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A ghost of hard rock's past - 65%

Gutterscream, July 19th, 2013
Written based on this version: 1980, 12" vinyl, MCA Records

“…step into this hidden dream…”

If it wasn't for heavier tracks like “No Reprieve” and the non-studio lp single “Cheetah”, along with space on revered early samplers Metal For Muthas II, Muthas Pride, and Brute Force, this U.K. five-piece probably would’ve ended up floating in the same outer limits of metal just like hard rock decade-crossers Chevy, Nightwing, Dedringer, Silverwing, and Axe. It’s cold out there, y’know.

White Spirit’s full-length release (an orphan until its sibling finally popped out in ’12) is a mostly agreeable showcase of keyboard-engrossed hard rock with a few tracks groovin’ along with a slightly hairier step…and, um…there’s not much more to it than that. Really. Eight tracks which are for the most part catchy, confident, unforced, and 1980-viable for the first real year of preliminary fights between hard rock and metal. As the fight promoter, you’d totally pass on Maiden or Angel Witch ‘cos they’d crush ‘em into the mat. Diamond Head, Tygers of Pan Tang, and Belgium's Killers would have it in like two or three rounds. Well, I guess Witchfynde, Def Leppard, and The Rods better get laced up n’ greasy. And if they’re too tough, there’s always Girlschool. Okay, okay, hold off on the bell – admittedly, there is one stretch of music here that actually gets me rummaging for the lyric sheet and deserves an extra-flappy flag, but more on that later.

Bushier numbers like “Midnight Chaser”, “No Reprieve”, and “Don’t Be Fooled” offer the flair of momentum to off-set the solar prettiness of “Red Skies” and the lighthearted “High Upon High”. Bruce Ruff behind the mike is averagely masculine and moderately talented (much like the band itself), but as a vocalist I consider him a little more interesting than a cheese sandwich on white bread. Keymaster Malcolm Pearson is a presence, inflating the floating backbone for some songs (“High Upon High”, “Don’t Be Fooled”, and the weighty traipse of “Way of the Kings”) and the convincing sternum for others (“Red Skies”, “No Reprieve”, and album-ending epic “Fool for the Gods”) when he’s not busy further detailing a song with a solo. Definitely not a side piece, and if Styx was looking for a keyboardist, he’d probably do fine.

This lp’s finest ten minutes has gotta be the only song worthy to put it to bed, the hero-ambitious “Fool for the Gods”. Airy celestial keys arise from airless silence and flow through soundless space until they tighten like an ominously winding spiral. Over this a man angrily questions God, his frustration echoed by a threatening and somberly halting double beat of bass drum. His tirade ends, and suddenly the atmosphere soars as if in revelation, trumpeting a sense of triumph that extinguishes the man’s uneasiness while it hardens his bewildered heart. Newly-spawned cosmic energies become an eddy, now vigorous to the touch and intertwine sun-bright keys with ropes of valorous solos. They surround the man, empower him, and his ultimate decision solidifies within their true clarity. Tired of waiting for answers he knows will never come, the man turns, now insolent and accusatory, “…I begged you to help us, now I defy you…”, and fearlessly declares his faithlessness. Ends with acoustics. Lyrically victorious. Wish ten minutes would fly by this easily while stuck in traffic. Easily filed under ‘a cut above’ finales (sub-file: experiment-gone-well, outside the box, above and beyond duty’s call, ‘Holy wagon wheels, Batman. I’m playin’ that shit again!’) next to Ozzy’s “Diary of a Madman”, Hammer’s “Across the Line”, Lucifer’s Friend’s “Summerdream” (Passport Recs. edition), etc..

Summer after summer have blown by, and White Spirit has grown more and more pale in metal’s (and hard rock’s) tanning salon. Well, they rarely get a turn in the booth, and then when they do manage to ghostwalk in, it’s only long enough for someone to ask ‘who?’ and barge in, and it seems any claim-to-fame warmth this band generates goes to a pre-Maiden Janick Gers on guitar. As for where this album sits on the metal yay or nay fence, I’ll go with….

“…I have been used, but I never asked to be chosen…”

Yeah, Just Get It. - 90%

DeathRiderDoom, May 23rd, 2009

Holy shit! I can’t believe no one’s reviewed White Spirit on MA yet. Well, prepare for another DeathRiderDoom NWOBHM review, folks. White Spirit’s claim to fame is that they were an early band featuring legendary Iron Maiden staff member Yanick Gers. Anyway, this is a phenomenal release that has a blues heavy feel and is highlighted by the great touches of Gers’ shredding and the keyboards which give it a standout sound.

I particularly enjoy the track ‘Get it Right’, that with its keyboard ‘solo’ section and energetic, powerful feel is a definite highlight. There are touches of acoustic guitar and organ-esque stuff in it, with heavy metallish crunchiness coming through at the end. What also stands out in this one is the engineering; a full, thick and clean sound that is perfect for the band's material. The keyboard ‘riffage’ is very memorable and catchy while the vocals are great, soaring, uplifting pieces.

The heavy track ‘Way of the Kings’ is another high point due in no small part to the heavy and effective ‘metal’ opening riffs that are carried through the cut’s verses. The subject matter is pretty familiar with British bands of this period. It basically pans out some evil political hypocrite-type dude, similar to tracks by Sabbath and Motorhead. This one features some productive touches like ‘spacey’ sound effects coming into a solo that has a very prominent guitar effect over it.

The sound on this album is incredible unique; an excellent blending of influences that comes out really well, particularly for its incredibly early date of release. White Spirit are an excellent NWOBHM act with unparalleled uniqueness and a powerful sound that cannot be compared to any other. Gers plays excellent guitar throughout this NWOBHM great, giving emotion to songs like ‘Way of the Kings’ and the excellent ‘No Reprieve’, a no-holds-barred rocker with a shitload of energy.

White Spirit is an amazing act that has a powerful sound; blues heavy with a focus on melody, yet melody that is executed with immense intensity and passion that is not often equaled in the genre. Tonnes of keyboards in the sound give it distinction and added substance. This is their only full-length which is well worth getting. I remember being blown away by this one when I first got it and you will be too, if you like NWOBHM.