WARLORD - Free Spirit Soar

May 13, 2024, a week ago

(High Roller)

Mark Gromen

Rating: 7.5

review heavy metal warlord

WARLORD - Free Spirit Soar

OK, this is album is bound to be contentious. Upon release of the first single, Internet trolls were already abuzz with the "No Tsamis, no Warlord" mantra. Mark Zonder (Fates Warning) who set behind the drums, for the pseudonym outfit (as "Thunder Child"), back in the ‘80s, decided to keep Warlord running, after founder/guitarist Bill Tsamis passed away. While fans were happy with the prospect of more Warlord material (Tsamis was guarded with WHAT he released), the founder's absence was a bone of contention that faces an uphill battle. Hey, Riot were able to pull off a similar, founder-less incarnation, while a "comeback" from Savage Grace soiled their reputation, even with the original guitarist onboard. It's not a perfect science.

There's no doubt that much of the record sounds similar to classic Warlord. There are plenty of bands in the today's scene who wear their influences prominently (directly copy?) the sound of bigger/more popular, and sometimes no longer viable acts. Is that a crime? Depends, often upon a fan's longevity. The younger generation, who never saw the original, and only received the music as a "hand me down", decades after the fact, typically embrace the idea more fervently than the old-timers/gatekeepers, who were there, back in the day. Is it truly Warlord, or more of a Warlord tribute? Same can be said of Pantera, Quiet Riot, take your pick. Some people just want a bucket list checkmark, next to "I got to see (band name) live!"

Just eight selections and a couple were embryonic constructions while Tsamis was still alive. The old classics have a stylized, military cadence drumming and pomp keyboards backing, in the lengthy instrumental passages. These new offerings never seem to completely cut loose. What is disappointing is that the current Warlord seemingly only opted for the pedestrian, mid-tempo, Lordian Guard song structures. There's no speedy "Mrs. Victoria" or "Child Of The Damned" equivalent, or the upbeat pop of "Lost And Lonely Days". Hell, there's not even an "Aliens" around. That said, I find this more enjoyable, start to finish, than The Holy Empire album (2013), which also had but a couple standout cuts (opener and titular closer). Let's take a closer look...

Formerly a Lordian Guard song, "Behold A Pale Horse" kicks off with Zonder's trip around the drum kit and a couple of guitar riffs that get the Spidey senses tingling. Lyrically, there's the none-too-veiled Biblical references. You can hear the Warlord influence, even if not 100% convincing. "The Rider" is up next, the keys dominate, to start. The guitars get as aggressive as it's going to be, but can't get my head around the vocalist. At 4:25 it is the shortest track, almost half of some others. "Conquerors" gallops along, one of the early demos, now completed. Easily THE tune of the bunch. Apparently dating back to '81, "Worms of The Earth" is atypical of the Warlord canon and can hear why Tsamis kept it on the backburner. 

Initially, there's some pep in the step of the title track, but those high pitched (and at times, whiny) power metal vocals just seem out of place. Slower, heavier, the belabored "The Bell Tolls" is another '81 demo idea, finally completed. Echoing, megaphone vocals characterize much of "Alarm", a tale of a city under siege. The disc closes, much as it began, with another Lordian Guard bit, "Revelation XIX". As such, it's steeped in pro-religious imagery. 

According to Internet sources, there are some extra tracks floating around (bonuses for later versions/formats?). Not bad, by no means an embarrassment, just not as good as it could have (should have) been.

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