domingo, 22 de fevereiro de 2015

WARRIOR (UK) - Let Battle Commence (LP, Rainbow Sound, 1980)

RATING: ***

I think it's safe to say that Warrior's "Let Battle Commence" LP was one of the very first ultra-collectables of the NWOBHM revival, the scarce copies of their sole vinyl release from 1980 changing hands for impressive amounts of moolah at least since the first half of the 1990s. An early CD reissue by Vinyl Tap in 1994 helped things a little, but it was such a limited run that it also soon became a rare (and somewhat expensive) collectable. But the guys from Chesterfield (not to be confused with at least four other recording acts under the same name doing the rounds in UK at roughly the same time) signed the dotted line for No Remorse, a larger label with more widespread distribution, so I think the CD copies will be enough to finally meet demand this time around.

A well-regarded live attraction in their locality, Warrior decided to finance their debut LP themselves, with a small run of 500 copies being all their emptied wallets could afford to pay. The resulting album shows that the lads were already a strong enough unit, but still needed more time to fully mature as songwriters. The influence of Wishbone Ash is unmistakeable, with all that highly melodic twin-guitar work you can imagine, so don't go for it expecting to hear highly-distorted riffing or huge walls of sheer heaviness. Though in the midst of the British metal explosion, Warrior were mostly a 70's hard rock band, and their association with NWOBHM was much more a matter of timing than anything else. Which is not to say that their sole album is a bad effort, of course.

The production, though not really bad, is as basic as it could possibly be, an approach that probably helped the album to be done quickly but failed to give a distinct sound to the compositions. It's a shame that a promising number like "Warrior" didn't receive a more careful treatment, as I'm sure it could have become quite a powerful track under different circumstances. The songwriting skills of the lads are also a bit wavering at times: a song like "Long Stretch, Broadmoor Blues", though marginally interesting, is more boogie than anything more substantial, and ballad "Memories" is too lame (and even a bit naive) to leave any lasting good impression. I mean, I know damn too well how losing a loved one is a hell of a hard blow for anyone, but the Oh-God-I-can't-believe-that-she-died lyrics are too simplistic to barely scratch the surface of such feelings of grief. Oh well, they were all very young, so let's not be too hard on them.

Fortunately, we also have some good tunes on display, such as great opener "Let Battle Commence" (they really spent some time working on all those guitar leads, I guess), "Yesterday's Hero" (swifts from melancholy to energy with considerable finesse), "Invaders" (perhaps the closer we get to real heavy metal here, though I could easily live without the song's intro) and most of all "Ulster, Bloody Ulster", a heartfelt denouncement about the horrors of Northern Ireland's civil war. If I was kinda harsh with the lyrics of "Memories", I must say we sure have a huge improvement here (the line "the newsman says 'another one dead and Chelsea won one nil'" is truly brilliant stuff), and the song is quite individualistic as a whole.

As we all know by now, Warrior did not last for long after releasing its sole LP, with Dave Hewitt (V) and Kev Barsby (B) soon forming a new venture called Axis. It was also a short lived project, as Dave suffered a nervous breakdown while on stage and decided to quit the music business altogether as a result. Fortunately, he would reconsider, joining Stormwatch as a bassist (a band we're going to review very soon) and now plays industrial music in a project called Sukkerpunch. Kev Barsby is also active, playing in a local act called Bad Penny. The other lads seem to have vanished off the face of the Earth, but I would love to be informed otherwise, so please kindly get in touch if you happen to know better.

All things considered, I would say that "Let Battle Commence" is not the NWOBHM underground classic many still seem to think it is: most of all, it's not even a heavy metal album in the truest sense. But it does have its moments and the music it brings sound pleasant to my ears most of the time, so I think those less obsessed with the canons of heavy metal are likely to enjoy most of the ride. Fortunately, having a copy won't cost you half a month's salary anymore, which is a thing to be celebrated I guess. Music for those who love music, and all that.



Dave Hewitt (V), Steve Allsopp (G), Mick Bannister (G), Kev Barsby (B), Barry Bingham (D).

01. Let Battle Commence
02. Long Stretch, Broadmoor Blues
03. Night-time Girl
04. Memories
05. Yesterday's Hero
06. Invaders
07. Ulster, Bloody Ulster
08. Warrior

Special thanks to Metal Melts the Ice for the CD (Vinyl Tap version) images!

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

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