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A rocking good time - 90%

failsafeman, August 10th, 2008

There's blue collar USPM, there's white collar USPM, and there's some that's in between, but then there's this phantom third category that isn't really related to either, but nonetheless fits somewhere into the scene. You know what I'm talking about, the kind that's clearly not heavy metal anymore, but still retains some of the American rock elements reminiscent of early Riot and Manowar. It's not aggressive or fast enough for blue collar either, but still much too upbeat and simple for white collar. Surely you must've heard of Savatage and Vicious Rumors? Well, their early material shows exactly what I mean; Warrior are a lesser-known but no less apt example of that style.

The first thing you'll probably notice about Warrior (and indeed, about most bands of this style) is the charismatic singer. Perry McCarty just has one of those classic voices that screams "metal" (even when he's not actually screaming). He's powerful and classy as he hits both high notes and low with skill to spare; but he's gritty and aggressive at the same time, as if he just hopped off a Harley Davidson and strode into a bar looking for a fight (you can bet that if McCarty gives some square the finger that he won't look again, no he won't). Just listen to that half-shrieking, half-snarling edge he puts in his voice as he grates out the verses to "Ruler"! OBLITERATED BY THE UNDERLYING MINDS! Perhaps unsurprisingly he's comparable to a combination of Jon Oliva and Carl Albert; more of the range of the latter, with the tone and grit of the former. Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot is close too, and if you've heard Grudge, imagine Richard Shayka after some singing lessons. Still, Perry McCarty is his own man, and you'll only hear echoes of a lot of other metal singers in him (Dio, for another example) because he gets pretty close to an ideal that many were striving for. He moans, he snarls, he shrieks, yet he keeps the violence and emotion from getting out of control and still hits the notes; honestly, for this style there's not much more one could hope for. The riffs on the other hand are generally quite simple, but they often show a subtle complexity that betrays the calculated design behind that simplicity. Note for instance the interplay between the guitars on the title track; what class, what craft, what polish! Warrior know how less can be more, and capitalize on that knowledge.

The album tells some kind of cornball sci-fi story full of aliens, robots, psychic powers, conspiracies, and the apocalypse, but they don't take it too seriously; it reminds me of the original Star Wars or Indiana Jones movies, in that the music and lyrics are serious and epic in parts but aren't above having fun or a sense of humor in others. Just listen to "Mind over Matter" and pay attention to the delivery of the verses: "Time over mind over matter of time/Releases the toxins of power...from my mind!!" He sings the last bit with such an excessively excited tone, as if he's a kid who just discovered Santa Claus is real after all and in fact lives next door; it puts a big grin on my face every time I hear it, and I'm sure this was intentional. Maybe this ability to have a little fun is why Warrior are able to take elements power metal bands are notorious for botching, like keyboards and spoken parts, and make them work. Just listen to McCarty's hilarious overacting on "PTM1", the short spoken track before the finale, and though less obvious there are similar instances of exaggeration strewn throughout the album. When you laugh while listening to Fighting for the Earth, it's with Warrior, not at them.

However, don't let that last paragraph fool you into thinking this is a joke band and only good for a laugh, because the fun songs are still musically sound, and they're balanced out by some quite moody ones. "Cold Fire", the ballad of the album, starts out with some rather unconventional melodies and is quite dark and nightmarish on the whole; no silliness to be found, and it still kicks ass. Plus, they know how to have the heavy parts alternate with the softer sections, which of course is an essential tenet of the quality power ballad. The rest of the songs are all quite good, and stay right around the mid-length, never shorter than three minutes or longer than six, so they don't stick around long enough to bore. Like Ben Franklin said, simple power metal songs stink in three days, so it's best to keep them short.

One thing that prevents Fighting for the Earth from scoring higher is that it sometimes focuses too much on fun at the expense of lasting worth; while the title track, "Ruler", and "Cold Fire" are definitely memorable, "Day of the Evil" is entertaining but doesn't leave much of an impression on me, "Welcome Aboard" has an almost pop-like mentality, and "Mind over Matter" seems a case of style over substance. Still, Warrior clearly aren't pretending this album is a deeply moving emotional masterpiece, and how can you really fault them for not achieving something they don't even attempt? What it is, though, is a whole fuckload of fun, and anyone who enjoys fun along with the more traditional styles of metal should be able to have a good time listening to this.