Warlord from Los Angeles California were formed in 1980 by guitarist William J Tsamis and drummer Mark Zonder. Their case can be easily marked as `unique` not only because of their music but also due to the numerous facts that are forming their saga. This band has released the best record in the entire Heavy Metal history however they never managed to hit the big record labels, the huge arenas and the covers of the magazines, as someone would expect. On the other hand their influence on the music of later bands and their fame among both musicians and fans worldwide are so big that someone would not put them on the list of the `cult and obscure bands form the past`. The last 32 years they have split and reunited twice always remaining on the high class musical standards that they have set for their own, standards that the others simply followed.
Warlord are presenting for the very first time in their entire history their complete back catalog re presented on a double CD including everything that the band has officially recorded. In other case this would be a simple compilation CD but in the case of Warlord this release is a very important chapter on their career. Why? First of all for the music itself, secondly due to the fact that the Warlord material has started to get out of print in any other of already released form and thirdly and most important IMHO this is the first time that the band approves a complete re-mastering on all of their songs and those re-mastered versions are presented only in this Anthology. The re-mastering is done by Kostas Scandalis and you will be able to notice the difference on the sound –compared to the original recordings- froom the very first listening.
For those who are not aware of Warlord’s music and are reading this review please allow me a sort description, however it is a real difficult task to describe the music of such a band. Warlord are presenting a unique, elegant musical style which is a mix of the classic European Metal of the early 80s presented through lyrical, melodic and Epic musical forms meeting a lot of classical music influences. The characteristic guitar themes of William J Tsamis are combined with the best vocal melodies you can imagine, enforced by classical and Byzantine oriented lead guitar parts and all these driven by the ultimate emphatic drumming of Mark Zonder who does not only keep the battery going but he fives deep into the spirit of the music, note by note, melody by melody, part by part blessing the music with his drumming. The result? The result is high class / lyrical / melodic / Heavy Power Metal inspired by classical and Byzantine music, this is what Warlord delivers.
As the Anthology release includes the entire back catalog of the band we would refer to the material included under a chronological order.
The first album that the band released back in 1983 is called `Deliver Us` and -yes I would write it for second time- it is the best Heavy Metal record in history and one of the best records in musical history generally. No no this is not a fan-type statement marked by enthusiasm. Someone may want to listen the record carefully, study it and deeply dive into the music and then it would be clear that what I am writing is a complete fact. The album begins with the same titled song “Deliver Us From Evil” that simply generates and give life to the term `Epic Metal`, when this term comes into my mind the first song I think of is the `Deliver Us` song by Warlord: a melodic acoustic guitar interlude, the drums of war and then the call to battle `to the swords to the guns`. From the very first time you would hear this composition you would realize how cleverly are the lead guitar parts used not only on specific parts of the song as main themes but in almost every part in order to give shape to a complete composition. Warlord is probably the only band in the entire Metal world that is not using the `riffs` as the only main element on their compositions. Guitarist William J Tsamis composes on a totally different way -compared to other Metal guitarists on bands- inspired by classical music standards and methods so the main guitar riffs would accompanied by various guitar themes / lead parts / melodies and sometimes -very often- such parts would be the main elements of the song. Listen closely to the opening track of the `Deliver Us` album that also opens this Anthology and you will realize all those things.
Before I move forward to the other songs of the debut album -that are included in their original order in this Anthology, something that happens with the entire Warlord material included in the double CD, all songs are also sorted chronologically –as per release-, I would like to point two facts: the fact that on their debut album the band is having one of the greatest singers of all time Jack `Damien King I` Rucker to sing for them in his debut and the fact that their music is enforced by Diane `The Sentinel` Kornarens a keyboard player hat gave her own magical touch in the final compositions. Without those two people the result would probably be a little different. The very special thing about Jack Rucker is the `color` of his voice. You can easily listen to marvelous and fantastic singers especially if you are listening to high quality Metal, singers with high range and great singing passion. But IMHO what is the most important thing for a singer is the vocal color. Someone would be able to pick Jack’s voice among thousands and thousands of singers and I guess that this is the key feature of this singer together with something else: Rucker’s musical roots were mainly into Hard Rock stuff: his big participation in cover bands and his pre-Warlord recorded material -Alkana – Welcome to My Paradise which a fantastic 70s melodic Hard Rock record- made him to build a very melodic, solid and mainstream vocal approaching inspired by the melodic Hard Rock material of the era. William J Tsamis who still composes all the Warlord vocal melodies used Rucker’s vocal approaching CORRECTLY so the final result was those magnificent vocals you can hear on this album. Epic and powerful vocal melodies sang on a crystal clear and solid way, balancing between heaviness and melody, melody and Power. When I hear Rucker’s voice I can hear this melodic mid to late 70s AOR stuff of early Foreigner (debut), early Journey (debut) and Styx combined with the Steel of Rainbow (first era) and expanded on Warlord’s thundering Metal which was unique. Well to put it simply: until “Deliver From Evil” was out there was never a case of an AOR singer singing on a Metal band, Warlord did it with Rucker and they did it correctly.
`Winter Tears` is a magnificent melodic Metal ballad, a radio friendly mid tempo song. However the composition sound richer and much more interesting compared to the thousands that were released back on that era. Thanks to the magnificent lead guitar parts, to the brilliant guitar-vocal interlude, to the acoustic epilogue and more over thanks to the main guitar theme of the song. Excellent. The Metal Thunder that will follow is called “Child Of The Damned” and if you search a good example for the term “Power Metal” you surely have it. There is a case of William J Tsamis to have in mind the thunderous fast songs of rainbow or Judas Priest while setting the speed up in this composition however his unique riffing is the big trademark of this song. Ah yes and the vocals of Rucker who does his first high pitch scream in here. I have also to add here how magnificent this tune’s acoustic interlude sounds. “Penny For A Poor Man” that follows is my favorite song from the album and for sure the most enigmatic song warlord have ever composed. If make a careful listening to the song trying to follow its structure, you will get my point. It starts based on semi-Prog Metal riff followed by a melodic part which is the basis of the song however the song will be soon driven to an emphatic musical bridge that will open a straight gate to the song chorus. This is just the beginning if you follow the song until the end you will notice many other bridges, changes, lead parts that are scored to emphasize and give life and perfect expression to every single melody of this song. The result? Yes it is enigmatic, you need to circle the song again and again in your ears and mind like when searching for a big good answer to an enigma. The lyrics of this one are also carrying a special message. The next song is called “Black Mass” and it is sure one of the darkest composition Warlord have released so far. In the introduction of the song you would be able to hear for the first time the voice of Bill Krysler narrating, this voice would be the ultimate trademark on all the narrative / theatrical parts that Warlord would release on their saga’s first era. This absolutely Heavy –almost in a Doom Metal mood- mid tempo anthem is describing a Black Magic ritual (Tsamis would later point that he was heavily inspired by the film: The Omen when writing on the lyrics to it). The passion of Rucker’s vocals fills the song with extra power and the emphatic drumming of Zonder would turn even this mid tempo tune to a real thunder. Just after this song finishes the listener would be blown away by the opening riff of “Lucifer’s Hammer” song. The tempos are fast again, the riffs are made of absolute Steel and yes this is another conquering tune by Warlord enforced with the gift of Tsami’s magical melodies. I have already refered to the chemistry between Tsamis and Zonder but hear this song if you want to realize what I mean. There is a perfect guitars-drums dialog laid around this tune that has became a Warlord classic. Song “Mrs Victoria” was originally included on Metal Massacre III compilation and was added as a bonus track to the Japan pressing of “Deliver Us” Mini LP so it is included in this Anthology as part of the “Deliver Us” album and that was how things meant to be. This is a bizarre composition: Thanks to the dark interlude thanks to the haunting main guitar riffs expressed in a Prog mood, thanks to the lead guitar melodies that are filling the song with agony, thanks to the out of this planet drumming and to the vocal’s of Rucker who LIVES inside the song. Ah I almost forgot: The maniac laughing of Bill Krysler would offer you a great shock when you hear it for the first time.
The next Warlord recordings that follow on the Anthology are actually marking some line up changes on the band as l as Rick Cunningham from Texas replaced Jack Rucker on vocals and a bass player was added: Dave Watry, a student at the `Bass Institute of Technology`, had proven himself worthy of playing with Warlord prior Watry William J Tsamis was playing bass on all the Warlord recordings. Rick Cunningham brought a different air on Warlord’s music. His voice may not be such elegant compared to Rucker’s however it fit perfectly to Warlord’s material. Rucker also got some Hard Rock approaching on his voice style but all in all he was more Heavy Metal oriented compared to Rucker using high pitched screams and adding an extra passion to his singing he was driving Warlord’s music on a good Metal peak.
With the writing of the songs `Aliens` and `Lost and Lonely Days`, Warlord was compelled to go into the studio and record a 12` single (“Lost and Lonely Days” / “Aliens” which was the first recorded result of the band’s new line up (1984). The versions included on the original 12’’ single are included in the Anthology as well. “Lost And Lonely Days” is a straight melodic Metal song in mid tempo, some mellow lead guitar parts enforce it and it can be also included in the list of the radio friendly songs of Warlord. “Aliens” is a bombastic Heavy Metal composition with some Power Metal elements. I personally think that some of the best lead guitar themes that William J Tsamis have ever written are included in this song. In this one you can her one of Mr. Cunningham’s high pitched Metal screams –on the end-.
“And The Canons Of Destruction Have Begun . . . “ is the next official release of Warlord (1984) and mainly re presents the most of “Deliver Us” album recordings plus four new compositions. You will be able to hear “Lucifer’s Hammer”, “Black Mass”, “Child Of The Damned” and “Deliver Us From Evil” on new versions with Rick Cunningham on vocals. Generally speaking the original production is more expanded on this album –compared to the debut- and here is the big chance for the keyboards of Diane “The Sentinel” Kornarens to be heard widely. Yeap the keys are one of the first thing to notice on this album, going straight after the guitars and the drumming thunder. Four new tracks are included in this release: “Lost and Lonely Days” (a little different version compared to the single), “Soliloquy”, “Aliens” (again on a little different take than the single) and “MCMLXXXIV”. “Soliloquy” is a magnificent piece of mid tempo melodic Heavy Metal. A melancholic song that once you hear you will remember forever. ““MCMLXXXIV” is an instrumental tune that re present for one more time the guitar excellence of William J Tsamis both in composing and performing mode.
The first CD of the Anthology ends with “Hands and Feet Thunderchild’s Farewell” which is a drum solo that was recorded by Mark Zonder (originally appearing on “Thy Kingdom Come” compilation album (1986). Listen to this one carefully. It is not a simple drum solo. It is one of the most “musical” drum solos you would have the chance to hear.
On the second CD of the Anthology we can find the entire “Rising Out From The Ashes” album that was released on the band’s first reunion back in 2002. The line up was: William J Tsamis – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Joacim Cans (from the Swedish Heavy / Power Metal band HammerFall) – Vocals and Mark Zonder – Drums. Joacim Cans have done a fantastic work on the vocals of the album bringing a fresh sound to Warlord. He is sure the most Power Metal oriented singer that have worked with the band so far. The album got a very good producitn in its original form and Scandalis re-mastering make the stuff of this album to sound even heavier.
The opening track of the album is `The Battle Of The living Dead” is a song full of strength and passion, this is bombastic Power Metal straight on your face (it also appears on a different version on Lordian Guard second album and for those who do not know Lordian Guard was the project that William J Tsamis created on mid 90s having release two albums and a single). Next we have the track `Enemy mind` which is one of the songs composed during the sessions of the new album. In my opinion it is the most sophisticated and mysterious Warlord track ever released. It is dark, with a absolute Epic felling even some doomy touches. After that, the Invaders are ready to fight under the flag of the third track of the new album. `Invaders” is another Power Metal hymn (trivia it was also recorded under Lordian Guard moniker). What a song! This is pure steel my friends and yes Thunder Child has returned in full energy, just listen to the storm-taking drumming in this tune. `Winds of Thor` and `War In Heaven` are also well known tracks from the Lordian Guard era the same can be noticed about the track `My Name Is Man` that follows. “Winds Of Thor” -which was also included on the very first Warlord demo (1981)- is a classic Epic Metal mid tempo composition, “War In Heaven” is a little faster in tempo still Epic and pounding on all its glory. “My Name Is Man” is another deep and emotional Warlord composition. I enjoy the narrative vocals parts of Joacim in this one. This song includes one of the most characteristic melodic epilogues that you can hear on a Warlord song. “We are earth, we are heaven, We are flesh, we are blood, We inherit Thy kingdom, We are all, we are One . . .”.
What follows is the re recording of two classic Warlord songs. `Lucifer’s Hammer` and `Lost And Lonely Days”. Joacim’s approaching does absolute justice to the compositions however the listener can chose their favorite version. `Sons Of A Dream` is a Warlord song that appeared in its final version on the “Rising” album. Listen carefully to its fantastic interlude, pay attention to its lead guitar parts and its catchy chorus. This was actually a very old Warlord composition that found a way to the 2002 reunion album. Great choice I would say. The album closes with `Achilles Revenge` which is this kind of song that Warlord specializes in: An Epic Metal Hymn. I can easily pout this one next to their “Deliver Us From Evil” classic tune. When other bands “talk and talk” about Epic Metal, Warlord are silently releasing such compositions. After such a composition there is no need of further talk about which band started and expanded the Epic Metal flame. Maybe we could say that this is the perfect way for the band to thank all their Greek fans that have supported them and have kept the flame burning all these years. As a bonus on this Anthology second CD that includes the entire “Rising Out From The Ashes” album you will find the version of “Lost and Lonely Days” song that was recorded for this album (with Cans singing) and was only available on the Japan Pressing of the album.
Well that was it: a song by song little analysis on review form of this band’s discography that is completely gathered in this Anthology release, if you have reached the end of this review and you have never heard of Warlord you may think that I am expanding things a little. Well I can surely say: No. Warlord is a band with such a talent and has delivered some real gifts to the Metal world. They deserve all your careful listening. For those who are aware about this band and have finished reading this review I am sure they are understand me completely. Here I got to note that Warlord are back again and we are waiting for their new album.
This Anthology release by Arkeyn Steel Records is a good chance for the die-hard fans to have everything that the band released on perfect re-mastered sound, completely gathered on a proper package with a booklet including inner notes, lyrics and photos. An extra credit should be given to the artwork marked by the great front cover by Kostias Tsiakos. For the new ones to the Warlord music this is a great chance to introduce themselves to this band. For the rest this Anthology is the ticket to a journey full of fantastic, high-class Metal music in the way that only the might Warlord are making it.