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In 1985, UK punk/metal band Warfare released their sophomore album, produced by Lemmy. It didn't sell as well as hoped, so the guys didn't tour and instead made another great record (Mayhem, Fuckin' Mayhem); but this is already first-rate Warfare. Incidentally, 1985 is also the year Warfare was asked to open for Metallica at the Hammersmith Odeon, but the band members were told to pay their own expenses. As a big middle-finger to the management there, they showed up with their band truck, unannounced, to play in the parking lot during the concert. Evo later described it as "Fuckin' anarchy... Total anarchy... Cars smashed up... Noses bust... Police everywhere... Truck windows put out... God it was fuckin' wonderful!!" Unlike the nu-metal kids, these guys weren't full of shit: they could back up their attitude with actions. No one is condoning vandalism, but I bet many surely would wish they could destroy the car of the manager who told them to pay their own expenses. Warfare actually did it, which adequately sums them up as a band.
If that isn't enough, the very first minute of this album sets the tone and tells you what you're up for too. They play some serene music from The Sound of Music, and introduce the first few gleeful notes of singing, conjuring up images of pastoral scenery and domestic happiness, before interrupting it with rambunctious noises and a great, vile laugh. Then they start pounding away at furious speed. "We will show no mercy / watch you fuckers plead / as we crank it higher / watch your ears bleed" I've used the first minutes of the album so often to joke around I lost count. "Come along with Warfare / be the chosen few!" It's a perfect opening track. They're hard, heavy and unforgiving; you can enjoy their furious playing or you can fuck off. They did it before Manowar, and they did it better.
Bandleader Evo, who is one crazy drummer, also delivers the lead vocals. They involve sardonic, gnarled shouting with a vibe of punkish dissent and deep, hoarse yells with great power. He certainly is passionate. Falken handles the bass, which actually provides excellent support here, while "Gunner" gives us first-rate punk metal guitar riffs. When a band's guitarist is called Gunner, you know you're in for one hell of a ride. Gunner and Evo also designed the cover together, and it certainly makes clear what the band was all about. To make things even better, guitarist Würzel, famous from Motörhead, joins in on the rocking title track. I must also note a dude apparently named "Mad Hunter" delivers backing vocals. Who he is I do not know; but it pleases me to know that some fella called Mad Hunter shouted along in the powerful choruses.
Occasionally Warfare is described as the "poor man's Venom", but this seems needlessly reductionist to me. The atmosphere Venom propagates, the themes, the vocal style, and the riffs are all very different. Warfare isn't invoking Satanic rites, but complete metal anarchy.. It's all mayhem, 'fucking mayhem. On first hearing Warfare, you may just think, "Man, this is utter filth." They were way ahead of you with the title of the debut! Let the sound sink in for a while and you'll start to appreciate it.
The title track is the perfect punk metal Anthem. It pumps you up for abrasive rocking, simple as that. The music video actually shows the band members stuck in a cage; but I suppose even that wasn't enough to keep 'em down. The slower tracks don't work as well, however; the riffs are interesting but the power is lacking. The more serious, descriptive lyrics also fall flat. Murder, death, warfare, yadayadayada, we know the drill. Get back to spitting in the face of conformity by playing loud and furious metal please!
As for the actual sound quality, it's a little less impressive. The production is just terrible. Lemmy "produced" the album, but I can't imagine he really did all that much except rocking out with these guys. A raw sound befits this record, but this will be unacceptable to some. Luckily, the sound isn't even all bad when you run it through good speakers: only the youngsters who want to use headphones will be in for an unpleasant surprise. If you really can't stand it, I recommend listening to Warfare's 1992 compilation A Crescendo of Reflections, which consists of re-recordings of their old songs. The title track of Metal Anarchy is included, among others, but I do miss the killer opening track.
Whenever a band like Metallica is heavy and loud for the sake of it, they are venerated for going one step further; but when Warfare does it, it is suddenly a "gimmick". Nonsense! What Warfare had, and even Metallica never truly did, is attitude. These folks breathed it. They were restless and wild spirits, and every second of this record is testament to that. If you can feel it, you will enjoy this record. Otherwise, it is not for you. It is no masterpiece, perhaps; but you will be hard-pressed to find better punk metal.
A blistering-fast speed metal attack on the mind, Warfare’s “Metal Anarchy” is the manifestation of heavy metal/punk rock fusion. It sounds like Venom without the Satanic lyrics, raw production, atmosphere or originality. It’s just rapid and aggressive metal with punk overtones, and it executes lethally.
Paul Evo is the singer-behind-the-kit with rough and scratchy vocals reminiscent of Cronos’s, particularly when rolling r’s. The guy’s cords charge an assault by which their victims enjoy being battered. He can’t sing by musical standards, but he can sure yell and snarl with enough fervor to make no one care.
Compositions like “Electric Mayhem” and “Metal Anarchy” are so violently constructed that while thrashing to them, you forget there was ever a more insane song written. Every second is saturated by vicious riffing, screeching guitar, sloppy percussion, and a freaking madman in sunglasses on the mike. The adrenaline embodied in some of these tracks is so overpowering it intoxicates your brain.
But a couple stragglers like “Living for the Last Days” aren’t as potent, and that’s why this release suffers as a unit. The organization is also lopsided, with the longer and slower epic numbers like “Warfare” and “Wrecked Society” toward the beginning. The transitions can be awkward, especially when some of these otherwise flawless songs like “Death Vigilance” and “Psycho Express” fade out at the end, which only lowers aggression further. Where’s the manic cymbal-crashing finale?
This is a good CD if you enjoy stuff like Motorhead, Tank, Whiplash or early Slayer. For those of you familiar with Warfare’s equally obscure peers like Atomkraft, be assured that this dwells in similar territory.