By Tate Bengtson
With the thrash revival collapsing under its own excesses, I suppose that it makes sense that traditional metal would be the next era/genre to be exploit — uh, explored. All that is old is new again.
While frequently compared to Iron Maiden, White Wizzard is a much different beast. Or rather, White Wizzard is not much of a beast at all. Let me put it this way: the number of the beast is not on White Wizzard’s speed dial. White Wizzard plays an effervescent and jovial brand of traditional metal that is closer to Diamondhead, Savage, and Jaguar. This is all fine company in its own right, but it is a far cry from Maiden. So be warned; manage your expectations accordingly.
White Wizzard plays the kind of music that is likely to garner considerable radio play. Unabashedly infectious choruses? Check. Pitch perfect and silky smooth singing? Nailed it. Punchy basslines? Yes indeed (and I will concede that there are a few Steve Harris-isms at work here). Guitar work that hits all the right notes? You got it. And yet, despite the flawlessness that literally oozes from every pore of this album, the music comes across as safe and rather harmless.
All of the key points of the trad metal songbook are in play. You have an epic-length anthem (“Iron Goddess of Vengeance”), uptempo party tracks (“Out of Control,” “Death Race”), and the obligatory eponymous closing track. Hell, these boys do the trad metal thing so well that they even nail the requisite filler track (“Strike of the Viper”) perfectly!
Credit where credit is due (whether that be to the band or to the consultants that the band commissioned to concoct this album), White Wizzard achieves what it set out to do on Over the Top. This album will probably take the band quite far, at least for a year or two. What it lacks in substance it papers over with polished perfection. Really, the only thing that White Wizzard is missing is a superfluous umlaut or two in its name.
While all this might sound dismissive, that is not my intent. After all, the band deserves acknowledgement for crafting an album so damn catchy that even a jaded and occasionally bitter commentator such as myself cannot resist cranking it up in my car with the windows rolled down on a hot summer day. It is that kind of album. If you can appreciate it on that basis, you will dig Over the Top. However, if you are expecting something more substantial, look elsewhere.
Me, I’m going for a drive. Guess what I’m playing?