White Wizzard are back. And they are not looking for critical acclaim 

About halfway through this, the first White Wizzard album for five years, there’s a song called “Critical Mass”. It begins with these words: “In a cave somewhere in the North American continent, about two million years ago, the first artist was born. And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth. The critic.”

The song that follows is a vicious condemnation of people like me that review records. So yeah I am kinda scared to put this down. However, WW (although – quite rightly – they don’t give a shit what I say) are amongst friends here.

Since the day MV bought the High Speed GTO EP back in 2009 (and saw them play Wolverhampton on their first ever UK tour just after), I have been a fan of the band, indeed, it remains a source of huge mystery to me why they aren’t massive.

The answer to that, actually, is nothing to do with their music and probably to do with lack of consistency. The band has had a more turbulent past than many (perhaps only The Wildhearts can match them?) and it has rather derailed them over the years.

Which brings us back to the here and now, because joining main man Jon Leon for “Internal Overdrive” are guitarist James J LaRue and vocalist Wyatt Anderson. Both are vital. LaRue is on top form throughout, while the man they call “Screamin’ Demon” is quite simply born to be in this band (indeed, he has been twice before).

All of which means one thing. “…Overdrive” is absolutely turbo-charged from the off.

White Wizzard have always been the type of band that plays metal the way people who don’t like metal assume its all played. That is to say metal at its purest and most visceral form. The opener, the title track, announces itself in the best way possible. Thunderous drums, a chilling scream from Anderson, and some shredding lead. That all this happens inside the first 40 seconds probably tells you that they are not taking any prisoners here. The song, one that Iced Earth would be thrilled with, says: “We’re back, mofos” and it does so emphatically.

Much of the album concerns itself with war, rather like Iron Maiden, and there is a brilliant Maiden style twin solo in “Storm The Shores”, and whilst “Pretty May” is more melodic (even having a kind of southern rock intro) there is still a real gallop.

Now MV would argue that any truly great metal record should have an element of Eddie and the boys about it, and this definitely does. It is also a truly great record.

Four of these nine songs (the aforementioned “Critical Mass”) amongst them, could be described as “epic”. The first of these, the superb “Chasing Dragons” sees Leon pummel his bass and combine a stunning LaRue solo with some lighter moments. They follow it up with “Voyage Of The Wolf Riders” which is their “These Colours Don’t Run” or “One” moment. A vast, sprawling, lament on the horrors – and camaraderie – on the battlefield, it is as ambitious as it is brilliant.

This collection, perhaps is more diverse, certainly than their very early work, “Cocoon” is darker, perhaps, certainly slower, and adds some synth to give itself extra depth. “Metamorphosis” has a hypnotic feel, along with some real eastern flavouring.

That said, everything here almost has to bow down to “The Illusions Tears”. It feels as though the whole album has been building to this. Beginning in folky fashion, it meanders and wanders where it wants, as if in some dreamlike state. You’d call it a ballad, except in its last three minutes all hell kicks off (as it goes into overdrive, if you will).

The song gives the album a fitting end. There is little doubt that “Infernal Overdrive” is the best album of White Wizzard’s career so far. It is absolutely superb. The year might just be days old, but this will be one of the metal albums of 2018. For White Wizzard the magic is back.

Rating 9/10

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