White Wizzard is:
Wyatt “Screamin’ Demon” Anderson – vocals
Jon Leon – bass/guitars
James J LaRue – lead guitars and keyboards/orchestration
Dylan Marks – drums
As an answer to the angsty, low tuned, screamo music that has taken over since the early 2000’s, Los Angeles, CA’s White Wizzard was formed by bass/guitar player and songwriter Jon Leon in mid-2007. Stressing the importance of superior songwriting, melody and appropriate harmonies, Jon set out to add all of the fun and good times back to Hard Rock and Metal that had been all but abandoned since the late 80’s and early 90’s when Metal was in its infancy and heyday. Since their inception, White Wizzard has released a couple of EPs, a number of singles and four, full-length CDs entitled Over the Top (2010), Flying Tigers (2011, and one of my favorites!), The Devil’s Cut (2013) and, released Friday, January 12th, 2018 on the M-Theory Audio label (a first for the band), Infernal Overdrive.
With the widely publicized influences of greats like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Rush UFO, Dio, Thin Lizzy, Metallica, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen, White Wizzard has been very consistent in sound and feel over the years, for the most part due to Jon Leon’s songwriting prowess, but also because of the stunning selection of notable musicians like Jake Dreyer (Iced Earth, Kobra and the Lotus, Witherfall), Joseph Michael (also of Witherfall), Michael Gremio (Cellador and Destire to Destroy), Peter Ellis (Monument), Giovanni Durst (Monument), Will Wallner, Devin Lebsack (who, with Wyatt “Screamin’ Demon” Anderson and James J LaRue founded Holy Grail) and a number of others that were members of White Wizzard before the band imploded in late 2013. I usually don’t include previous members of bands, but this list reads like a veritable who’s who of Metal and gives a good read on what White Wizzard has been about since Leon started the band eleven years ago. In the interim since the fallout four years ago, the band has released a few singles including the 2014 release of “Marathon of Dreams” and the 2016’s “Break Out”. In December of 2015, White Wizzard announced the return of James J LaRue and seven months later announced the return of original vocalist Wyatt “Screamin’ Demon” Anderson and plans for a new CD. With former Raise the Guns drummer Dylan Marks seated firmly behind the kit, White Wizzard is back in full form and ready to, again, hit the ground running. Production on Infernal Overdrive is handled by long time friend of the band Ralph Patlan (Megadeth, UFO, Flotsam & Jetsam), who knocks this release out of the ballpark. His talents leave absolutely nothing to chance. So, is this album worth the four year wait? Read on…
In a word: Hellyeah! Always known as trailblazers for the termed NWOTHM, White Wizzard has stepped up their game with musical maturity, sensational songwriting and playing abilities to create a definable bridge between the NWOBHM era back in the late 70’s and early 80’s to today’s complex progressions and intensity. While many bands have tried to emulate the past as what was old becomes new again, White Wizzard has chosen to simply look over their shoulders, pick out what they like and add their own spice to the mix while still charging forward with completely new ideas and formulas. With blistering speed and vocals rivaling greats like Halford and Dickenson, the title track for Infernal Overdrive blasts out of the gates at full stride. Very cool duel guitar work and solos are reminiscent of the shred found in mid-80’s Metal, everything extremely musical but avoiding the Neo–Classical soloing that sits above most heads and tends to have the sterile feel of technique exercises. Some, like me, love that stuff, but would not fit well on this track. Good call on the band’s part. Bleeding respect, “Storm the Shores” is a tribute to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces that have fallen in the name of freedom for our country. Very cool, passionate and complex duel guitar harmonies and melodies over very heavy drums and fast bass lines drive this song with a full head of steam. Throatier vocals and the influence of early Megadeth add to the overall intense emotion elicited by this track. If you are a fan of killer guitar, hold on because this one ends in a pure, unadulterated, shred-fest. Holy f’in sh*t, Batman! Now we know why guitars are called axes (put the picks down and step away from the guitars, gentlemen…). In stark contrast, “Pretty May” sets off with an acoustic intro that immediately moves to very traditional, straight-forward Metal like the original Grim Reaper albums. With a milder tempo that has not been used up to this point, this song has a bouncy pulse similar to that of a very heavy, mid-80’s ballad (before everything went soft) and has a killer, emotionally charged solo like those found on Dokken albums from back in the day. For those of us that we around back then, this song really hits all the right notes and likely to become a favorite on the album. Not willing to draw inside all of the silly, genre-directed lines, “Chasing Dragons” takes on the skin of Power Metal in feel and theme. Being very balanced and yet restrained with some of the most passionate vocals on the album, this is a huge song. Bass player? Listen up, because this thing rips. Guitarist? Midway through the song there is a stupid fast, Neo–Classical bridge before, what may be, the best solo on Infernal Overdrive. If you liked Fifth Angel and Tony MacAlpine’s Project Driver, this one’s for you! Whew… To settle the nerves, “Voyage of the Wolf Raiders”, like “Storm the Shores” pays tribute to our fallen heroes. After a touching, quiet, simple acoustic and cleanly sung intro, White Wizzard gives us their take on the original NWOBHM like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. With a rather raw feel, sharp, dueling guitars battle it out until an almost sitar-like bridge intensifies until soaring, throaty vocals drive their point home about midway through the song. At this point all of the musicians go freaking off in an all out assault of anthemic fury bridged by a portion of controlled chaos before, once again, going off the rails to songs end. My neck still hurts after listening. Heavy and complicated drums and bass create all of the momentum for “Critical Mass”. With a discernibly different perspective on Progressive Rock like Rush, White Wizzard takes really catchy riffs, adds a lot of volume and anger, but gives the music and almost flippant and sarcastic feel through their incredible songwriting talents. Hell, this song even have portions that point to early, and Dio era Black Sabbath. So damned smooth! Staying on the same rhythm driven path, “Cocoon” adds almost airy background guitar melodies that flash back to Ozzy’s “The Ultimate Sin” from 1986. Are you a drummer? If so, listen out for “Metamorphosis” because it has some of the coolest, polymorphic drumming available anywhere. Sustained or tremolo picked guitar riffs play just over or just under the drums to produce a very unusual and creative song. The unique tempo and all of the changes give it an unsettling feel and reflects some of the best songwriting White Wizzard has to offer on the album not to mention a really bad-ass, Marty Friedman-esque solo. Tipping their collective hats to Progressive Rock greats like Toto and Asia, “The Illusion’s Tears” finish out Infernal Overdrive by moving back and forth between cleanly sung and played Prog Rock parts and Traditional Power Metal sections. With this contrast between blatantly different styles and the great sense of tension (sadness) and release (frustration) created as a result, this is, by far the most emotional charged song on the album. As diverse as this sounds, the song remains completely cohesive, even when the pedal is pushed to the floor at songs end where another flurry of stellar, individual musicianship is released. For fans of other genres of music that want to try something different but remain accessible, this song or “Cocoon” are your safe harbors.
Intrigued now? I can’t help but think that fans of the Painkiller era of Judas Priest are going to flip over White Wizzard’s latest offering, Infernal Overdrive. If you are a guitarist, drummer, vocalist or bass player, there are an awful lot of new tricks and ideas here to be reaped as well. I usually don’t name drop comparisons like I did on this review, but White Wizzard shows that influences don’t have to be a limitation (I want to play like <name your artist or band>), but simply to be used as a starting point or points of reference from which to proceed in their own direction. Really, really stellar album and well worth the four year wait!
Tracklist for Infernal Overdrive:
“Storm the Shores”
“Voyage of the Wolf Raiders”
“The Illusion’s Tears”