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Banners High - 76%

Larry6990, November 5th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Napalm Records

2018's well-advertised - but not warmly received - Reborn showed every sign of being a one-off. Warkings looked like a gimmicky semi-supergroup put together by Napalm Records to cash in on power metal fans' love of catchy choruses for a short while, then fade into obscurity. I actually enjoyed Reborn; my eternal optimism always seeing the best in even the most generic offering. And 'generic' really is a keyword when dealing with Warkings. Sounding like factory-produced power metal - with simplistic refrains, occasional tough-guy vocals and chugging riffs - this is not for the philosophical thinkers or those wanting to indulge in epic progressive masterpieces. This is metal to raise an inflatable sword and wear an ill-fitting viking helmet to. Switch your brain off and enjoy the mindless heavy metal mania with soaring guitar solos, infectious singalongs and lyrics about fighting.

The inherent genericism runs rampant all over this record, which is uncreatively titled Revenge. The artwork, the lyrics, the song-titles ("Freedom", "Warriors", "Odin's Sons" etc.) have all been done a million times before, but I at least appreciate how Warkings embrace this imagery and most definitely do not take it too seriously. They've pushed their collective tongues quite firmly into their cheeks, going so far as to don wonderfully over-the-top costumes and aliases like Viking, Crusader, Spartan and Tribune. Anonymity notwithstanding, the smooth, dulcet tones of Serenity's Georg Neuhauser simply cannot hide. I adore this man's vocals, and appreciate how he gives a more gruff performance with Warkings when compared to his Austrian main project. He just sounds like he's more alive, and eager to let off some steam between Serenity albums (The Last Knight was a minor disappointment, so this makes up for it). There are some very welcome harsh vox alongside Neuhauser performed by the aptly-named 'Queen of the Damned'. I've always praised the use of growls in power metal as they add an extra dimension to the music - and Revenge contains considerably more than its predecessor.

The songs all take a basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus approach, and this is probably for the best. Ten songs and forty minutes of this kind of songwriting is just the right length for an LP of this style. Thankfully, there are little keyboard flourishes here and there which sprinkly varied instrumentation over the grinding metal body of sound - especially effective in the opener "Freedom". There's a good range of tempos to ensure that, despite being generic, things never get stagnant. The double-kick, up-tempo gallops like "Battle Of Marathon" and "Warriors" get the blood pumping, and on the other end of the spectrum, there's the semi-balladic "Banners High" to provide needed respite. Fortunately, they kept the slow-paced, martial, heavy-ass monsters like "Hephaistos" on the previous album. On Revenge, they come in the shape of "Maximus" - a swinging gladiator of a song with a hard-hitting breakdown in the middle - and "Azrael", a hammering steamroller which flattens all in its path.

There's not much else to cover in terms of content. If you already know this warrior quartet, then it's most assuredly more of the same. Nothing here will change games or break deals but it's definitely one step up from Reborn. The energy is slightly more vibrant, the choruses slightly catchier, the atmosphere slightly thicker, and - most importantly - the riffs slightly heavier. For whatever downfalls this approach to the sub-genre might have, one cannot deny how fun it is to discard all inhibitions and scream 'I AM! I AM A WARKING!!' whilst wielding your plastic battle-axe. That's what this quartet is all about for me, and I hope they continue to entertain.

No axe dicks or lady asses on the cover this time - 20%

Silicon Messiah, September 1st, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Napalm Records

The first one I called “a gimmick, nothing more”. Seems however that gimmicks pay off, as Nuclear Blast sends out their mask clad “historical” warriors Warkings out for a second battle. Four anonymous and mostly nameless musicians gathered from elsewhere in the Nuclear Blast roster to create a power metal project in the vein of Sabaton or Dream Evil, releasing their second full length; Revenge. And so while you can’t complain too much about the talent behind the masks, though focus is overly laid on pummeling guitars and powerful vocals.

“Tribunal” in particular is a class vocalist, and he manages to give a powerful delivery, though both he and the music lacks that emotional depth of his mainstay Serenity that make his vocals stand out. “Crusader” pulls gritty riffing from time to time and some fitting guitar solos, though never anything truly memorable or powerful. Then there’s the pounding double bass from “Spartan” which is kind of sweet in the better moments of the album. It comes together, sure, but in the end it’s also just there; there’s no passion shining through.

The world still lacks a power metal epic based on Braveheart - come on, it should be a match made in heaven - and Warkings make zero effort to change that. Opening track Freedom is just like every other song on the album - but with a five second bagpipe melody in the intro, so it’s about fifty percent more immersive. Almost booked a flight to the Scottish highlands right then and there [sarcasm]. What I mean is that for almost every song on the album there is an interesting back story and ideas that could work great if they just gave two shits about writing a quality tune. As it is, with lyrics written by a ten year old, reiterating the “fight, glory, warriors” mantra, it just feels like they went for the absolute opposite.

Ten skin deep stories about warriors fighting for glory, and nothing more. Odin’s Sons is the only song that dares to stick out a little bit, what with the growls care of “The Queen of the Damned”. She gives the song a semblance of identity, and the thicker riffing and mean spirited rhythms work well. Unfortunately, this makes “Tribunal’s” parts of the song feel misplaced, though the man is an otherwise great vocalist.

Nothing against a tasty, cheesy power metal tune, sure, and in that regard even a project like Warkings could potentially deliver. Toss one or two of the best cuts onto an album with some more depth and nuance and they can work really well as accent pieces or high power ice breakers, but to fill an entire album (or two, as the case would be) just dilutes the meaning. Not every album needs to be innovative or revolutionary. Sometimes sticking to the tried and true and making a comfortable album can land that sweet spot and become truly perfect in what it is, but it needs to be backed up by a passion for the trade, not label cash.

Why does Napalm Records even need this? They have Powerwolf, Gloryhammer and Hammerfall in their roster all tossing out higher quality power metal in the same vein and with a truer heart and better musicianship to boot. Okay, they did ditch the German ballad this time around, so if you absolutely, positively must listen to a Warkings album, I guess it should be this one. At least there aren’t any colossal axe dicks on the cover this time.

Standout tracks: Odin's Sons, Azrael

Knights Within the Heart, Servants of the Blood - 84%

hardalbumreview, August 8th, 2020

A legion of 4+1 warriors of various lands (and times!) have invaded the metal scene for the second time. This time to have their Revenge upon the adversary. A Viking, a Tribune, a Spartan and a Crusader have teamed up with the Queen of the Dammed to deliver a stout, boisterous and enticing album for those who hunger for grandeur and are thirsty for glory!

Let me set the record straight right at the beginning of this review. Revenge is NOT a groundbreaking, revolutionary or innovative album. It is not intended to be. It is supposed to be a decent power metal album with a lot of quality music to provide for the listener some entertaining moments and some recess from the mundane life of this putrid year. In this light, Warkings’ sophomore release is pretty much what it had hoped to be. And we are happy with that.

If there is one thing that power metal is good at and known for, it is having catchy, epic riffs that move the listener and incite emotions of pride, honor, glory and other (rather) forgotten or curbed sentiments. Such riffs can be found plentifully all through this record. From the opening track, Freedom, up until the end of the bonus track, Sparta, these elegant riffs hog the limelight and the result is that the audience is hooked on the songs. Almost all of them showcase this allure, only to be fortified by other instruments later. Among the superlative tracks, riff-wise, I can name Battle of Marathon or Freedom and even Sparta, which is a borrowed and retouched track from Reborn (2018) featuring the Queen of the Damned.

Besides captivating riffs, the guitars also deliver melody on some occasions to an extent one might consider this a melodic power metal record. Fight in the Shade and Azrael have oriental touches, much like those implemented more often and more strongly by Myrath or Orphaned Land. On the other hand, Odin's Sons and Warriors resemble the sound of Swedish melodic death bands, such as Amon Amarth or King of Asgard. Add to all this tremendous guitarwork all the skillful solos which are present on all tracks. From fierce shreds (Warriors or Mirror, Mirror) to more subtle expressions (Maximus), the solos are a highlight of the album. So, two huge thumbs up to our Crusader for this outstanding job.

Third most prominent feature of the album is the vocals. Despite the fact that all members are hidden behind a veil of secrecy, it is rather impossible to conceal the identity of your vocalist, especially when he is in such a well-known band as Serenity. Georg Neuhauser executes signing tasks with diligence; it is standard and satisfactory for a power metal album. He may not excel several of his counterparts (like Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian or Roy Khan of Conception and ex-Kamelot), but together with Melissa Bonny (of Rage of Light, Ad Infinitum and Malefistum), they have built an atrocious duo. They are a reverse “beauty and the beast” pair and that augments their appeal. Surely, Melissa brings so much to the table and can change the game for Warkings. I do wish to see her more often and even perhaps as the fifth warrior!

The Spartan drummer is the final face-card for this game. He surely knows the tricks of the game, creating a diverse and dynamic atmosphere throughout the album and making his presence felt without being domineering and intimidating for the rest of the crew, avoiding a pitfall many gifted but inexperienced drummers fall into. What leaves some room for improvement, or rather some room for expression, however, is the bass. Our Viking bassist is lost somewhere in the mix. Despite having high-caliber production, this record does not let the full potential of the bass blossom and he remains in the dark crevasses of the album.

Another point that left me wishing for more was in fact the lyrics. They were about trite subjects in the genre (the same old war, glory, battle, kings, yada yada yada) and they were unripe in some cases (Mirror, Mirror). Even though we did have subject matters from different areas, such as Scotland (I particularly like William Wallace’s quote from the movie Braveheart at the end of Freedom), Scandinavia, Germany, ancient Greece, and ancient Rome, the art of poetry was insufficient. The song structure, just the same, lacked novelty and diversity; we have “intro – verse 1 - chorus – verse 2 – chorus – solo – chorus – outro” for all the songs! Not even once do they break from this format to present something more profound. I assume they could have spent more time on song-writing.

Overall, Revenge is a solid power metal release: it excites and entertains the listener with upbeat, catchy and stage-friendly riffs, strong vocal combination of melodic power metal screams and fierce death metal growls and prevailing drumming. But let us not forget that much of the band’s magnetism is rooted in their anonymity and fascinating image, rather than music per se. And I for one, enjoy that!

Highlights: Warriors - Sparta - Warking - Odin’s Sons - Freedom

Rating:
Lyrics: 7.5
Artwork: 9.0
Musicianship: 8.5
Vocals: 8.5
Overall: 8.4

Originally published at www.Noobheavy.com

Outdated and tasteless - 50%

diogoferreira, August 6th, 2020

A Tribune from Rome, a Viking, a Spartan and a Crusader meet in the halls of Valhalla to outline a plan that will allow them to defeat demons wielding the most powerful weapon: heavy metal. So, with "Revenge", these warriors from different cultures take us to Scotland with "Freedom", to fictional Rome with "Maximus", to Scandinavia with "Odin’s Sons" or to Greece with "Battle of Marathon".

With a basic formula, which is divided between intros, stanzas, choruses and solos, Warkings created an easy-to-listen album that, despite some catchier moments, won't be as memorable as it is intended. With sections in the likes of Hammerfall drawn on carbon paper (“Fight in the Shade”) and others a little bit more reminiscent of Twilight Force (“Warriors”), nothing that is heard here is new, even if we have some notions of hard rock (“Banners High”) and, imagine, melodic death metal that reminds us of Amon Amarth (“Odin's Sons”).

Coincidence or not, there are two blatant aspects that must be noted. Firstly, the title “Mirror Mirror” makes all bells ring because any power metal fan will recognize Blind Guardian here, and even the chorus entry is the same - «Mirror, mirror on the wall». Secondly, the beginning of the last “Warking” is a bad copy of Rammstein's “Links 2 3 4”.

Did we get it all wrong and Warkings is, after all, a project that pays tribute without making covers? It's possible, but in any case “Revenge” won't be part of the history of contemporary heavy metal - it's outdated and tasteless. We need more than this, much more!