Thursday 22 June 2023

Weapon UK - New Clear Power (2023)

Country: UK
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 19 May 2023
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I remember the name of Weapon UK from back in the day more than I remember their music. Part of that is because they were just before my time, Tommy playing Weapon on the Friday Rock Show in 1980 four years before I found it 1984. Part of it is because they'd already split up by then, with a brief reformation in 1984 after a two year break not lasting. Most of it, though, is that, like many NWOBHM bands, they only released a single back in the day and the albums came much later, with their debut, after renaming from Weapon to Weapon UK because of a bogus legal threat. This is a third for them and it sounds very tasty indeed.

Now, it took me a moment. Even after the intro, Drumbeats of War begins far less vigorously than I was expecting. Danny Hynes sounds good at the mike, but he lags behind the guitars in emphasis and his vocal feels a little too comfortable for something with that much punch behind him. On the opener, he channels Phil Lynott, while Oscar Bromvall is going for more of a Tank sound on guitar, a few escalations into something more thrashy. And I kept thinking about this as the album ran on. Even half a dozen times through, it often felt odd that Hynes wasn't giving it more energy.

However, my conclusion was that he really doesn't need to. He has a smooth voice and he knows it and he nails the hooks here, so much so that we're absolutely glued to what he's doing, even if he doesn't have to command us to pay attention. And that conclusion underpins why this is such a seriously good album. This band, with Hynes leading the way, are so confident in these songs that they know they only have to put them in front of our ears and we'll be on board. A minute into Drumbeats of War, I wasn't convinced. Two minutes in and it was a favourite track that felt like an old friend.

Crucially, the same goes for most of the rest of the songs on this album. Sure, Drumbeats of War is a highlight, but so's Take It or Leave It and so's Electric Power. In for the Kill may be the best track here. The second half took a little longer to grab me but grab me it did and now Remote Control is up there too and Shoot You Down and Riding with the Angels. The entire album is a highlight! Well almost. I'm not as fond of the ballad, Live for Today, but it's done very well and I do love the guitar solo that introduces a welcome ramp up in the second half.

Talking of guitars, they're the work of Oscar Bromvall, presumably the same Oscar Bromvall who I am always impressed by on Fans of the Dark albums. I'm just as impressed here too, because he's a riff creation machine, setting them down one after another as if he can just pluck them out of the air at will. There may not be a single killer riff here but every single riff is excellent and they keep on coming. Similarly, there may not be a single killer hook but Hynes keeps them coming thick and fast and every one of them works. There are eight tracks here and maybe eight or nine are going to have to duke it out for which will be playing in my head when I wake up in the morning.

The combined effect is kind of like a traditional NWOBHM band jamming with an arena rock band. Bromvall delivers riffs that remind of Tank at their finest, with elements of Diamond Head and an odd nod to AC/DC, as on Remote Control. Tony Forsythe and Andreas Westerlund do nothing flash but firm up everything Bromvall does so well that we start to take them for granted. Hynes adds a sense of melody that screams of huge stadiums, because it's the verses as much as the choruses. I don't think Journey don't have this many hooks.

Right now, I'm hoping that mentioning Diamond Head is appropriate not only because of how they inform the guitars here, but because, after a long but troubled existence, they've found a notably stable period matching a killer guitarist with an excellent vocalist who can keep up with him. It's a little early to suggest this, but I truly think that the musical partnership of Bromvall and Hynes is just as promising. It took Weapon UK thirty-four years to release their debut album and only half this line-up was on its predecessor. If they can keep it together to knock out another album or two like this with the same line-up, they could be huge.

And from immediately thinking this was a 7/10 album, I soon upped that to an 8/10 and, goddamn it but I've only given out two 9/10s over six months but this will be my second in two days.

Now, why do they have a Wikipedia page in German but not English? Inquiring minds want to know.

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