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Octane Gypsy, You're My Rock And Roll Machine - 90%

CHAIRTHROWER, January 14th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Earache Records (Enhanced)

The late 00s/early 10s were a landmark time for the so-called new wave of traditional heavy metal; you had bands like Cauldron, Enforcer, Monument, Midnight Malice, Skull Fist and Holy Grail tearing it up with their respective LP's and demos while at the forefront of the movement was Los Angeles' White Wizzard, who turned out some highly potent cuts on both their Earache released 2009 EP, High Speed GTO, and 2010 full-length debut, Over The Top, which duly established the quartet as a force to be reckoned with. The EP, however, set the table for future auspices with its highly memorable, gripping chops and endearing melodies/vocal lines in the form of seven stellar tracks averaging oh-so convenient and congenial lengths of 3.5 minutes, ranging from a ridiculously catchy and innocuous gem in "High Speed GTO" proper to a veritably Holy Grail-ish closer in "Red Desert Skies".

The production isn't as rich or refined as on Over The Top, opting instead for a slipshod kind of 80s sound which in no way detracts from the fantastic musicianship on display. The guitar riffs, harmonies and solos are shimmering and clear whilst the bass lines audibly and plumply resonate, permitting each track to retain it's very own nifty undertow while at times brazenly rising to the forefront, such as on the triplet based, slightly Egyptian sounding "March of the Skeletons", which, might I add features a super duper fist-pumping, drum heavy bridge and feral solo section readily displaying James J. LaRue and founder Jon Leon's mighty fine, sophisticated leads (Leon also assumes bass duties). Additionally, comparisons to the band's evolution can be compared to Metallica and Megadeth's i.e. the same way Kill Em' All - for the most part written by Dave Mustaine before he was so unceremoniously ejected - sounds so much like eventual (1980s) Megadeth albums, High Speed GTO is very reminiscent of, or rather, a precursor to fellow golden state trad metal pioneer Holy Grail, as it's features future Grail drummer Tyler Meahl and front man John Paul Luna, whose loose, somewhat romanticizing vocals are so prevalent on tracks like the ballsy and swinging pseudo metal ballad "Celestina" and overt highway cruiser "Octane Gypsy". (Granted, Meahl's beats and Luna's vocals are much more rampant and raw on future endeavors once they teamed up with Huntress's fiery shredder Eli Santana).

Back to the matter at hand, the opening title track is simply too good thanks to its mellifluous (and minor) dual guitar harmony, juggling bass line, cataleptic drumming and notably downright killer breakdown riff at 0:39, which I just can't enough of, and beguiling sing-along chorus:

"Soarin' in a High Speed GTO
Holdin' onto what I used to know
Rollin' like a madman down the road
Wishin' you were here like once before!"

The bass dominated bridge two minutes in yields a spectacular solo section which leaves me reeling every time. I dare say it's on par with later WW class acts such as "40 deuces" and "High Roller", as well as Monument's freewheeling "Fatal Attack" or insanely melodic "Carry On", from its 2014 full-length debut, Renegades, which I also can't recommend enough to the heavy metal traditionalist "en herbe". That said, the lead playing on High Speed GTO is swift, sonorous and suave, be it at the inception of the chromatic riff and turbo charged, at times wistful by way of a fluid and watery guitar progression, "Into The Night" or further Holy Grail dead-ringer "Megalodon".

As much as I dig the Wizzard's newfound front man Wyatt "Screaming Demon" Anderson, I keep circling back to High Speed GTO (both track and album) as I've a fond affinity for Luna's poignant inflections and ribald laisser-faire, not to mention the EP's kick-ass instrumentation. Along these lines, it's really unfortunate how much White Wizzard has suffered due to internal strife but if it's latest, Infernal Overdrive - officially released on Friday - is any indication, things are finally back on the up and up for the metal surfing Californians. Despite what gainsayers may imply, the spell cast by this EP and Over The Top will forever remain unbroken.