“Super groups” aren’t all of Pulsar Class wattage. In truth they fall all over the spectrum from truly famous assemblages to largely unknown folks from somewhat established bands. Walpyrgus hovers closer to the latter pole, being composed of members of Twisted Tower Dire, While Heaven Wept and Daylight Dies. This may not be the most recognizable collection of musician, but what they do, they do surprisingly well, namely rocking early 80s NWoBHM in all its ear-wormy, guitar-driven glory. Remember Warlord? They were an early 80s American act mimicking the NWoBHM style and despite having talent they never gained much notoriety until Hammerfall covered their song “Child of the Damned.” They’re the most obvious reference point here, as this is their brand of instantly accessible classic metal with plenty of nods to Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and even some non-NWoBHM Mercyful Fate creeping into the chili as the band wears their vintage hearts on their worn denim sleeves.
Opener “The Dead of the Night” is a pure dose of early 80s metal, full of snappy guitar harmonies and slick vocal hooks. If you grew up in that era this will be completely irresistible fun for you, but being olde is not a prerequisite for enjoying this, as it’s extremely well done and mega-memorable. The chorus is top-notch and the guitar-work pops and sizzles from start to finish, reminding me a lot of Jeff Water’s work on Annihilator‘s Alice in Hell debut. “Somewhere Under Summer” is nearly as good, borrowing a page or two from Witchfinder General and Thin Lizzy, with smoking leads and sweet harmonies overlaid with hooky vocal patters and a slight punk rock edge.
The band takes that particular element much farther on “Dead Girls” which is unabashed worship of The Ramones and The Misfits, and that’s not a bad thing as it’s quite fun in a silly, party punk way. “Lauralone” is a slick rocker that could’ve fallen off either Diamond Head‘s or Satan‘s tour van, and “Palmystry” is a first-rate metal gem with wonderfully retro Maiden-esque guitar runs and a charming bass gallop, but the big selling point here are the sweet, classic metal vocals by Jonny Aune (Twisted Tower Dire). Things close out with the anthemic as fook title track which benefits from a darker, more ominous tone and tasteful guitar-work along with well-utilized Hammond organ fills. The chorus is simple, huge and memorable and everything gets clicked off on my Geezer Metal Checklist.
While there’s no denying the charm and appeal of much of this material, “Dead Girls” feels quite out of place with the rest of the songs, and the inclusion of a cover of the Witch Cross song “Light of a Torch” is good but non-essential. At a short, sweet 37 minutes, Walpyrgus Nights flies by in a flash and leaves you wanting more, which is always appreciated here in AMG Land.
This album has more hooks than a redneck’s tackle-box, and many are delivered by guitarists Charles Shackelford (Daylight Dies) and Scott Waldrop (Twisted Tower Dire, October 31). They bring a great deal of finesse and flair to the riffing and harmonies but what they bring the most of is pure, unadulterated fun. There’s a lot of Thin Lizzy bounce and swagger to their playing and though they keep their style mired in the 80s, it’s enjoyable without an advanced degree in metallurgical history. The trilling leads on cuts like “The Dead of Night” and “Palmystry” are things of beauty and so damn cool it matter little what era they’re emulating. Jonny Aune has a classic metal voice and smoothly conveys enthusiasm and charisma. His clean, crisp delivery reminds me of Cauldron‘s Jason Decay and he sells the holy Hell out of these songs with many a vocal trick, treat and hook.
Walpyrgus is apologetically retro and easier to digest than cotton candy, and with summer here this is exactly what the witch doctor ordered. Classic metal done well without fluff or pretension, perfectly suited for sun, fun and sweaty denim adventures.