From one NWOBHM band to another, but White Spirit and Tysondog are very different in sound, even though they were based only thirty miles apart in the north east of England. It isn't at all difficult to notice the unmistakable influence of seventies Deep Purple on the hard rock of the former, but the latter were always faster and heavier, often even approaching speed metal as befits their later arrival on the scene, though this album mostly slows down from that to be good old fashioned heavy metal. The opener here, a belter called Battalion, reminds very much of Toranaga, slower and tighter but fully aware of how emphatic it is. I liked the album immediately because of that.
I have to say that I enjoyed the vocals here, delivered by the new fish in the band, Alan Ross, who is especially good given that he's mostly known as a guitarist, his role nowadays in Blitzkrieg; he has vocal experience too, but I haven't heard his work for Cardinal Synne. I'd suggest that his voice is a pretty solid match for the current Tysondog sound, loud and heavy, clear and resonant, deliberate and emphatic. He may not have much in the way of nuance, but then he doesn't need to have. He's the absolute vocal equivalent to the Steve Morrison/Paul Burdis guitar assault that underpins the entire album.
There's a genre of music called lowercase sound, because it's so quiet and ambient. This is close to the exact opposite, something like uppercase sound, bolded and underlined, because it's slow and in your face and relentless, even when songs happen to start in a deceptive way. For instance, I dig the way Hellbound begins, in a sort of acoustic but manipulated alt country vibe, only for it to kick into a firm groove in almost Rammstein style. I'm sure Ross will be hoping that the crowds at gigs will sing that title at him the way that crowds sing Du Hast at Till Lindemann.
The fastest song here is Defiant, another highly appropriate title for a Tysondog track. It wouldn't be unfair to suggest that their sound right now could be defined by words like Hellbound, Defiant and Battalion, not to forget Midnight and It Lives, which are perhaps not uncoincidentally all the titles on the first half of this album. Defiant still isn't speed metal, but it's a gear higher than the songs around it, some of which almost take pleasure in not going faster than they do. Paper Cuts especially could easily have been more up tempo, but the band just won't oblige.
Now, it does make sense for some of these to remain slow, the inevitability in the rhythm of Dead Man Walking being highly appropriate. It's another song that reminds me of Toranaga, though it finds a groove metal approach for the bridge. In fact, there's enough Toranaga here that I double checked the line-up to see if anyone from that band is also in this one, but there are no surprises to be found there.
The core of Tysondog nowadays is the pairing of Paul Burdis on guitar and Kevin Wynn on bass, like it's always been when the band has been active. If I'm reading things correctly, neither has played for anyone else, even during the thirty years Tysondog spent on hiatus. Like Ross, Phil Brewis was in Blitzkrieg and also played live for Satan, whose new album I reviewed earlier in the week. Hes a solid and reliable drummer, again underlining how well suited these musicians are to each other.
The results are decent, but not spectacular. Tysondog released a pair of albums in the eighties but then vanished. This is their second since reforming in 2008, arriving seven years after Cry Havoc. I'd be lying if I didn't say I liked it, but I didn't like it as much as their old stuff and I think it's fair to say that the faster this got, the more I liked it. Defiant is a peach of a track and Battalion isn't a long way behind it. I'm a sucker for the Toranaga sound and it's good to see someone else taking it on, even if it's a band who predate them and I liked before they ever formed.
By the way, just as an aside, I recognise part of the cover art. That young lady crawling towards us here is the same young lady crawling towards us on the British cover of Mike Flanagan's fantastic movie Absentia, which I know well because it boasts an Apocalypse Later quote at the top, which is still a bucket list achievement for me.