Released: 2010, Earache
Has it really been over 30 years since Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Saxon, Judas Priest, UFO, Dio, The Scorpions, Motorhead and Iron Maiden thrust their Gibson Flying V/Fender Strat fuelled madness into the collective hearts of many a budding rock and heavy metal fan? Yes, the times they are a-changin’, back to the 80s! Spandex, fucking awful hairdos, the PMRC, twin guitars, arena tours, singers who could hit top C while having their shoes set on fire…and FUN FUN FUN!
The boys are back in town, and by boys, I of course mean White Wizzard from Los Angeles, the US of A. Never have I heard such pure 80s worship in a band that was formed this side of the millennium. ‘Worship’ is the lifeblood of this band, its Jagermeister and JD, its Philosopher’s Stone, its qi, its dharma, its chakra – but funnily enough, not its kryptonite. No, I’ve decided that, while all the ingredients necessary to really loathe this band are present, it’s really a cosmic impossibility to actually hate White Wizzard.
This is in spite of the fact that ‘originality’ is not a word that springs to mind when you listen to OVER THE TOP. Everything on this album has been done before by all the bands mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, and desecrated and destroyed by countless other copycat bands, so much so that the word ‘worship’ itself has become a derogatory term, opprobrious, worthy of the vilest of abuse.
But White Wizzard is a different beast altogether. In fact, they’re probably not even a beast. More like a very excitable terrier whose voice has not broken yet. It’s impossible to hate them. They play their music with a naïve wide-eyed charm that is endearing, lovable, nostalgic and fist-pumping all at the same time. They have the killer twin guitar assault so beloved by Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, Thin Lizzy and the guitar gods themselves: Smith and Murray. They have the straight up bass-heavy rock approach of AC/DC, Motorhead and Saxon, boosted by the melodic sensibilities of Uriah Heep and Deep Purple, and the guitar solos are right up there with the best of the Blackmores and Schenkers, Tipton/Downing, Buck Dharma and Vivian Campbell – in sentiment if not in skill. But unsurprisingly, it’s to Iron Maiden that White Wizzard owe the most to, and the band they draw the most from. The bass, most especially, is pure Steve Harris worship – in a good way.
List of lyrical clichés used in OVER THE TOP: “rock the night away”, “burning with desire/burning higher”, “forged in the fires of hell”, “rollin’ through the night”, “fly high/high in the sky/live free or die”, “heavy metal is the law”, etc etc.
Cheese value: priceless.
This is music to party to, this is music to drink beer and smoke pot to, this is music to get laid to at 17, this is music to go on a road trip. I fucking love it.
PS: See if you can catch the shout-out to a NWOBHM legend on the title track!