Label: MCA Records
I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to this little gem of an album. It pretty much defines the term “forgotten classic” and I’m sure many never even heard of Warrior. They’ve had an extremely stop-start career, having released only four albums in 30 years, but their 1985 debut Fighting for the Earth is a classic piece of 80s metal loaded of top-notch, super memorable anthems that straddle the line between a classic, old school style and gritty hard rock. Sounding like a mix of early Savatage, Obsession and Armored Saint, it’s one of those platters that epitomized the early American metal sound and after this release, they were often spoken of in the same breath as Queensryche as the “next big thing.” It never worked out that way though and they didn’t even release a follow up until 1998, but this album stands the test of time and remains a must have for fans of the classic period of American metal.
The Warrior sound eschewed speed or any of the more extreme styles that were being birthed around 85 and instead, stuck to textbook, mid-tempo traditional metal with a overriding dedication to hooky choruses and dramatic, over-the-top dynamics. Every song is designed to stick in the ear and they were shockingly adept at achieving exactly that. The title track is a great example: simple as hell, but so damn metal, and Perry McCarty does his best “Jon Olivia on steroids” impression to sell the whole “alien invasion to wipe us all out” motif. Better still is the impossibly catchy “Defenders of Creation,” which has a sound similar to what Yngwie Malmsteen achieved on his excellent Marching Out album and it rocks a chorus that will haunt your dreams forevermore.
Also highly addicting is “Only the Strong Survive” which benefits from an odd trace of melancholy in an otherwise rocking metal tune; the pumping, balls-to-the-wall thunder of “Ruler” and the very Armored Saint-esque “Mind Over Matter,” which you can almost hear John Bush singing if you try. I would be wholly remiss in my retro duties if I failed to mention “Welcome Aboard,” which reminds me of a metallized version of something Styx would have written in their “Mr. Roboto” era. It’s metal-as-hell, but slightly silly and a bit jaunty. It’s also insanely catchy.
It’s a very short album at 38 minutes, but there’s no fat or filler and it plays like a champ from start to finish. It also benefits from a pretty impressive production job – clear, but with a lot of depth and punch. The guitars have heft and the vocals are out front and strong, without overpowering everything.
Though the band was the brainchild of guitarist Joe Floyd, it was McCarty’s vocals that grabbed my attention and made me an instant fan. He had the ultimate metal voice, big, loud and rough, but capable of surprisingly nuance. If you can imagine a cross between Jon Oliva and Kevin Dubrow (Quiet Riot) with a smattering of John Bush, you’re on the right track. His commanding voice sells the high-quality songs and makes them extra impactful and he’s always been one of my favorite metal singers, despite the paucity of material he appears on. Joe Floyd was no slouch either, and his playing is rich in old school metal traditions, borrowing from hair metal, hard rock and trve metal equally to get the big hooks into your brain. He often reminded me of George Lynch (Dokken), but he always kept things heavier and more meaty.
After a career killing vanishing act until 98, Ancient Future was a surprisingly solid follow up, though it couldn’t top this beauty. After that, McCarty split and was replaced by Rob Rock for 2001s Code of Life, and later by Marc Storace (Krokus, yes I know, shut up already) for 2004s War of Gods and Men. Apparently they’re recording something new as I write this, but nothing they do will ever be as good as this precious debut. If you love old school metal, find this thing by hook or by crook. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Welcome aboard!