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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Warfare

Hammer Horror

Review by Rick Damigella

What do you get when one of the loudest, nastiest bands to ride the first wave of punk/metal crossover with the English film “studio that dripped blood?” You get Warfare’s Hammer Horror. This unusual release is part concept album, part tribute, but is all good nasty gothic horror-metal fun. If you missed Warfare when they first came on the music scene in the mid-80’s, (not surprising as many outside Europe were not lucky enough to even hear of them, let alone listen to them) a quick tutorial is needed. Warfare could arguably be called one of the earliest bands to combine the crashing sounds of heavy metal with the nihilistic attitude of hard core punk. This obnoxiously loud trio hailed from Newcastle, England, the same area of the North as their label mates, Venom. Warfare’s sound can easily be approximated as a band playing in the middle of a battlefield who are so loud that artillery going off around them couldn’t be heard over the din this trio would dish up.

Part two of your primer is dedicated to Hammer Film Productions. Best known for their gothic horror films produced between the 1950’s and 70’s, Hammer Horror, as it became known, was an exceedingly popular studio, whose films, while modest in budget, would often appear much more lavish on screen. They pioneered the use of gore as color film became less expensive. Stars like Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin, Star Wars ep. IV) and Christopher Lee (Saruman, Lord of the Rings) were among the studio’s biggest stars. Enter Hammer Horror fanatic and Warfare drummer/vocalist, Evo, who crafted this 16 track scarefest in honor of Hammer Films which makes for a great scary listen any time of year.

Hammer Horror is not what you would typically expect to hear as an album from an in-your-face metal band like Warfare. As a genre album, it accomplishes its horrifying mission quite nicely. Originally only available in the US as an import, you can find it domestically on the Silva Screen record label at your more esoteric brick and mortars or from a well-stocked online outlet. This is to be played very loud, with the lights out, on a dark and stormy night.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro/Dracula Theme
Sounds of a tempest howling and orchestral strains from the Hammer library kick off the disc and meld seamlessly with the next song.
Baron Frankenstein
Cue the loud guitars, drums and guttural roar and trade mark vocal styles of Evo. A song inspired by the Frankenstein film from Hammer Horror and featuring a name check and movie sound clip from Peter Cushing during the bridge. From the liner notes: “…a view of the cinema audience through the eyes of the monster…”
A Velvet Rhapsody
Mixed smoothly from track two, this short piano driven instrumental concludes the first movement of the album in the vein of gothic-storm sound effects and chants evoking a dark night on the European moors where evil is afoot.
Phantom of the Opera
Melodic synthesizers (no, I am not kidding) intro this opus, one of the best songs on the album. A nearly orchestral sounding rock band arrangement brings the pace up quickly as the song morphs into what the more famous musical of the same name might have sounded like if they really let it rock. Evo takes on the role of the titular Phantom. The vocals/role of Christine during the chorus are given sweet beauty by Irene Hume of English progressive rockers Prelude.
Scream of the Vampire Part One
Well it doesn’t get more metal than a song title like that does it? This pounding mid-tempo rocker tells the tales of both the real Vlad Dracul and his fictional counterpart. Name checks this time for Bram Stoker and Christopher Lee who portrayed the Count as one of his many Hammer Horror film roles. This segues directly into the next cut.
Vlad the Impaler
An orchestral piece which Evo describes in his liner notes as an original score he created for Hammer after reading an unfilmed script for the movie Vlad the Impaler. Co-written by Fred Purser, former guitarist for Tygers of Pan Tang, the song transitions directly into the next one.
Scream of the Vampire Part Two
The music of part one returns with soundbites from Hammer Horror’s Dracula.
Funeral in Carpathia
One final movement in this vampiric symphony, this features storm winds and rain and a haunting female vocal reprising the Scream of the Vampire chorus one last time.
Hammer Horror
Nothing is more effective in setting a mood than an evil peel of lightning before a throbbing pulse bass line. This instrumental track could easily be the opening credits to a new Hammer film should one be made. It transitions directly into “Plague of the Zombies.”
Plague of the Zombies
This is made up of pounding, classic Warfare style drums and vocals with a guitar riff from Algy Ward of The Damned that is nearly lick for lick the same as Ozzy Osbourne’s pre-chorus fill from “Bark at the Moon.” Well, they picked a good song to cop from anyway!
Ballad of the Dead
Seguing straight out of the previous song, this short instrumental closes the zombie trilogy.
A Solo of Shadows
Synths and tribal drums set up this poetry set to music. From Evo’s liner notes: “…written on a dark, rainy night in a hotel bedroom overlooking Whitby Harbour…” This one gives way to the next track by way of the icy synth wind.
Prince of Darkness
This continues the tale of Count Dracula and his connection with the Yorkshire, England town of Whitby, where this song was also conceived. The usage of Christopher Lee as Dracula soundbites help accentuate the off kilter guitar riffs.
Tales of the Gothic Genre
The grouping of tracks together comes to end for the closing songs. The first of which, while having a rather unique title, is a great example of Warfare at their bludgeoning best on this track dedicated to The “Hammer House of Horror” television series. It also features a filthy saxophone riff that reminds the listener of the sax from the soundtrack of “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.”
Dance of the Dead
A gothic-tuned, finger picked guitar riff and tolling of bells intro belies the demon that awaits you at :45 into the song. This is the absolute classic Warfare sound. Evo’s vocals are screamed from the very depths of hell itself and the music veers dangerously into thrash territory. This would not have sounded out of place on Warfare’s classic album Pure Filth.
Phantom of the Opera (Hammer House of Horror Mix)
Running slightly longer than the original mix, this song is no less the pop-opera oriented epic for it. In some other bizarre parallel universe, this could have been a hit single from an Evo-penned rock musical.
 
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