1. Sonic Rebellion 2. Mr. Miracle 3. Dying Every Day 4. Immortal 5. War Ball 6. Crossthreaded 7. Wheels Of Madness 8. Windows Of Memories 9. Ghost Within 10. Dreams Of Rage
I'll have to be honest and say I was a bit disappointed to read that California's Vicious Rumors had chosen James Rivera as their new vocalist. Sure Rivera is a fine, quality metal singer. But folks I'm just a bit tired of his voice. The man led the legendary Helstar for years, jumped over to Destiny's End for an album or two, hopped on board with Jack Frost's Seven Witches project, ran with ex-Helstar members with Distant Thunder, and now has joined one of my favorite bands of all time. I seriously cannot deny his talent, his ear piercing sonic wail or his commanding vocal presence on album. I have just heard it all before. However, after spinning this new record, "Warball", I would have to say this is damn fine indeed!
"Warball" has several really great things going for it. First off this is much better production than the group's last album, the rather muffled "Sadistic Symphony" of 2001. Five years late the band has finally received the same sort of sound that spiced up their early 90s efforts. Second, founding guitarist Geoff Thorpe has brought back Larry Howe (Drums) and Dave Starr (Bass), the battery that was just unstoppable on the classic first four VR albums. The duo have kept busy of late with Chastain, and really put in a fantastic performance on this release. The third positive here is the acquisition of Brad Gillis (Ozzy Osbourne, Night Ranger) on guitar, accomodating Thorpe's already impressive resume of top notch leads and stellar playing. Add those three positives with James Rivera's higher singing style and you have the makings of one killer riff fest backed by soaring and powerful melodic vocals. Even with Rivera basically saturated in most heavy metal eardrums, his singing here seems fresh and all together new and inspiring.
My favorite albums of the VR catalogue are the self-title and the marvelous "Welcome To The Ball". Of course the late Carl Albert helped put those albums completely over the top. I can't believe eleven years has passed since his untimely death. This album really is the closest the band has come yet in re-creating that same formula of success. "Warball" sounds like the culmination of those two albums and today's modern power metal production approach. Gillis and Thorpe combine on some razor sharp leads, all caught up on rapid fire gallops and huge lead foot stomping riffs. In many ways this is the type of album that I was hoping Rivera would eventually be involved with. His work with Jack Frost was good, but this allows him room for many different vocal stylings, a change of pace from his past resume.
"Warball" spins at us in many different ways, from burning red hot speedsters like "Sonic Rebellion" and "Wheels Of Madness" to the breathtaking early 90s flash and dash style on "Dying Every Day" and "Crossthreaded" (with Thorpe on vocals). Those tracks just stay with you long after the song has ended, each with catchy chorus parts and memorable hooks and grooves. Favorites for me are the mid-paced galloping tracks "Mr. Miracle" and the scorching razzle dazzled "Ghost Within". The band even throw in a somewhat eerie ballad with "Windows Of Memories".
Bottom Line - Easily the band's best work since "Word Of Mouth"! A fantastic "comeback" album from one of metal's most under-rated bands.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details