'Rising From The Ashes'
Worldwide Release Date: April 23rd 2014
Roger Berzerk Fauske
Those of us of a certain vintage are old enough to remember the NWOBHM movement when it first came about.
Since those heady days, there have been a few bands who made it in a big way, some who have never stopped (stand up and take a bow Praying Mantis), some who never quite made it and have started up again since and others who got noticed but didn't last too long, usually due to the reptilian nature of the music industry in those days.
Weapon fit quite snugly in the last category and fortunately, like some notable others, they decided to get together again some 25 years after their original offerings.
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For those young guys and gals, as well as those who were just plain pickled and have lost all memory of the time, the band came to the attention of the music industry and the public in late 70s (that's the 1970s).
To cut a long story very short, they changed their name to Weapon in 1980, got a deal from Virgin, had a double A side single released featuring 'Mad Mad World' and 'Set The Stage Alight' and most notably supported the mighty Motorhead on a 32 date UK tour in the days when tour meant tour.
Set for a good year in 81, it all went the same way as an England World Cup campaign, in their case due to Virgin deciding not to release the album, which had been written already, and more than a little in fighting, which ironically was the reason they got the Motorhead tour the year before after Lemmy saw them at a gig where the band members were generally pissed off with each other and, not to put too fine a point on it, didn't care too much about the audience. Lemmy proclaimed that "any band that can have that amount of contempt for an audience has to tour with us".
After the members all headed off in dfferent directions (presumably to the nearest pubs), nothing more was heard from Weapon until 2005 when they regrouped to celebrate what would have been their 25th anniversary. A few gigs and rave reviews later, material written for a new album, and slight line-up changes Weapon went at it full throttle.
So to 2014 and the long awaited album, the very aptly named 'Rising From The Ashes'.
There have been a few hiccups along the way, not least having to change their name to Weapon UK after a Canadian band called Weapon threw their toys out of the pram as they laid claim to the name, even though they didn't start up until about a quarter of a century after the Weapon we are concerned with... go figure.
And to make it worse, the Canadian lot now have ceased to be.
The current incarnation of the UK version of Weapon features original members, vocalist Danny Hynes and guitarist Jeff Summers joined by drummer Ian Sweeting and bassist PJ Philips. Additional vocals are handled by Jeff and PJ.
For those aficionados of the original Weapon, there is a bonus track on the album that features the other two original members, Baz Downes on bass and vocals and drummer Bruce Bisland (Statetrooper/The Sweet) who also adds his vocal touches.
First into the mix is 'Prelude - The Awakening'. The band very wisely showed their sensible side and went with putting the prelude at the beginning of the album and it comes in at just under two minutes. Of course the long rock intro is not exactly a novel concept, in fact on occasions it seems as if it is a legal stipulation. This one though is a well thought out one, giving a good indication of what is to come – eerie and dramatic, anthemic and inspiring, leading perfectly into the first full length track 'Ride The Mariah!'
Immediately grabbing the attention, classic guitar groove, thundering drums, falling perfectly into harmony as the vocals hit. Catchy melody, great chorus hook, refrain leading to screaming guitar solo. The end of the song is actually one of the cleverest and most enjoyable parts – so often a time filling excercise in repetition. This time though it is full of melodic interplay between vocals and guitar, drums and bass giving them both a boot up the jacksy from behind. Great stuff indeed.
'Fountain Of Paradise' is next up. The beginnings may surprise you if you are expecting straight up NWOBHM sound – that was thirty odd years ago and more of the same would be as pointless as non alcoholic beer. Think a touch of classic Van Halen, most definitely Diamond Dave era.
A little slice of sleaze thrown in before the chorus, melodic and catchy, brings back memories of the Diamond one 'Skyscraper' era. Widdly guitar thrown in for good measure, clever rising vocals on each line before chorus comes belting in again. Catchy and effective guitar riff at the end, bludgeoning its way to conclusion.
Songwriter and guitarist Jeff Summers (he is the main songwriter on the album) does seem to have a thing about sticky fingers in this one but you will have to ask him about that one.
'Warrior' drifts on out of the speakers next. Nifty, funky riff, drums and bass weaving their way over the top, vocals understated and effective. The riff pulling the track along all the while, stopping only to let the melodic chorus have full effect. Superb guitar solo in the middle, Summers' man in black influences very evident (that's Mr Blackmore not Mr Cash) and he is at it at the end of the song as well before bone crunching finale. Great track, filled with melody, harmony and well placed backing vocals.
Next one out the gate is 'Ready 4 U' and firstly hats off to the fellas for getting the hang of text talk. The title may be familiar to you and that is probably because it was actually a single out way back in 2011, one that debuted on the rock show I did back then, Heavy Rock Rapture.
This one was naturally enough the first airing of the new Weapon (still Weapon then before having to add the UK – keep up). Immediately catchy, a good choice as the single, an out and out rocker and the guys got to shoot a rooftop video to boot. It was very well received when it was first released although unfortunately the rest of the album didn't follow hot on its heels.
'Burning Skies' is the first of two tracks on the album with songwriting credits going to all four members of the band, so a thoroughly joint effort (no, not that sort of joint) in all departments. Judging by what they created with this, democratic input with this band is to be positively encouraged. Effects at the beginning swiftly giving way to raunchy guitar speeding forward, drums galloping hurrying the song along, vocals both forceful and passionate.
This has a different feel to what has come before, a little darker yet uplifting musically, filled with tales of doom yet strangely inspiring. "As the dawn calls the fires alive, brings the western demise, eastern heavens arise" could have been written about what is going on in Ukraine at the moment and Putin even gets a mention; "the hand of Satan brings a new low".
Musically a very well written track, filled with scorching guitar, pummelling drums and bass with vocals on top of it giving gravitas to proceedings, each of the several sections almost its own entity. Thinking man's rock this one.
'Alamein' quietens things down, but fear not oh headbanging junkies, there is more of that fodder to come. This is the ballad on the album as you may have guessed by now although, thank God, it never descends into the all too familiar pap that masquerades as a ballad on many albums (note to bands, there is only one outfit who can get away with pap and they are called Aerosmith).
This one actually starts off with quite a dark, sombre mood to it and lyrics to match: "But in the real world, brothers and angels burn, when will we ever learn, when will we care".
If you want a comparison, think a little touch of White Lion's classic 'When The Children Cry', especially in the early part of the song, musical and feel. It is actually quite a powerful song, inspiring lyrics from the pen of Jeff Summers, given perfect voice by Danny Hynes and the guitar solo in the middle has that moving, minor chord effect. Very well written it is too and it has no need to go up tempo to keep interest in the song.
Next up and Danny wants to take me by the hand and take me to 'Wonderland' or so he sings. The track is a meaty in your face rocker with marauding rhythm section really belting this one along, cool and injection fuelled guitar riff, vocals banging out the melody throughout. Throw in a cool refrain, widdling overload on the guitar solo and you have a diamond track.
See I told all you hair shakers that you wouldn't have to wait long. There is a touch of the anthemic about this one as well and the kind of track that may lead to speeding fines if you stick it on in your car.
'Blood Soaked Rock' is just how I like the stuff and as luck would have it, also the title of the next track – amazing coincidence eh?
It kicks off with some cool drumming from all round drumming dude Ian Sweeting and launches into yet another quality song packed full with melody, memorable riffs and powerful rhythm beat behind it all. This one has single written all over it and is the kind of song that may prove to be very popular with our friends over the pond and radio stations alike.
'Bad Reputation', apart from being a damn fine Thin Lizzy song and a good female quality, also happens to be the title of the next one on offer. This is the second one that is a true songwriting collaboration (does that make it a musical Quisling?), with all the band members getting writing credits.
Once again, strong guitar riffs boot it into overdrive, intricate bass patterns scattered all through it giving it that little bit extra, great guitar solo in the middle. You will have your body jiggling and feet twitching with this one.
So to 'Celebration Time'. I'm not sure about the humour, intentional or otherwise, of suggesting we all celebrate because the album is coming to an end (there is only one band that applies to... yep, you guessed it, Coldplay).
The track is another stonker, starting off with some cool fret sliding madness from Mr Summers before the rest of the quartet join in and he loses control of his fingers again at the end of the impressive guitar solo to very good effect. This one moves along very well, the guitar strutting its stuff throughout, sitting perfectly alongside the vocals. A well crafted song and a suitable way to close the album.
But being well known for putting a spanner in the works on most occasions, I will do it again as this isn't quite the end.
The bonus track, as I touched on, features all four of the original members – they have stayed friends through the years and it was only through misfortune that they couldn't all do the whole album. It is definitely a good move to throw this one in.
'Killer Instinct' immediately starts off in a different vein to what has come before. The intro is a great way to showcase the other two originals leading seamlessly into the track, bludgeoning guitar at the fore although never overpowering the rest of the band, more melodic vocals and hook. The rhythm section keeping everything together. Anyone who has seen Bruce drumming will know he can give the skins as fine a pounding as anyone and that is very evident in this.
So that is your lot and hopefully you won't have to wait so long for the next release. If you were expecting a rehash of the old NWOBHM staples then you will be disappointed but perhaps it is time you stopped living in the past if that is the case. Each of the band members has done a lot since the original days and the result is a more mature, varied and generally improved output.
This is particularly evident in the songwriting, the cornerstone of any good album – without that in place, it really doesn't matter how good the musicians are – and with Weapon UK the songwriting is most definitely in place.
All in all a very good album and proof that getting back together was the right decision even if it did take longer than expected.
You can pre order the album from the band's website, www.weapon-uk.com, and from April 23rd it will be available on iTunes and CD Baby.