Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. Well, when I signed on to write about Power, the debut album from Australia’s Road Warrior, I didn’t know what the cover looked like. I figured Road Warrior, Australia, traditional metal, what could go wrong? Well, that album cover could go wrong, I suppose. And a singer named Denimal who plays the thunderpunch bass guitar could also go wrong. But I like the idea—old-school 80s-style metal with songs about sex, ancient civilizations, and more sex—and I’m willing to jump in and see if my “maximal testosterone” levels and “utter manliness” are up to snuff for these eight songs.
Road Warrior may be new, but the members aren’t new to the scene. Denimal played/plays in avant-garde/death/black outfits such as Cauldron Black Ram and StarGazer, while guitarist Overdryve hails from tech-death band Intellect Devourer. Road Warrior appears to be their outlet for tamer output, as there’s no hint of death, black, tech, or anything else except 1980s metal. And by 1980s metal, I mean debut-era Iron Maiden and Fire Down Under-era Riot. But don’t get your hopes up: while those bands provide heavy influence for Power, pulling it off is another matter entirely, and that’s where we run into problems that go beyond shitty album artwork—problems that even a new set of Crayolas can’t fix.
Opening track “Don’t Fight Fate” exemplifies everything that is both good and bad about Power. The good: solid guitar tone and a snappy, attack-filled bass (proof positive of the DR10 score) with a prominence that puts Steve Harris to shame. The bad: an incredibly long, disjointed intro, poor singing, a thoroughly awkward arrangement, and muted drums—except for the world’s worst-sounding ride cymbal which, depending on your stereo, will be either mildly annoying or homicide-inducing. Delving further into the main issues, Road Warrior have a hangup about intros. Nearly nine minutes of this 35-minute album are the song intros, most of which are poorly thought out and make us lose interest long before the vocals kick in. “Don’t Fight Fate” awkwardly stumbles along for nearly two minutes, “Tease N Torture” for well over a minute, and “Devils in Waiting” for a whopping four-part, 2:20 intro. Ugh. Meh. Etc.
“On Iron Wing” sounds like a song that might’ve been a B-side to Iron Maiden’s “Transylvania” if that had been a single, except Denimal’s attempts to sound like Paul Di’Anno fall far short. It’s clear he’s the singer in Road Warrior not because he can sing, but because it’s his band—just check out his falsetto in “The Future Is Passed,” where he shrieks “destroy.” The best song name on Power has to be “Back Alley Tokyo Woman,” and the song has an Ozzy-era Black Sabbath vibe to it, but once again in a very amateur manner. The band is definitely writing songs with clear intent (let’s do one like Maiden! Let’s do one like Sabbath!), but the end results are poor.
I’m always willing to give new bands a shot, and let’s face it, I had a great streak of excellent music to end the summer, so I’ve been due a dud for a while now. With Road Warrior’s Power, I’ve found it. This is one of those cases where, yes, the album can be judged by its cover. There are a hundred throwback bands out there, and ninety of them are putting out better albums than this one. The concept of the band and their influences is admirable, but the songwriting and execution are lacking. Back to the drawing board (and coloring book, for the cover) for Road Warrior.