|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Tad Donley|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2004||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 60%|
|Running Time: 43:01|
As I am sure most of you reading this are aware, there are currently two different metal bands going under the moniker of Warrior. The first, and most well known, is the secular classic power metal band from California that featured Rob Rock on its third full length album The Code Of Life. The second Warrior hails from Texas and is a Christian band that also happens to dress in medieval style body armor, brandishes long swords and wears Kiss-style facial make up. Upon first impression, I was turned off by the bands garish attention getting attire, but in time I have developed a certain amount of tolerance for its so called "warrior" image. Guardian, for example, also dressed in body armor when it first came onto the scene in the mid-eighties but was able to back up its "space metal warriors" image by the fact it could flat out play. Along that line, how does the "other" Warrior measure up? I might describe the bands full length independently released debut The Battle Has Started as catchy retro-early eighties commercial hard rock not unlike Canada's Daniel Band. Nothing wrong with that. But when you look at a photo of the band the first thought coming to mind is that these guys must be playing either extreme metal or some form of epic power metal or classic metal. In other words, the music does not fit the image (more on that later).
Lead vocalist Tad Donley contributes a very fine mid-octave ranged voice, and while certainly no Joacim Cans (Hammerfall, Warlord) or Rey Parra (Sacred Warrior), he holds his own with an all around solid performance. Donley also lays down a tight rhythm guitar sound in addition to playing a mean lead guitar. Bassist Michael Goodnight and drummer Keith Coleson round out the rhythm section.
In highlighting crisp and sharp sounding sonics, the production values to The Battle Has Started are quite good for an independent release. An upfront rhythm guitar sound stands alongside a clean mix of lead guitar. A bit of muddiness in the low end, however, prevents the bass and drums from always standing out in the mix as they should.
The album cover features an eye catching photo of the band decked out in full regalia over a colorful yellow and orange background. Nevertheless, the fact the cover also features the tongue and cheek statement "Great for the Whole Family!" in addition to the slogan "Featuring the hit 'I Want A Walmart Girl'" leads me to believe these guys do not take themselves all that seriously.
Please note that at its website Warrior bills itself as "America's rock band". America's rock band? Only having recently gotten over the fact that the Dallas Cowboys are considered "America's team", I certainly find it asking a lot to accept Donley and company as "America's band". I wonder what the rest of the metal community thinks of this? How would you like to be in a band opening for "America's band"? How would you feel about Warrior, face paint and all, representing your country?
After the hard rocking "Cry As One" starts to an upfront mix of crisp rhythm guitar, Donley takes over on lead vocals and helps convey the song in an energetic manner to a catchy hook filled chorus. At its halfway point "Cry As One" slows to a near standstill with the rhythm guitar playing a reduced role in the mix as Donley delivers a sermon-like message:
You know we're at a time now when more than ever we need Jesus. You need to get a relationship with Him to help you deal with all the things that are happening in your life...
Can't argue with that. While "Cry As One" is quite good from a musical standpoint, the only drawback to the song comes in the form of its lack of a guitar solo.
"I Want A Walmart Girl" is the bands attempt at a "crossover hit". Moving in what I would describe as a commercial pop-punk direction, the song advances at breakneck speed from start to finish in highlighting a surprisingly catchy hook. As a matter of fact, the song is so infectious it is annoying. But in a good sense. Donley tops things off with several seconds of fiery lead guitar work. "Mercifully, "I Want A Walmart Girl" is over in around three minutes.
"Please Come Back To Me" is the most noteworthy of the albums three ballads. Beginning slowly to a quietly played guitar line, the rhythm guitar steps forward halfway through the songs first verse and propels it to a radio friendly chorus that will pull you in on first listen. A nice bluesy guitar solo adds just the right amount of affect to an all around very fine number.
Am I out of line to complain about the lack of continuity regarding the albums first three tracks? Following a good catchy hard rocking album opener, we get a commercial pop-punk number. That is ensued by a tear jerking power ballad. How much variety do we need?
The upbeat "The Battle Has Started" is by far the albums strongest track. Taking off to a ton of upfront guitar driven momentum, the albums title track moves forward with an abundance of energy until it culminates for a huge background vocal driven chorus. Donley cuts loose with thirty seconds of blistering lead guitar work. As its title implies, "The Battle Has Started" touches upon the issue of spiritual warfare:
Now you feel the lighting as the enemies collide
Jesus kept His promise and made sure He got His bride
Demon after demon fell as Michael took the lead
Sparks flying from the swords - the first victory
"The Better High" is one of several songs on the album to not quite make the grade. Perhaps it is the cheesy militant style lead vocal and vocal harmony trade off taking place during its verse. Or it might be an ordinary sounding chorus that comes across marginal at best. What it all comes down to, however, is the fact I have always had a problem with songs that make a relationship with God synonymous to getting high:
When you feel God's love - the better high...
Carman did the same thing several years ago with the song "Addicted To Jesus". On the other hand, I cannot fault the bands attempt at communicating Christ as the alternative to what obviously is an unhealthy and dysfunctional habit:
I don't know what I've been told - getting high has got me cold
I am hurting everyday - there's got to be a better way...
Jesus is the One for me
Gave me power to set me free...
It is worth pointing out that the song does feature one of the albums better instrumental breaks.
"My Little Runaway" is a terrific hard rocker commencing to a pounding riff before a crunchy rhythm guitar drives it in upbeat fashion to a solid hook driven chorus. After the song stops dead in its tracks, Donley follows with forty seconds of tight sounding lead guitar work.
The keyboard and string based ballad "Right Here, Right Now" slowly advances until it reaches a chorus resonating a good commercial feel. While there is nothing wrong with the song musically, it would have stood out in the more noteworthy manner if backed by a crisp rhythm guitar and a guitar solo. The songs lyrics, on the other hand, are quite laudable:
The Bible says it's true that He loves you
Enough to send His Son to die and live
Introduced to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, "Walk Don't Run" proceeds through its first verse to an edgy rhythm guitar backed by clanging cowbells. Keyboards are put to effective use as the song approaches one of the albums stronger choruses. A keyboard solo opens an instrumental passage culminating with a blazing guitar solo.
"I Cant' Be Alone" gets started to an aggressive blend of rhythm guitar and pounding drums previous to the rhythm guitar taking a backseat in the mix at the start of its first verse. The rhythm guitar returns, nevertheless, in time to fortify a good hard hitting chorus. I like how "I Cant' Be Alone" slows for an instrumental passage featuring just under a minute of very well done lead guitar work.
Am I out line to suggest that the non-descript acoustic based "Find His Love" is two minutes of filler? I find an acoustically driven number to be redundant at this point, particularly in light of the fact the album already includes two ballads.
The Battle Has Started returns to its hard rocking direction with "Ride With Him Tonight". Opening to a drum solo, a crunchy rhythm guitar carries the song during its first verse before keyboards accentuate the mix as it approaches a superb smooth sounding chorus. Donley's tight sounding lead guitar work complements the pace and feel of a song talking about God's love:
I don't know you very well, but you gotta believe me
Stick with God and I know His will be done
Jesus loves - loves you - need to ride with Him tonight
I feel it is important to give credit where credit is due, and, within that context, the "other" Warrior deserves its share of credit. Tad Donley proves a very fine guitarist, and when at his best, he can write a song with a good catchy hook. The standards to the albums production and packaging are both quite high. And I cannot help but commend the band on its bold and upfront lyrical approach. That being said, there is the presence of some filler on The Battle Has Started
in that it is not uncommon to hit the skip button several times. For example, is it necessary to include three ballads on an eleven song albums? Just one would do fine next time.
Finally, I would like to strongly encourage the band to update its sound to make it more in line with its "warrior" image. For example, throw in some rapid double bass along with more hard hitting and faster guitar riffs and lengthier guitar runs. And before entering the studio the next time, I cannot help but think Donley and company would do themselves a big favor by listening to the likes of Warlord , Blind Guardian, Magnitude 9, Rob Rock, Jacobs Dream, Divinefire, Theocracy and, of course, their secular counterpart of the same name.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Cry As One” (4:08), “I Want A Walmart Girl” (3:25), “Please Come Back To Me” (5:22), “The Battle Has Started” (3:23), “The Better High” (4:58), “My Little Runaway” (4:16), ”Right Here, Right Now” (4:30), “Walk Don’t Run” (4:02), “I Can’t Be Alone” (4:03), “Find His Love” (1:51), “Ride With Him Tonight” (2:57)
Tad Donley – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Michael Goodnight – Bass
Keith Coleson – Drums
Doug Webb – Drums
Steve Sparks - Bass