In the interest of moving forwards, the “Overlooked or Underrated” section has been revamped and renamed as “Blast from the Past”, so as to encompass a wider variety of past releases that may be worth cosying up to once again. First up….
If ever there was a band with a niche it was Kory Clarke‘s Warrior Soul – too serious for the hard rock crowd, too hard rock for the grunge crowd and too political for an American audience that had partied so hard they wanted to wear plaid and stay in their bedrooms. In the UK though, some of us embraced their anarchistic politicised stance railing against the “system”, the media, the status quo. To say they were underrated wouldn’t be entirely accurate as they were more than well received critically, but they got seriously overlooked by the various CD buying tribes of the time. They probably would have flourished under the musical freedom of the internet where fans no longer run in packs.
Anyway, it is their 1990 debut album, ‘Last Decade, Dead Century’, that has most stood the test of time and is most deserving of a revisit. Jam packed with massive riffs, they achieved an enviable fullness to their guitar sound that had a rolling effect, rather than the usual crunch crunch riffing of most rock bands. They were not afraid to experiment rhythmically either and Clarke made for an excellent front man – behind his massive mane of hair there was a seriously talented vocalist that could rasp with pure vitriol, yet could more than hold a tune. On Last Decade, they create an apocalyptic vision of an America where the system is failing and it’s overrun with drugs and crime.
The A-side of the vinyl, the first five tracks of the CD, is a superbly balanced selection of everything that made this band so damn cool. The pounding of the drums and opening riff of ‘I See The Ruins’ opens proceedings with a sense of foreboding, before the main groove laden riff powers along, underpinning Clarke’s apocalyptic view of nineties America. It segues into the massive ‘We Cry Out’ with the vaguest hint of Goth to the riff, before the plaintive cry of ‘The Losers’ celebrates the disaffected of the world.
However, it was track 4, the totally badass ‘Downtown’ that first got me into Warrior Soul. What a huge song. It’s chugging riff and pounding bass hammer away relentlessly to provide a hard driving back drop to teenage rebellion and the seedier side of life. Throw in the swirling riffs of the hypnotic ‘Tripping on Ecstasy’ and you have a killer first half to a record.
Side 2 is no less accomplished, although the vitriolic rant of ‘Four More Years’ has at least one foot in the pretentious and breaks the rhythm of the record a little. Even so, Kory Clarke is an artist and it’s admirable of him to push artistic boundaries and challenge the listener a little. ‘Superpower Dreamland’ immediately puts things back on track with its mid-tempo driving rock groove and winning hook. Then comes the totally killer ‘Charlie’s Out of Prison’ – what a great fucking rock song – it’s got riffs, groove, attitude, impeccably timed stops and quite simply nails it.
There are more great moments in the closing tracks, whether it’s the slow boiling ‘Blown Away’, the atmospheric desolation of ‘Lullaby’, which showcases Clarke’s versatility, or the rolling riffs and cool hooks of ‘In Conclusion’, neatly capturing their signature sound. Basically, the grating interlude of ‘Four More Years’ aside, their isn’t the vaguest hint of filler on this fine record. Every track stands up until today, making this an album well worth revisiting.
Warrior Soul are actually still going, albeit as more of a touring outfit than anything else. Even so, their back catalogue features some seriously cool music and is worth sniffing around Spotify to see what other gems can be unearthed.