USPM from New Jersey
Overlorde (not to be confused with Overlorde S.R., another top notch USPM band) formed together all the way back in 1985. The United States Power Metal movement was in full swing by that time – Jag Panzer, Omen, and Savatage all had genre defining releases the year prior, Fates Warning came out with The Spectre Within, and Manowar already delivered their four best slabs of metal. This isn’t even to mention the plethora of other bands beneath the fold, such as Crimson Glory, that were well on their way to classics of their own. There was plenty of influence to draw from and it was as good time as others to start a band in this style.
Overlorde ended up releasing a lone self-titled EP in 1987 before dissolving. The Overlorde EP was a fantastic piece of more aggressive USPM but it was sorely under-produced and received relatively little attention during its time. Overlorde faded away into obscurity like many bands before it and that was that it would seem. Then thirteen years later, seemingly out of nowhere, Overlorde released a demo aptly titled Overlorde 2000 with new material and a new vocalist, Bobby “Leather Lungs” Lucas. At the time, Bobby had just released two full lengths with the band Seven Witches. More recently, he’s been a part of Attacker’s newest two albums, the extremely high quality Giants of Canaan and Sins of the World. As expected, the demo got very little coverage but it did show some promise.
Overlorde followed up with their first full length album, Return of the Snow Giant, in 2004. Coming almost twenty years after the original formation of the band and clocking in at an hour long, expectations were low. It’s not very often that a band manages to pull it together so many years after their original period of activity to deliver something actually quality. Yet after the introduction, it becomes obvious that Overlorde are the exception and not the rule.
Return of the Snow Giant kicks off with a re-recording of a song off the band’s original EP, “Snow Giant”, but this time with Leather Lungs on vocals. True to his name, Bobby breathes life into this old song and makes sure the album opens strong as hell. He’s an exceptional vocalist and holds no bars showing his prowess – power, range, and most importantly character. Leather Lungs has a very natural charisma about him that allows the lyrics to come to life. It’s a rare, intangible attribute that few manage to achieve but somehow Bobby has it oozing out of every vocal line and melody found on this album. Whether he’s rolling along at his standard pace, going for a more aggressive vocal line, or hitting those impossibly high notes, Bobby “Leather Lungs” Lucas is delivering.
The riffs and instrumentation are pure 1980s American power metal, unfiltered and unaffected by the passing of time. Overlorde play a more straight forward and aggressive style of USPM sometimes referred to colloquially as “blue-collar USPM”. It’s like they haven’t skipped a beat and released this only a year or two after their EP. The riffs are very catchy and high-quality headbanging material throughout. The bass is refreshingly loud, audible, and complex relative to their peers. Overlorde are able to deliver quality whether they’re going for faster bangers such as “Metallic Madness” or whether they slow it down for tracks like “Mark of the Wolf” and “Trapped by Magic”. It doesn’t once get boring.
The production of the album is crisp and clear without sounding too polished. Overlorde’s original 1987 EP was high quality stuff but it suffered from exceptionally poor production quality even for its time. There’s no concern of that this time around. The drums and bass are loud and clear without overwhelming the listener. Overall, the mix is very well done and it allows Bobby to drive forward the album with his powerful vocals.
Overlorde’s spectacular Return of the Snow Giant received some solid attention back when it first came out but it has been drastically overlooked since. It suffers the unfortunate fate of being both twenty years too late and ten years too early, coming well after the height of the USPM movement and too early for the global revival of traditional metal that’s been happening. Despite rather unfortunate timing in its release, this album has held up as a classic USPM album in its own right and deserves to be treated as such. Give this one a listen if you haven’t already!
Favorite Track: Snow Giant
Album Rating: 92/100