USPM from Seattle
The modern strain of power metal that is so popular these days resembles almost nothing of the power metal of yore. It’s a riff-less wasteland barren of any real substance. Before the majority of power metal became Episode III: Revenge of the Synth, devotees prayed at the altar of the Metal Church. There was one that ruled all – the Queen of the Reich. One fun-loving band from Seattle is intent on taking us back to the good ol’ days.
Weaponlord, a band that is likely named after the killer SNES game, play a brand of US-style power metal that brings us back to the basics. While there’s a healthy amount of new bands that play an adaptation of USPM such as Demon Bitch, Eternal Champion, and Sacral Rage, there are shockingly few bands that play a straightforward approach. Weaponlord’s sound is similar to the aggressive side of USPM, bearing strong resemblances to Sanctuary’s Refuge Denied with a proper dose of Helstar-esque neoclassically inspired leads.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was initially put-off by Weaponlord. When I first checked out this band and saw their imagery, I was weary that they were yet another ironic band. There’s a plethora of modern trad bands whose sound is as hallow as their gimmicky appearance. I put on the opening track, “Requiem… Dies Irae”, and was greeted by acoustics and neoclassical guitar riffs accompanied by shrieking highs that didn’t quite seem to work. No thank you – this isn’t what I signed up for. I turned it off and went back to my regular rotation of music. It was at the urging of a good friend that I revisited this band and gave Hail the Victorious the proper listen it deserved. I’m extremely glad that I did!
The opening track is not symbolic of the style found on the rest of the album. It became readily apparent from the second track, “Drawn and Quartered”, that the band meant business. The album is chock-full of delicious power metal riffs that would have been right at home in 1985. The neoclassical influence found in the opening track persisted in the form of leads and solos, harkening back to Helstar’s landmark album Nosferatu. The primary vocal lines found on Hail the Victorious are powerful mid-ranges that fit this style of music like a glove. They’re reminiscent of Warrel Dane’s (RIP) early vocal style, further cementing the band’s likeness to Sanctuary. The highs creep in as layered vocals and accents to the mid-range – this approach works well for Weaponlord and sounds cleaner than an entire track of highs as we saw with the opener.
While Weaponlord play a true to roots approach to USPM, they don’t hesitate to add their own flair to the mix. There’s plenty of variety to be found on Hail the Victorious. From the rockin’ “Life of Crime (Going Downtown)” to the epic “Hail the Weaponlord” to the speedy “Dagon”, Weaponlord make it clear that they know how to keep it interesting. I’ve come back to this album several times since my first proper run through of it and I’m just as enthralled by it as I initially was.
With their debut record, Warlord have cemented themselves as a band to watch out for in the future. It’s refreshing to see a release like Hail the Victorious. It’s a riff-tastic journey that is deeply rooted in the true sound of USPM while retaining some of Weaponlord’s own flair. This is the earnest type of approach that I’d love to see more bands embrace.
Album Rating: 82/100
Favorite Track: March of the Weaponlord