Tank - War Nation (2012) Oct 28, 2012 19:29:17 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Oct 28, 2012 19:29:17 GMT -5
Tank is back!
Well, actually, this New Wave of British Heavy Metal band has been back for a while, but, unfortunately, they've been flying under the radar. I say unfortunately as their latest album, War Nation has some fantastic songs on it and it deserves a lot more attention than it has received thus far.
Tank first came to attention as a part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the early 80's. They were often compared to Motorhead as they had a fairly raw, Punk inspired sound. After a promising start, the band was unable to break through to any significant success and broke up in 1989 after several line-up changes.
The band regrouped in 1997 and put out a new album in 2002, Still At War. After the band failed to complete a new album with original lead vocalist and bass player Algy Ward a new version of the band was formed, this one featuring former Rainbow and Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist, Doogie White. This line-up also featured guitarists Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans, bass player Chris Dale (ex-Bruce Dickinson band), and orignial drummer Mark Brabbs. They released the album War Machine in 2010 to positive reviews and toured to support that album.
Which leaves us at the present. The follow up album, War Nation, was released in June, 2010, and is one hell of a good album. This is not the Tank of 1982. This is a much more polished, professional sounding band that has written some fantastic tasteful Heavy Metal that deftly straddles that line between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. This is some good, melodic Metal that shows some significant growth in the songwriting for both Tucker and Evans. The presence of Doogie White certainly doesn't hurt, and bass player Chris Dale is a seasoned pro as well. Also on board for this album is drummer Steven Hopgood, who spent several years in the band from 2001 to 2009.
The album opens up with the title track, and it is a great song. It is a legitimately great melodic Metal song that brings the Metal just as much as it brings the melody. This is a song that reminds the listener of just about everything that was good about 1980's Heavy Metal. It's got a solid groove, great riffs, great vocal melodies, and some fantastic performances from all involved, including (especially) vocalist Doogie White. This is really some fantastic stuff that most Metal bands who write songs with a good sense of melody would be extremely proud to claim as their own.
But would the album be a, "One hit wonder?" (In this case, not a chart hit, but a quality hit.)
Nope. While the title track is arguably the best song on the album Tank made sure that they delivered the goods on the whole thing.
"Song of the Dead," has a slightly slower groove, but fits in beautifully with the previous track. You can be forgiven for saying you hear echoes of both Ronnie James Dio and mid 80's Don Dokken on this album as Doogie White is able to do what the great singers of the 80's did so well - firmly combine power with melody. On this track there is much more Dio than Dokken vocally, but musically there are clear hints of both. This is classy Heavy Metal, the kind of stuff that made Metal fans proud to be Metal fans back in the day. This is music that has melodic merit and holds up against anything from just about any genre.
But don't let the melody fool you, this is a METAL album, and the next track proves that point. "Hammer and Nails," does have plenty of melody, but it ups the tempo quite a bit and has more intensity than the last track did. Both are top notch Metal songs, and by this point in the album it's clear that this version of Tank is for real.
How real? Real enough that the next song, "Don't Dream In The Dark," is a legitimate FM Rock Radio song without sacrificing the band's integrity one iota. This is the kind of song that bands like TNT wish they could have written. The vocal melody here is somewhat reminiscent of, "Shot in the Dark," by Ozzy Osbourne without being a ripoff. Musically, this is similar to TNT's heavier material (if you remember those guys). If this album had been released in 1988 this song would have been big on FM Rock Radio, and deservedly so.
At this point the album gets a little darker, with some slight Malmsteen influences in the songwriting (without the needless noodling on guitar). "Grace of God," is a solid album cut, and while it doesn't work quite as well as a stand alone song as the previous tracks did, it does work very well within the context of the album as a whole and it is a darned good song. It has a solid mid-tempo beat and, yet again, a very strong sense of melody to go with the heavy guitars.
Were Metal Ballads obligatory in the 80's? Maybe not quite obligatory, but they were very common. Even Metallica and Testament did them from time to time. Here Tank shows their roots by including a Metal Ballad on War Nation in the form of, "Dreamer." It is a solid, well written ballad. If you like darker, heavier ballads like this then you will likely enjoy this one a lot. If you're not a fan of Metal Ballads this one isn't likely to change your mind.
The opening riff of, "Justice For All," echoes more Dio material, in this case, "We Rock." Again, this isn't a full out rip-off, but it is very similar (and, let's face it, there are only so many riffs you can write on a guitar before all riffs in the 4/4 time signature have been written). The vocal melody on, "Justice," is significantly different from the Dio song, so the two songs are similar only in tempo and guitar riffs. This song stands alone very well, and it stands up to the best 80's Metal quite nicely.
"Wings of Heaven," brings the tempo down a bit to a good groove, but it is also nearly as heavy as it's predecessor on the album. Imagine Tony Iommi collaborating with Don Dokken and Ronnie James Dio and you might get a good idea of what this song sounds like. You also get a good idea of the quality of the music here. This is another really good song - great within the genre, really.
As Tank came to prominence as a punky Metal band in the Motorhead mold it's only fitting that they include another uptempo track that is abundant in energy and enthusiasm. "State of the Union," marries the old school Tank with the class and melody that they have brought to the table in 2012. This is good. Really good. By this point in the album it is clear - bringing in Doogie White as their vocalist was an inspired move. White has a great voice and he brings class and professionalism to the proceedings. It's easy to understand why Ritchie Blackmore brough him on board for the final incarnation of Rainbow in the mid 90's.
The final proper song on the album is, "Hard Road," and it has a riff that sounds like something from Akira Takasaki on Loudness' Thunder in the East or Lightning Strikes. Even the guitar tone is almost identical to Takasaki's mid 80's sound. To close out the album the band went with an instrumental, which, given White's vocal prowess seems like a strange move. However, the results are exceptionally good. Just when the song seems to be in dire need of White's vocal melodies Tucker and Evans provide some tasty lead guitar work just loaded with melody, including some nice harmony leads.
The album closes out with three unnamed bonus tracks, and I'll just let you discover those for yourself as they are clearly not part of the album proper. There is some good stuff there, too, though.
Yes, this album is firmly rooted in the Heavy Metal sound of the mid 1980's, but despite that it doesn't sound as dated as you might think. Like the best Metal albums this one sounds fresh and exciting. And when my biggest gripe about the album is that the snare drum could have just a little more snap, and could be just a tad higher in the mix, I know it's a good album.
(or 4.5/5 if you're an exceptionally big mid 80's Metal fan)