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So, after the band spent several albums plodding around in the ultimately worthless depths of forgettable groove metal, Warball sees Vicious Rumors taking a much needed step in the other direction, back towards their USPM roots. A good thing, too - from the moment Sonic Rebellion opens the album by immediatelysmashing your face in with a barrage of technical leads and catchy riffs it is abundantly clear that Vicious Rumors is perfectly capable of reliving the style of their earlier albums, in all its explosive glory.
And for the most part, this album pulls off the return-to-roots fairly well, keeping the momentum up for the first half of the album with an admirable slew of classic VR-styled tracks, albeit with a few minor missteps (the chorus of Dying Every Day simply doesn't work all that well, and Warball drags on a bit too long with its crawling pace). The style is deliciously late-80's, with lots of Digital Dictator-esque gang shouts and rocking riffs that will have you headbanging in no time. The production is nice and raw, while still crisp and clear.
Unfortunately, the second half of the album sees the band stumbling and seemingly running out of steam, before suddenly falling off a cliff. Crossthreaded is good enough, but sports vocal work done mainly by Geoff Thorpe which, while Thorpe is certainly a reasonably good vocalist, simply doesn't make sense when you have James Rivera available. Wheels of Madness is the last truly awesome track of the album, sporting a catchy chorus and some truly astounding leads.
Windows of Memory, however, sees the band attempting a soft, serene ballad and not really succeeding, coming off as sappy and forced instead of emotional and moving. This certainly isn't on the level of Children, or even When Love Comes Down. A Ghost Within follows, introduced by some spooky atmospherics, yet even when it erupts into a galloping monster it is hampered by the really oddly overdubbed vocals, with almost every line in the chorus doubled by James Rivera's falsetto. The man has a great voice, but the execution is simply grating and it greatly detracts from the song. Oceans of Rage ends the album about as poorly as possible, with Thorpe on vocals again (why are they doing this?), really bland riffs, and, to top it off, some thoroughly awful screaming throughout.
So essentially what we have here is a great return-to-form that sputters and dies at the very end. I don't know what happened could effect such a sudden drop in quality towards the last few songs, but regardless it's not enough to really bring down the album. Avoid the last three tracks (two of which are mediocre, the other terrible) and you have a winner.
Its funny, because I've only recently been getting into a lot of incredilbe, sometimes older US Metal bands. Among several of these bands was Vicious Rumors and Helstar. I instantly fell in love with both bands and got everything from them that I could. Then, to see that Helstar's James Rivera has joined Vicious Rumors to take over vocal duties, I couldn't contain myself and I just did a standing triple backflip off my chair while I exploded into the skies! It seemed almost too good! (man, small world?).
And the hype that hit me didn't let me down at all! James Rivera is truly the ultimate successor to Carl Albert, who has passed the realm of time. He fits Vicious Rumors like a perfect glove, and is exactly what the band had been needing for a long time. I completely respect Geoff Thorpe's efforts in taking over the vocals himself in some of their last couple of albums, but it just wasn't the same Vicious Rumors that I loved from the 80's - early 90's (as for the other vocalists, I just really didn't like them that much. It just didn't feel right). Rivera even sounds somewhat like Albert from time to time.
Then, the style. Wow! This is truly Vicious Rumors in their purest form again. This album sounds like something that could've come out right after Digital Dictator (probably my favorite VR album so far). You could listen to them back to back! Their past few albums came off as somewhat darker, lower tuned. But this is the groovy, kick to the balls, awesome Viciours Rumors that hit the streets back in the day. And with their odd, speed metal / groovy rhythm's / semi-progessive style, it comes off as completely fresh and diverse. Again, you can expect to hear a lot of virtuosity here. The solo's are very technical like always from Geoff, and everything else is just totally off the wall fun. And I don't think I can put into words just how awesome James Rivera is on here. He shines like a star, but then again so does this entire album from start to finish. Truly, almost every song on here is a highlight song. You could slap this disc in and randomly go to any track, and would probably be blown away again and again.
Well, there's not much more I can say about this disc here. If you've been craving for one of the most powerful comebacks yet, then get this. Even if you've never heard of Vicious Rumors, this would be a great entry to blow your socks off. James Rivera seems to be truly a busy man these days reviving Helstar as well, and doing other sideprojects like Distant Thunder and whatnot. I can only hope he stays within the ranks of VR along with the majority of this lineup. I can't wait to see more from them like this!
And were born again HARD! is the echoing refrain of brilliance that invites the listener into the realm of the warball. Once again, Geoff Thorpe and Co. has managed to create an album of sheer greatness and utter brillliance from beginning to end.
Each and every track on this molten power metaller is penned to perfection. The songs have a perfect mix of melody and anarchy. I must say that I actually wasn't expecting anything phenomenal out of this album simply because of the last couple VR cd's which seemed to somewhat deviate from the path of genius that albums such as Digital Dictator managed carve out for the band.
Enter into the ranks of VR, veteran vocal god James Rivera...greatness is once again achieved. Not to say that Brian O'Connor or Morgan Thorne are not good vocalists, but I'd have to say that when sizing someone up against the late great Carl Albert, James Rivera is a much more comparable singer. At least in terms of his ability. This also enabled the band to create music more along the old school lines of Welcome To the Ball era material.
In an odd way, this album has a unique ability of sounding reminiscent to early era VR, yet at the same time, it doesn't sound dated, but rather fresh and innovative. The guitar riffs are all infectious, as are all the rythmic tracks of both the drums as well as the bass lines. The guitar solos are ridiculously technical, especially some of the tremelo bar stuff. And I must confess, I haven't heard anyone do dive-bombs like that in a long time..."eddie influence much"?
Just the same this album is amazing and will most certainly be revered as a return to form for the band. I hope this line-up maintains enough longevity to do at least a couple more albulms together. The only other piece of the puzzle that would make things picture perfect would be to recruit Mark McGee back into the bands ranks, I'll keep my fingers crossed.