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Warhorse - Warhorse CD (album) cover




Heavy Prog

3.55 | 62 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Warhorse' - Warhorse (81/100)

The story of Warhorse is virtually indistinguishable from the legend of Deep Purple. On the eve of creating some of the band's greatest records, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore fired original vocalist Rod Evans, and bassist Nick Simper. Evans, of course, would go on to found Captain Beyond, and a masterpiece of a self-titled debut at that. In Simper's case, Blackmore let him go on the grounds that his bass playing was supposedly too old fashioned for his artistic vision, so its fairly ironic that his new band Warhorse would dare to rock even harder than Deep Purple's early output. Like Captain Beyond, Warhorse would erupt with an excellent debut. While it may not have sparked a wholesome career (their second effort Red Sea wasn't quite so solid), Warhorse stands as one of the best hard rock albums I've heard from the era. Considering how many mediocres plagued the turn-of-decade British rock explosion, the fact that Warhorse still sound relatively exciting is more than reason enough to recommend them.

I could tell there was something special about Warhorse by the end of the first song, "Vulture Blood". Though it opens in a fairly typical manner for psych-tinged hard rock, Warhorse soon veer their opener down a corridor that reeks of proto-metal. Armed with a guitar/organ tag-team, Ged Peck and Frank Wilson's instrumental chops here recall the twin harmonies Iron Maiden would be pulling off almost a full decade after. While Warhorse's fuzzy drive still sounds very much a part of their time, the way they were using it on this album was impressive and occasionally even unpredictable. Again; I don't know how many times I've come across a psychedelic hard rock that painted by numbers more rigidly than a toddler with OCD. Warhorse never stray from the general expectations of their era, but they definitely had the special ingredient in their music that made them sound as exciting as they wanted to be.

That special ingredient may very well have been the passion of presentation. Ashley Holt's vocal performances on "No Chance" and "Solitude" are practically dripping with passionate energy, and the band's rhythm section sounds wide awake even with the album's most delicate parts. Ultimately though, I think Warhorse managed to set themselves apart via the variety and strength of their songwriting. Think of most of your favourite pop and rock masterpieces, and they should all have at least one thing in common: masters know how to make each song a distinctive experience apart from the others. "Vulture Blood" and "Burning" are proto-metallic trips into hard rock. "No Chance" and "Solitude" are power ballads with a rare vulnerability to their lyrics seen only rarely in their style. "Ritual" and "St. Louis" are more concise blues rockers, and "Woman of the Devil" is a stone's throw away from a 'Sabbath' with early doom, finally livened up by the end with a more conventional hard rock injection. All of the songs on Warhorse are solid, though they don't always mesh well together. "St. Louis", for example-- while by all means a fine upbeat blueser-- feels out-of-place in the midst of the album's occult and melancholic tone. All the same, with this or any debut, mistakes are expected to happen. What does matter is that Warhorse managed to stand apart from most of their contemporaries, in one that arguably ranked among the most crowded of genres circa 1970.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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