Vicous Rumors - Warball 4/5

Reviewed: 12-15-06


1. Sonic rebellion
2. Mr. Miracle
3. Dying every day
4. Inmortal
5. Warball
6. Crossthreaded
7. Wheels of madness
8. Windows of memory
9. A ghost within
10. Oceans of rage

There was a time when San Francisco's Vicious Rumors were poised to take over the world. The year was 1991, and they had just released an amazing American traditional power metal CD, 'Welcome to the ball', on Atlantic Records. The band had major-label buzz. Their ranks included Carl Albert, one of the finest American metal vocalists ever. The songwriting guitar tandem of Geoff Thorpe and Marc McGee had a magic touch and was finally achieving its full potential. The band was equally adept at speed metal burners, midtempo anthems, and more commercially friendly cuts, and had achieved a perfect balance of each. Then the wheels fell off the wagon. The grunge era washed them out of their major label nook. The band began to tinker with their musical direction, hopping bandwagons in an effort to regain their momentum. Dissension in the ranks ensued. Albert was killed in a tragic car accident. McGee and everyone else left. In a credit to perseverance, Thorpe soldiered on under the Vicious Rumors banner through thick and thin, with a revolving door cast of supporting musicians and an unfortunately subpar collection of CDs that strayed far from the glory of the 'Welcome to the ball' sound, often in favor of a more Pantera-ish groove.

Early this year, the rumblings grew louder and louder that Vicious Rumors might truly be mounting a comeback. Thorpe recruited the Dave Starr-Larry Howe rhythm section from 'Welcome to the ball' back into the fold. Uber-talented journeyman vocalist James Rivera (Helstar, Destiny's End, Distant Thunder, etc.) hopped aboard for the ride. And 2 extraordinary guitarists from the old school, Thaen Rasmussen (Anvil Chorus) and Brad Gillis (Night Ranger, Ozzy), lent their names and talents to the project. Of course, the presence of such an exciting line-up means nothing without good songs that channel the classic Vicious Rumors vibe and energy. Thorpe reassured us that we need not worry because the band's new album, 'Warball', would carry all of their sonic trademarks into the new millennium.

He wasn't lying. 'Warball' is best described as a slightly updated take on the late 80s/early 90s Vicious Rumors sound. Many of the trademark riffs, melodies and vocal arrangements (including the shouted choirs) are instantly recognizable as the work of the same band who brought us 'Welcome to the ball'. Where's the update, then? Well, there's a new singer for one thing. No one will confuse Rivera with Albert, and Rivera wisely does not attempt to fill his shoes, but instead turns in a typically strong typical Rivera performance. Elsewhere, the sound is heavier, the production is fuller, and the glossy 80s sheen is gone. There are no MTV power ballads or sing-a-long radio cuts on display here, with both having been supplanted by more speed and more crunch. So what Vicious Rumors are producing now is classic American traditional power metal, a touch heavier and more aggressive than in the old days, but with plenty of elements to satisfy the old-schoolers. A reasonably helpful analogy may be drawn between Vicious Rumors and Leatherwolf. Just as Leatherwolf embraced many elements of their classic style, albeit with a heavier sound and a new singer, on their excellent 'World asylum' opus earlier this year, so have Vicious Rumors done precisely the same thing on 'Warball'. The result is one that should bridge the gap, pleasing both long-time fans from the Atlantic Records days and today's younger but equally hungry crop of metalheads.

I'll spare you a song-by-song review, but suffice it to say that fans of top-notch American metal with classic metal elements, great high-pitched vocals, and excellent shredding guitar work should pick this one up without delay. 'Warball' will definitely be duking it out with Leatherwolf's 'World asylum' for 'comeback-of-the-year' honors on my end-of-year tally.




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