The collapse of White Wizzard after “The Devil’s Cut” was a major blow to the band. Coming off of the best record of their career, the band once again fell apart. Though it has been nearly 5 years since that release, the American heavy metal juggernaut is arguably stronger now than they’ve ever been, with the return of former members Wyatt Anderson and James LaRue. It is clear that Jon Leon has been busy writing songs for the last half-decade because this album features over an hour of epic heavy metal. Four tracks eclipse the 8-minute mark, and while past songs like “The Sun Also Rises” and “Iron Goddess of Vengeance” are amongst the band’s best work, they are far less ambitious than this release.
But before hitting these lengthy tracks, “Infernal Overdrive” kicks off with 3 straightforward heavy metal classics. The title track recalls “Painkiller” with its opening drum solo, and instantly highlights how full the production is. “Infernal Overdrive” is sonic perfection; not overproduced at all, and every instrument is incredibly clear (one of the pros of having a bassist for your bandleader is that you can always hear his rumbling!). The album sounds so good that you won’t think about it ever, and can instead just enjoy the songs for what they are. And these 3 songs are great!
White Wizzard excels for a few reasons. Firstly, like every other metalhead, they worship Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Those bands had the ultimate metal formula, and anyone who can replicate it successfully is sure to be worth listening to. It doesn’t mean White Wizzard is a pure ripoff, but they carry the same ethos of tons of harmonized leads, and catchy vocal melodies. Where White Wizzard outdoes their heroes is in their complete disregard for traditional song structures with respect to guitar solos. Maybe on their first couple of records the band was more traditional, but starting on “The Devil’s Cut”, White Wizzard put as many guitar solos into a song as possible. Fortunately, that continues here, and is probably the single best thing about this album. Counting the number of solos would be a futile effort, but each and every one of them makes me want to give up on playing guitar due to their brilliance.
Back to the songs: “Infernal Overdrive” and “Storm The Shores” are your standard White Wizzard fanfare, but “Pretty May” is far and away the best song on the record. It has a galloping pace to it, achieved both through the charging rhythm sections, but also through Wyatt’s bouncy vocals. The chorus redefines what it means to be catchy, and will never leave your head, even if there is nearly 50 minutes of music after it on this album. Truthfully, this song almost ruins the record because it makes you wonder how good the album would be if it was just 10 songs that were all 3-minutes long and insanely memorable.
After the initial burst of energy “Infernal Overdrive” provides, there is still an entire album’s worth of content. Of the lengthy songs, “Chasing Dragons” is the best. Though it has less speed than “Pretty May”, it retains a similar formula: plenty of galloping combined with an easy sing-along chorus. This particular track has lengthier instrumental acrobatics, but never loses focus. Around the 5-minute mark, it has some more relaxed moments with cleaner guitars and an emotional vocal performance from Wyatt. This is something the band experimented with a few times on the last record that also pops up occasionally on “Infernal Overdrive”, and it’s a major winner for them.
Subsequent to “Chasing Dragons”, the only remaining highlight is “Voyage of the Wolf Raiders”. This song has several of the best harmonized guitars on the record (which is no small feat because the album is overflowing with them). Unsurprisingly, is it another track with a similar rhythmic approach, but galloping is an effective style for White Wizzard. This particular track does rip-off one of the melodies from Iron Maiden’s “To Tame A Land”, but it’s such a small part of a lengthy tune that it isn’t too problematic.
After 5 heavy metal anthems, there is still a lot left on “Infernal Overdrive”. It is unfair to say any of these songs are bad or unfaithful to the band’s sound, but they’re simply too much. “Critical Mass” is probably the best of the bunch (due to injecting some much-needed speed), which leads to the conclusion that if White Wizzard put out a 6-track, 40-minute album, it would probably be the instant album of the year. As it stands, these remaining songs are nonetheless quite enjoyable, but just less so than the first set of songs.
Across the band’s surprisingly vast catalogue, “Infernal Overdrive” fights for the second spot with the debut. Though it doesn’t top “The Devil’s Cut”, it can go toe-to-toe with “Over The Top”, with the former being slightly more consistent. Regardless of where it ranks, it is an essential purchase for all fans of the band, and can likely draw in fans of extremely ambitious music too!
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“Storm The Shores”
4.5/5 or 90%.