Back in the early ’90s, Warrior Soul were among the many groups who rode in on the tail end of 1980s-style hair metal, only to have their careers washed away by the incoming dominance of grunge/alternative rock. Led by frontman Kory Clarke, the band’s slightly artsy take on the genre led to some noteworthy albums during that brief window in time (my friends in high school seemed to really like Drugs, God and the New Republic), before crashing and burning in 1995. However, the band has resurfaced in various incarnations over the years, usually with Clarke as the sole original member. Back on the Lash is their first studio album in five years.
Opening cut “American Idol” threatens to be some kind of meta-commentary on something or other, but turns out to be nothing more than Clarke shouting over a seemingly unfinished riff for about 90 seconds. On the AC/DC-styled “I Get Fucked Up,” Clarke elaborates on just exactly how fucked up he gets, while somehow managing to list 9/11 conspiracies, the military-industrial complex, and the JFK assassination as his reasons for doing so. The title track finds Clarke stringing together various euphemisms for drinking, eventually rhyming “back on the booze” with “zippity-do.” Credit where it’s due, though: the song is catchy as hell, despite sounding like 2nd rate Buckcherry (which I suppose would be 3rd or 4th rate Rolling Stones). Clarke has written lyrics about “partying” extensively in the past, but Back on the Lash is more or less a rock opera about destroying your liver.
Not surprisingly for such a frontman-driven band, Clarke’s vocals are mixed ridiculously up-front in relation to the rest of his band. This is bad news, as Clarke’s voice itself bears almost no resemblance to its early ’90s heyday. Terms like “hoarse” and “blown out” come to mind, and the raw production of the album does him no favors. His performance gradually deteriorates as the album goes on, with “Black Out” and “I Got The Rock” being particularly embarrassing.
The rest of the band fares somewhat better. Guitarist Stevie Pearce’s playing gets the point across, although his style is fairly anonymous. At best he sounds like Izzy Stradlin, at worst he channels the sloppiness of C.C. DeVille. In true hair-metal fashion, bassist Christian Kimmett holds down the root notes tenaciously and does little else. I have no idea who played drums on this record -— we were given a press photo showing four people, and a band bio that only names three. Whoever he is, he gets the job done.
Lash contains only 8 real songs and clocks in at about a half hour. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your perspective. On one hand, the brevity only fuels my impression of this record as being incredibly half-assed in every aspect of its creation. At the same time, I am also grateful to not have to hear 4-5 more tracks of it.
So there you have it. Warrior Soul circa 2017 is not very good, which probably does not come as a shock. Kory Clarke still has some of the charisma that put his band on the map in the first place, but that can’t save him from bad songs, stupid lyrics, and his own charred vocal cords. A slightly more professional approach might have salvaged some of this material, but even the most devoted Warrior Soul fan would have to admit that the band’s best years are far behind them.