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Are You Not Entertained? - 76%

Larry6990, November 29th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Napalm Records

Alright, confession time: I’m okay with gimmicks. I mean, what exactly is the unwholesome agenda behind them except for, ooh I don’t know, a bit of fun? That’s all a gimmick is – fun! And if said fun is backed up with some genuine moments of quality then I will welcome it with open arms. Napalm Records’ latest gimmick band (not that there’s been many of them) has been garnering the wrong kind of attention due to a particularly strong social media marketing campaign. They’re called Warkings, they play power metal and they dress in faux-historical armor wielding swords, shields and lances. Their debut album – stupidly titled Reborn – is adorned with artwork detailing two naked maidens kneeling before an overly-macho zombie warrior sat atop a throne holding an axe between his legs in a way that is definitely not phallic. I mean, come on!

Fire, skulls, gladiators… Yes, you know exactly what this is going to sound like. It’s an equal mix of Dream Evil, Manowar and Firewind complete with chug-tastic riffing, catchy choruses and a nice, shiny production quality. And you know what? It’s decent! Sure, this was never gonna break boundaries, and you are an idiot if you ever expected it to, but this is heavy, infectious and well-performed so I just don’t see that as a problem! I won’t defend this album to the death, but I wish the more elite power metal fans would get over themselves and enjoy something that is clearly not trying to be innovative, but whets the appetites of those looking for a bit of fun. At the very least, one cannot disparage the talents of those involved…if we knew who they were!

Yes, Warkings like to utilize wonderfully daft aliases like The Tribune, The Spartan, The Viking and The Crusader – making identification difficult. However, the silky smooth vocal talents of one Georg Neuhauser (of Serenity fame) are too distinguishable. He always sounds exquisite, and on Reborn his mellow tones contrast wonderfully with the meatier power metal on offer. The guitar tone is noticeably thick and chunky, adding gravitas to the Gus.G-esque riffs that make up tracks like “Never Surrender” and “Fire Falling Down”. In fact, opener “Give ‘Em War”, due to its tempo, could almost pass for a Firewind song penned by Gus himself. If we’re talking riffs, the crowning achievement of this album has to be the sheer steamroller that is “Hephaistos”. It may sound like “The Book Of Heavy Metal 2.0” but the weight of that riff will fucking pummel you. With sections this heavy, I’ll take being asinine and single-minded any day!

Despite the overall lack of originality, there are moments of surprise creativity littered throughout this LP. The harsh vocals in “Sparta” (performed by Mr. Debauchery …sigh…) are a welcome extra dimension, and boy is it ever fun to shout along with him in the chorus! ‘AA-OOH! SPARTA!’ The main riff to “Holy Storm” has an eastern flair; and the closing ballad “Die Flut”, sung entirely in German, is a bold attempt at something different. Unfortunately, it falls flat due to its position. Perhaps it would have been better placed in the centre of the disc. There’s not much else to sincerely complain about – these guys were clearly having fun with this one. Reborn scores zero points for innovation, originality and creativity…but I never actively strive for that in my power metal anyway! Switch your brain off, grab a plastic sword and join Warkings as they chant ‘I AM GLADIATOR’ to the exact tune of the Power Rangers theme. I mean, if that won’t convince you, there’s no hope!

A gimmick, nothing more - 20%

Silicon Messiah, November 17th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Napalm Records

You know what metal needed more than anything right about now? Another gimmicky project aimed entirely at the fragile masculinity of teenage boys. The hotshots at Napalm Records have of course realized as much, and in an effort to fill this void put together Warkings, made up of musicians from already known bands, but hiding behind cool skull masks because everyone loves a mystery - and we can’t reasonably expect the warcraft dwellers to find Georg Neuhauser (Serenity) to be the spitting image of manliness; a badass tribal warrior with a skull for a face on the other hand…

To put all doubts to rest as to whether or not this is the next big thing in hyper manliness, the album cover has plenty of sexy female butts (conquest) and a giant warrior with a colossal battle axe phallus (conqueror). Hey, it worked for Manowar, and they’re totally what manliness is all about!

As already stated, Warkings is all about gimmick, and little about substance, with most of it trying to cash in on the imagery and fitting into a category of bombastic power metal. You have the competent musicians to back it up, (Neuhauser, known in this project as “Tribune” is a pretty good vocalist, after all), and a couple of flashy tracks with some gritty riffing from “Crusader”, as well as the soaring catchiness in the choruses. I’m talking about the two singles, 'Hephaistos' and 'Gladiator', the former sporting a fleshy chorus and the latter some effective, eerie references to the movie. These are two sole above decent-ish tracks on the album, the rest topping at mediocre at best.

The songs are about 3-4 minutes in length, all same-y and with little variation in structure or build. (This could work, if the material was stronger.) In this it could be considered something like Sabaton (also super manly, they have a tank!) but Warkings at least don’t pretend to be history teachers. Of course the album ends with a ballad. In German. Because that’s what this album sorely needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I can look aside from Manowar’s less than PC imagery, because they’re world class musicians and they’ve written timeless metal pieces and can back it up with some emotional depth. This is not the case with Warkings; they might be good musicians, but the project is, from the beginning, a venture into money making (okay, maybe Manowar do that too) and little in way of above average power metal, to appeal to as many in the target audience as possible.

If you want to hear flashy songs about war and warriors and other such cool things, give it a go, but if you want musical depth and/or lyrics with substance, maybe go with one of the musicians main bands. Early Serenity comes to mind. Sure, “Crusader” has some Mystic Prophecy like riffing on here (not a bad thing), and more than a couple of good solos, but it isn’t carried by the whole. In conclusion, Reborn really isn’t that good, but I’m afraid to say it because Warkings might come after me with their giant axe penises.

Standout tracks: Hephaistos, Gladiator