Review: Road Warrior – Power
A lot of the time, extreme metal musicians making heavy metal is something to be wary of. Most of them just can’t get it right, but Australia’s Road Warrior are no strangers to heavy metal—founder, bassist, and frontman Denimal Blake has for years taken noticeable influence from it in StarGazer and also played previously in the now-defunct Johnny Touch. Much like The Chasm side-project Acerus, Road Warrior lets Denimal channel his heavy metal influences more purely into a single package.
Obstinate love of the most muscular years of heavy metal is the name of the game here, filtered through the sometimes strange and wonderful songwriting that Denimal has become known for over the years. Most riffs repeat enough times to almost feel like a rejection of heavy metal norms, but clever songwriting keeps it from becoming repetitive; if anything, the aggressive combo of the riffs themselves and the repetitions comes together in a way that feels unique to Power. Even if I hadn’t known beforehand there’d have been no shock in finding out that the group is Australian, as the music feels Australian in the same way that much-more-extreme Aussie metal stalwarts Vomitor or Sadistic Exekution do—in your face, belligerent, and proud of it.
Though the core of the music is a throwback to the most aggressive and powerful ‘80s heavy metal bands, bizarre harmonies played with intervals that aren’t usually played together, massive bass assaults, and occasional forays into individually-picked chords and a bigger variety of influences refines the band’s attack more than just the riffing and song structures alone could have. The vocals are also an unexpected and welcome touch on the music, focusing more on Denimal’s mid-range than on acrobatics; sometimes this attack is as aggressive as the music is, but it’s also sometimes far more crooning, giving the same mystical vibe that some of the earlier epic heavy metal bands had in a far different context. Denimal mostly sticks to that mid-range, but periodically jumps upward to hit high notes in a way not dissimilar from some of Nasty Ronnie’s in the earlier days of Nasty Savage; these jumps are used sparingly and carefully enough that each one is a treat even without having the power that would normally be required to have falsettos be used on a record.
Not everything about Power is perfect, and “Back Alley Tokyo Woman” represents a clear step down for me from the rest of the material. It’s significantly less aggressive than the rest of the material, overstays its welcome by a couple of minutes, and just doesn’t hit as hard as I want it to; that being said I still have never skipped the song or felt the need to, and it’s no “Feeling Free Again.” Other songs have similar issues where sometimes a riff is repeated just a couple too many times for my taste, or a drum beat isn’t quite strong enough to carry a bridge, but a couple of the songs are pretty much perfect, and even “Back Alley Tokyo Woman” shits on a lot of band’s discographies. The song order is well picked enough to keep anything from feeling too similar, and ends on perhaps my favorite song on the album, which always leaves a great feeling behind once Power’s playtime is done.
There isn’t enough heavy metal with the power and balls that Road Warrior bring, and fortunately, they don’t fuck it up. If you’re looking for stuff to fill your needs for the true headbanging heavy metal, this is one for you.