I’m in the process of writing an article on the difficulties of being a power metal/heavy metal listener, specifically dealing with its problematic themes and aesthetics. I won’t bore you with too many details (since I’d like you to read when we get around to posting it) but I thought it impossible to write this review without mentioning it. White Wizzard traffic in the kind of traditional metal revival sound that’s becoming increasingly popular, joining the ranks of Lunar Shadow, Sumerlands, Spellcaster and Visigoth, to name just a few of the bands operating in this milieu. As such, Infernal Overdrive is a treat for those in love with the sounds and sensibilities of oldschool, melodic metal; combining the genres of heavy metal and power metal, the album is a veritable rollercoaster of solos, emphatic vocal passages and rumbling bass.
But it also imports a lot of the thematic flaws of the genre as it used to be in the 70’s and 80’s. For example, “Voyage of the Wolf Raiders”, while being an incredibly enjoyable homage to Iron Maiden (to the degree that parts of it make you feel like you’re listening to a lost Maiden album, of the Powerslave era nonetheless, in the best of ways) also includes glorification of the U.S Army to an honestly embarrassing degree (“Marching into fire / Eagle soaring higher / They set out to fight for truth / God, godspeed / will see the raiders through”). If the band reads this post, they’ll probably scoff at this; they make their opinion of people like me blatantly clear on “Critical Mass”, which is nothing more than a hateful diatribe against critiques and their opinion (“I don’t care what you think of me / Hypocrite’s philosophy” / …rip you apart like a heart attack”).
Beyond the fact that the ideas themselves are immature at best (which is fine, considering the genre at hand and its penchant for fantasy and grandiose), they’re also expressed pretty poorly, to a degree which detracts from the album itself. And that’s a real fucking shame because Infernal Overdrive is one hell of an album. The above mentioned track, “Critical Mass”, has absolutely mind-boggling bass composition and an incredibly fun chorus, besides the fact that it literally thinks that this writer should die for expressing his opinion on music. The rest of the album is just as good, from start to finish. The guitar tones are on point, the writing somehow eschews feeling obvious and boring while embracing every single lovable cliche of the genre.
It would also be a crime not to dedicate a whole passage to the vocals on this album. God lord, they’re amazing. Wyatt Anderson is honestly a revelation, blending the best qualities of Bruce Dickinson (on his screeches during the opening of “Critical Mass”), early Iced Earth Matt Barlow (best era Iced Earth, obviously) and Blind Guardian‘s Hansi Kürsch on his raspiest days. Anderson’s ability to execute these styles is only out-shun by his impressive knowledge of when to use which, like going heavy on the Hansi influences during the masterful “Chasing Dragons” (a power metal ballad that’s arguably the best track on the album) or the more Barlow mid-baritone on the opening tracks. His vocals are one of the main things rocking Infernal Overdrive from the realms of “Good” to “Great” and often times into the “Holy FUCK” category.
Basically, Infernal Overdrive kicks some major ass and it’s quite possible that I’m just not getting the lyrical joke and White Wizzard don’t actually mean everything they say on the album (which is possible but not likely). So, what is the avid fan of traditional heavy metal to do? Can you set aside your language-loving brain and enjoy Infernal Overdrive for what it is? I know that, for me, it was incredibly difficult and it’s a shame the band would put the listener in this position. All of the bands I mentioned above, and a few more besides, have managed to bring back heavy metal with a fair degree more thematic grace than White Wizzard while still maintaining the fun, fantastical and rowdy vibe that makes heavy metal so good. On Infernal Overdrive it feels more like a trench you have to cross on your way to some downright amazing music and it’s a shame you have to cross it because oh boy, is the music amazing.
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Infernal Overdrive sees release on January 12th, 2018 onM-Theory Audio. You can head on over to the link above to pre-order and judge it for yourself. We urge you to do so.