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Warlock’s debut was totally refreshing and entertaining, very promising among the huge bunch of 80’s heavy metal. They refused to be excessively melodic and tender, offering a lot of exciting tunes plenty of energy and rhythm you could perfectly headbang to. However, they didn’t get further than that into much serious subgenres, like thrash or power. Doro and co. seemed to be satisfied with that heavy rock sound that inherited a totally explicit inspiration from the big classic German bands. So, for their second record, things weren’t supposed to change much, although some improvement in their music was expected to be achieved. In a time when their compatriot thrashers were doing the most brutal stuff ever, Warlock also gave us some intense cuts.
The opening title-track and the classic “Earthshaker Rock” made clear the band wanted something harder and faster than ever before. They increase the speed of their tempos, the strength of the leading riffs, defining a completely loose rough sound of pure delight. After all, these are mostly guitar-based songs, so the combo Graf-Szigeti had to try their best to build a solid metallic wall of sound and give these cuts their proper instrumental configuration. The raging riffs are incessant during all the record, becoming cathartic, weighty and quieter on “All Night” and “Wrathchild”, taking a considerable influence from the way Wolf Hoffmann performed his guitar lines back in the early 80’s. The group doesn’t sound that particularly amusing and fresh when they decide to slow down the tempos and play it easier, though they are still competent and creative enough to make something out of it, luckily. Melody and much more polished arrangements can also be found here, becoming splendid on “Out Of Control” specially. A composition that features something certainly new that Warlock didn’t do before. They prove with it they can do more than just 3 minute heavy tunes and construct more skilled song-structures, longer instrumental sequences and not only let riffs take complete control. Vocals get all attention on other more simple commercial tracks, “Shout It Out” for instance, whose main intention seems to be making the listener sing along the repetitive catchy main chorus. A pattern that Doro and co. would use even more later on the discreet following record “True As Steel” and “Triumph And Agony”. And of course, they couldn’t forget about the ballad, at least one this time: “Catch My Heart”. A decent sequel of the previous LP composition “Holding Me”, as cheesy, mellow and unnecessary, stripped-down instrumentally, very basic with Doro’s voice inevitably romantic. Here they go again...fortunately, the rest of the cuts offer action and aggression, that’s the only one you can perfectly skip from this CD.
The sound of Warlock has undoubtedly become more sophisticated and clean, compared to what they did on the dirty primitive debut, “Burning The Witches”. On other hand, they didn’t get rid of their original concept of violent riffing, fast rhythms and fantasy lyrics yet. Here you will find most of the heaviest numbers of their career. Just listen to the outrageous “Time To Die” and its remarkably convincing riff series, with Ms. Pesch going wild and screaming like a burning witch (the first album cover painting just came to my mind now). You won’t hear these guys playing like that often later, either from Doro herself, who always prefered tenderness and romance to speed and aggression in her music. The attitude, the intentions and their formulas come, obviously, from the classic metal bands that actually started not so long from when Warlock did: Saxon, Accept, Quiet Riot. Although you can notice a big influence from veterans like Judas Priest, Scorpions and Motörhead in these songs as well. However, no doubt about it, if there’s one band this group wanted to saw themselves reflected on is Accept. Undisputed fact. Don’t be surprised if you have the feeling you heard some of these riffs before, certainly it must have been Wolf Hoffmann who performed something similar. But these German metallers can’t be accused of being just another tribute dumb group, unoriginal nor uninteresting. Doro and the boys attempt to find their own identity, and the seductive irresistible voice of their singer is maybe the main element which makes their sound unique and special (apart from her stunning stage presence). While Udo broke with all the stereotypes of handsome-pretty-foolish-singer boy of rock, Doro represented the charming physical and vocal beauty with her heavenly melodic tone and presence. Although she definitely broke the rules too in her own way, dressing herself like another guy of the band and screaming like a rebel, not just doing it sweet and submissive. Listen to those punkish lyrics of “Down And Out”, for instance.
Among all the cheesy 80’s heavy metal generic acts, Warlock made a difference and kept away from the comical commercial fashion of the times, at least during the early years of their career. This second LP has the most memorable work of the band at their best, inspired, ready and able to rock hard. Sad this didn’t last much, soon they would surrender and embrace the cliches of 80’s glam, becoming too predictable and silly. But back in 1985, Warlock were one of the finest alternatives to the big classic groups, who started to experiment with wrong elements in their music, getting monotonous and clumsy in those days of Casio keyboards, italo-disco and hairspray. They were once advanced disciples of Dirkschneider and co., restless, wild and competent. I hope Doro will decide to do something like this again someday...
Of all the Warlock releases to have been put out in their short tenure as 80s metal contenders, “Hellbound” is probably the heaviest, most aggressive, and ultimately the most Judas Priest-like of the bunch. The lead work on here is at its most technically intricate, Doro’s vocals are at their roughest and nastiest, and each song rips out a series of top class riffs that would make most glam outfits check their manhood. Although by today’s standards this listens as only a moderately heavy album, back in 1985 this was probably the heaviest it got outside of the thrash genre.
The number of speed metal tracks on here is at its highest for anything that Doro has been associated, taking up nearly half of the album. “Hellbound” kicks off the album with a singular open E power chord, followed by the shouts of approval of a pre-recorded audience, succeeded by a classic speed metal riff with the double bass pushing it on. “Earthshaker Rock” starts off with a similar riff and a police siren, obviously inspired by a famous Judas Priest classic. There are a few slower sections in this one that feature a melody not all that far off from the chorus of a later Warlock classic “All we are”. “Out of Control” starts out similar to Metal Gods (another Priest tune) with a singular heavily reverb boom, followed by what seems to be a keyboard and lead guitar drenched ballad, then suddenly kicks into an upbeat galloping groove. “Time to die” starts a bit simpler with a single snare roll and features a bit more of Doro during the verses as the guitars back off a bit, and man does she scream her throat out on a few key parts.
The rest of the music on here is also quite aggressive, though at a slightly slower tempo. “Shout it out” has more raucous screams and heavily distorted guitars, listening almost like one of Running Wild’s upper mid-tempo anthems. “Down and Out” sounds a lot like some of the mid-tempo stuff found on “Screaming for Vengeance”, while “Wrathchild” starts off with a pretty fancy lead guitar break before launching into a more blues inspired hard rock groove. The album’s closer “Catch my heart” is the only ballad on the album, starting off with a simple acoustic line, but of course the lead guitarist can’t help but rip out a few speed licks even though this is supposed to be the slow song. This is the only song where Doro actually sings in a clean voice for an extended period of time, but the song looses none of the attitude and emotion heard on all of the previous music.
Basically to sum up, this album is a perfect reflection of the excesses of the time, be it Doro’s nearly ridiculous vocal assaults or the agitated lead breaks in between her scream drenched verses. Although there is a solid case to be made that “Triumph or Agony” is the better album, those who want a more aggressive side to this music should probably pick this album up before they get that one. It may not be as well known as that album, it didn’t sell as many copies, but it is definitely the more metal of the bunch. If you doubt this, download “Earthshaker Rock” as a test run, what you’ll hear is a pretty good representation of how this album sounds, and is probably the easiest one to find as it is played live the most of any of the songs on here.