White Wizzard - Over the top 4/5
1. Over the top
2. 40 deuces
3. High roller
4. Live free or die
5. Iron goddess of vengeance
6. Out of control
7. Strike of the viper
8. Death race
9. White Wizzard
White Wizzard made some waves with their debut EP ‘High speed G.T.O.’ as they showed their love for classic metal with a fairly unique twist compared to some of the other young bands looking back at the genre’s glory years. They displayed more love for the hard rocking side of the NWOBHM disregarded by many of their contemporaries more focused on the aspects of the style that are generally better remembered, and the ultra-melodic vocals James-Paul Luna in particular helped them to stand out.
Earache, always on the lookout for a new trend these days, have snapped up quite a few new bands in this retro style and are currently doing their best (along with their friends in the metal rags) to convince anyone listening that this is the “new wave of traditional metal”. Because, of course, the sooner you force a few bands into a “movement”, the sooner you can fold it into a neat little square, wring every penny you can out of it and quickly cast it aside in favour of the next Next Big Thing.
In terms of their label-mates, White Wizzard are streets ahead of the sluggish Cauldron, and probably about on a par with recent signings Enforcer, though less of a blunt force speed metal assault than the Swedes, with a few pauses for contemplation along the way on what is a compelling and memorable full-length debut.
In founder and boss man Jon Leon they seem to have their own would-be Steve Harris – not only does he write the songs to include very prominent and forceful bass-lines that give them a real urgent drive, but also seems to have no problem in jettisoning anyone he thinks could compromise his vision for the band, as the entire line-up other than himself has been given the boot since the debut EP. The loss of Luna in particular was of concern, as his sugary, almost poppy, vocals were White Wizzard’s most immediately identifiable feature. His replacement, Wyatt Anderson is a bit of a different proposition, less unique but without doubt more forceful than his predecessor, and he probably suits the more direct and aggressive style of ‘Over the top’ than Luna would have.
Coincidentally or not, the band have trimmed down the rock influence found on songs like “Celestina” and have arrived at a more straight speed metal style in line with the classic Roadrunner and Metal Blade acts. The paring of the title track and “40 deuces” is as strong an opening 1-2 as you are likely to hear this year, laced with insistent harmonies, pulsating bass-lines and, of course, massive choruses where Anderson shows his “Screaming Demon” nickname isn’t just idle boasting. The chorus to “40 deuces” is particularly all-conquering, and the lead guitar (actually Leon showing his ability with 6 strings as well as 4) is pretty scintillating.
The amped-up directness isn’t the only new territory though, as there are a couple of ventures into more expansive territory, the first of which being the 7-minute “Iron goddess of vengeance”, which reflects an until-now unseen ability to handle lengthier epics. It’s just a shame the crashing chords on the verses are bit too similar to those on the Accept classic “Metal heart”, but the coincidence is surely accidental and can be easily ignored during the powerful bridges and choruses.
At heart though, ‘Over the top’ is a light-hearted and high energy CD, with these slower moments serving mostly as points of contrast to the bustling vigour of the bulk of the songs as White Wizzard rip through 46 minutes of classic metal like there’s no tomorrow. The expended version features 2 classic covers - needlessly put on a 2nd CD - that are good harmless fun (the slightly obscure selection of Cloven Hoof’s “Gates of Gehenna” definitely does their credibility no harm) and drives home the notion that White Wizzard have their collective heart in the right place and are just out playing the music that they love. Which of course would mean nothing if they weren’t any good at it, but it’s a nice bonus to add to such an excellent CD from a band that at the minute have the world at their feet.
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