Warkings - Reborn

Genre: Power Metal

You know what metal needed more than anything right about now? Another gimmicky project aimed entirely at the fragile masculinity of teenage boys. The hotshots at Napalm Records have of course realized as much, and in an effort to fill this void put together Warkings, made up of musicians from already known bands, but hiding behind cool skull masks because everyone loves a mystery - and we can’t reasonably expect the warcraft dwellers to find Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) to be the spitting image of manliness; a badass tribal warrior with a skull for a face on the other hand… To put all doubts to rest as to whether or not this is the next big thing in hyper manliness, the album cover has plenty of sexy female butts (conquest) and a giant warrior with a colossal battle axe phallus (conqueror). Hey, it worked for Manowar, and they’re totally what manliness is all about!

Warkings - Reborn

As already stated, Warkings is all about gimmick, and little about substance, with most of it trying to cash in on the imagery and fitting into a category of bombastic power metal. You have the competent musicians to back it up, (Neuhauser, known in this project as “Tribune” is a pretty good vocalist, after all), and a couple of flashy tracks with some gritty riffing from “Crusader”, as well as the soaring catchiness in the choruses. I’m talking about the two singles, Hephaistos and Gladiator, the former sporting a fleshy chorus and the latter some effective, eerie references to the movie. These are two sole above decent-ish tracks on the album, the rest topping at mediocre at best. The songs are about 3-4 minutes in length, all same-y and with little variation in structure or build. (This could work, if the material was stronger.) In this it could be considered something like Sabaton (also super manly, they have a tank!) but Warkings at least don’t pretend to be history teachers. Of course the album ends with a ballad. In German. Because that’s what this album sorely needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I can look aside from Manowar’s imagery, because they’re world class musicians and they’ve written timeless metal pieces. This is not the case with Warkings; they might be good musicians, but the project is, from the beginning, a venture into money making (okay, maybe Manowar do that too) and little in way of above average power metal, to appeal to as many in the target audience as possible. If you want to hear flashy songs about war and warriors and other such cool things, give it a go, but if you want musical depth and/or lyrics with substance, maybe go with one of the musicians main bands. Early Serenity comes to mind. Sure, “Crusader” has some Mystic Prophecy (not a bad thing) like riffing on here, and more than a couple of good solos, but it isn’t carried by the whole. In conclusion, Reborn really isn’t that good, but I’m afraid to say it because Warkings might come after me with their giant axe penises.

 

Standout tracks: Hephaistos, Gladiator

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Warkings - Gladiator

Dire Peril - The Extraterrestrial Compendium

Genre: Power Metal

Dire Peril was a side project of Helion Prime guitarist Jason Ashcraft, releasing a couple of so-so EP:s starting in 2012. In 2015 Judicator and Disforia vocalist John Yelland joined up, and the team is just now releasing the band’s first full length, The Extraterrestrial Compendium. It comes just months after both members released full lengths with their main bands too, so both of them are obviously keeping busy. You take some Helion Prime and some Judicator, twirl them around and hurl them into space, sprinkle a touch of Arjen Lucassen on top, and voila, Dire Peril lurches forward like a melodic piece de resistance of Blind Guardian worship not taken to the sometimes too high levels of Judicator and old school guitar driven power metal. In a way it can probably be compared to Demons & Wizards, which blends the rifflicious American style of Iced Earth with Blind Guardian’s European approach of deep, melodic vocals.

Dire Peril - The Extraterrestrial Compendium

To get it said immediately, The Extraterrestrial Compendium is a damn good album, packed to the brim with cool moments, inspired lyrics and musical prowess. While there’s plenty of goodness and ample sweet spots to be found in the extensive lyrical themes and Yelland’s always impressive vocals, the true gem in the treasury is Ashcraft’s guitars, which ooze of fun and enjoyment; be it the thrifty intro riffing to most every song on here, the flashy solos or the leads invoking days of old, Ashcraft turns every moment into something fun, interesting and genuine. While Helion Prime’s recent outing was certainly not a bad affair by any means, the songwriting on here from Ashcraft feels heaps more inspired and filled with love for the tunes, the music and the influences, whereas Helion Prime focused on an underlying theme they failed to fully deliver and capitalize on. It helps that Yelland has written the lyrics here, all inspired by various science fiction flicks, both old and new.

Yelland adds his Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) inspired vocals, but holds it at a more laid back level than in his main band. There’s still plenty of layered vocals and exploration of his diverse range, but he comes to his own better here. Sometimes the choruses could to well to stand out a bit more, some more bombast to lift them, and the closing track, featuring a guest appearance by Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon, Star One) seems like a kind of missed oportunity to go full on epic and instead opting for a more somber approach. Those however are minor complaints on an album so fun and packed with great moments such as the duet between Yelland and Brittney Hayes (Unleash The Archers) in Queen of the Galaxy, or the straight up fun riff fest that is Total Recall, or how about the fleshy opener Yautja (Hunter Culture) that features some of the best riffing Ashcraft ever got from a guitar. In closing, The Extraterrestrial Compendium is a fine debut album, an even finer salute to melodic power metal, arguably stronger than Judicator's recent, universally praised, output.

 

Standout tracks: Yautja (Hunter Culture), Total Recall, Heart of the Furyan, Altair IV: The Forbidden Planet

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Dire Peril - Blood in the Ice

Blaze Bayley & Thomas Zwijsen - Classic Acoustic: December Wind

Genre: Acoustic

It’s aleady well proven fact that Thomas Zwijsen can make serious magic when he gets into his thing in all the right ways. Toss Blaze Bayley into that mix and things can turn great into awesome, as was evident on the first Infinite Entanglement (2016) installment, with modern classic What Will Come. Since, they’ve continued collaboration on several occasions, mainly in live performances and on some of Zwijsen’s solo cover albums. They did a collab in Russian Holiday (2013), but in comparison, this one takes several huge steps up. More often than not, they turn some of Bayley’s Maiden classics into acoustic pieces that mirror the emotive depth of the originals while taking a new twist and still sounding perfectly natural to their original selves, thanks to Bayley’s vocals.

Blaze Bayley & Thomas Zwijsen - Classic Acoustic: December Wind

As winter sets in, the two release the collaboration EP December Wind, of eight modest tracks, seven of which are newly written, and the remaining a Maiden cover. The style is simple; Zwijsen’s single acoustic guitar, his flamenco playing that oftentimes makes it sound like several guitars at once, and Bayley adding his touch on top. Together they do the acoustic ventures that have taken a twist to the balls of Bayley’s main band’s metallic course. There was no such track on the final Infinite Entanglement installment, The Redemption of William Black (2018) released earlier this year, however, but We Fell From The Sky from here adds that missing piece. It’s one of the highlights, in large thanks to the extra dimension added by Anne Bakker’s violin, and of course Bayley’s chorus which is catchy and heartbreakingly emotive in equal measure. The final track, The Love of Your Life is the only one that sticks out. It doesn’t really fit in, just feels misplaced and odd in the otherwise really emotive surroundings.

All the tracks here are neat performances. Nothing your average metal fan will write home about, but definitely something fans of classic guitar will like. And fans of Bayley, given his emotive input. Bayley is one of metal’s finest vocalists, and with Zwijsen he’s proved that he can also do the ballads complete justice. His input is simple, not trying to take place and not overdone as they might have been in his earlier days; he has mellowed and matured something colossal with age and experience, and it does his voice a world of good. All in all, this EP sees the best of Zwijsen, and the most heartfelt of Bayley - and not in a bunch of cover songs, but original compositions. I won’t be blasting this on eleven until kingdom come, but it takes all the right turns that What Will Come did right, and as such I might just start to like it.

 

Standout tracks: Miracle on the Hudson, December Wind, We Fell From the Sky

 

    

 

Blaze Bayley & Thomas Zwijsen - December Wind