Reviving a genre or sound is tricky. Particularly when some of the genre’s progenitors are still releasing albums, and touring at major festivals. Yet that is exactly what Power, the debut album from South Australia’s Road Warrior, is trying to do. Across eight wonderfully dirty tracks, they pump some fresh blood into the hard rock and heavy metal from the late 70’s and early 80’s, taking clear influence from the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath to name a few.
Across the whole album, there is a consistent sound and approach, which I liked a lot. They have a decent wall of sound going for a three-piece band, and their ability through both their music and the mixing to replicate the sound and feel from that era is surprisingly faithful, to an extent I don’t feel like I’ve heard at all in recent times. For me, the standout tracks were “On Iron Wing” (very early Maiden), “Devil in Waiting” (my favourite musically) and “I Am The Hunger”. Across these three tracks in particular, there are some fantastic breakdowns and the instrumentation is killer. This is absolutely where Road Warrior shine. Not only is it a great homage to the era, it truly feels like an evocation of what it would have been to get one of these albums for the first time. (Sadly, this reviewer was not even an idea at the time). If another old school hard rock/heavy metal album is what you’re looking for, from a new group, this is the album for you.
However, for me there was some stuff I wish had been there. Take the rest of this with the disclaimer that though I’m a big fan of the genre, I’m not so fond of the album recordings from the time, and I am someone who in another life spends too much time getting paid to tweak sounds. Though the concept was sound, the whole thing’s been mixed to try and replicate that style and recording sound, and this is a double edged sword. The guitars sound great, the bass is incredible, and the drums sound like they’ve been recorded from the other end of the street. That’s not a complaint, but they sit pretty far back in the mix, and I would have loved to hear them a bit further forward, if for no other reason than to add a bit of punch. Singer and bassist Denimal’s vocal tone is also very raw, which again replicated the sound of the era well, but for me it’s too much. One of the benefits of where metal has split, replicated, and evolved is in how people deliver vocals, and it’s only the greats of the past who still hold up now as fantastic vocalists. I would attribute that more to the overall oeuvre of those artists than the sound of the time, and personally it felt a bit undercooked at times.
While I did enjoy this album, it left me wondering: “If I owned all the classic albums of the time, what would recommend this to me?”. Road Warrior want to recall a time when metal was more of a renegade outlier, bold frontier warriors forging their own paths into the world with only the bloody swords of their album covers and the dirtiest tones they could find for their guitars… and they revive the sound of this era very well. However, something kept not quite clicking for me, and I think it might be this- it feels a little safe, even at times conservative. Not in the political or tonal sense; there’s noise and bombast enough here to satisfy the most leather clad Judas Priest fan at times. Evoking an era of transgression and discovery when music like this hadn’t been heard before is difficult because, by definition, you’re evoking something people have heard before. That leaves little options in how to stand apart from the very musicians you’re emulating. It would be easier as recordings of the time were limited by the technology and the sounds that people were creating were still being developed, but Power evokes the recorded sound as well. So what is there here that can’t be found, done excellently, on albums of the time?
This doesn’t take from the quality of the final product. The music is great, the vocals are true in both theme and sound, and it’s raw and honest. It is, in short, a great revivalist album, and when one has listened to those classics endlessly and just need new fuel for their fire, this is for you. It didn’t scratch that itch for me, and personally I’m hoping that their next release does more than just recreate a sound from a past era, but innovates and evokes the feeling of the time too.
Pre-Order your copy of ‘Power’ out October 5th via Seasons Of Mist, HERE!