facebook.
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