Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week, we dig through the Metal Blade vaults and find one of the true oddities in their catalog – a debut album that wasn’t really a debut album, one that nobody heard but still helped invent an entire subgenre: Warlord’s … And the Cannons Of Destruction Have Begun (Metal Blade).
It’s always fascinating coming across records that connect the dots between styles, the missing links of musical evolution which didn’t quite fall into what came before or after and so fell between the cracks. Hell, that’s one of the reasons I do this column. And while the classic rock/neoclassical influences of power metal are fairly obvious (Rainbow, Rising Force), as are the early acts practicing the style (Helloween, Manowar), but the bands that bridged the gap don’t receive nearly as much recognition. Warlord, as you may be able to guess, are one of those important in-betweeners.
Formed in 1980 in Los Angeles by guitarist/songwriter Bill Tsamis and drummer Mark Zonder (who later joined the more-successful Fates Warning) and influenced by 70s arena rock and New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, Warlord had grand ambitions – they were going to rule the world, even if nobody else was aware that they, well, existed. Sure, they’d had a couple tracks on the Metal Massacre compilations, and Metal Blade had released an EP of theirs called Deliver Us, and they hadn’t technically performed live, but they were determined to skip right over the (oversaturated, horrible) early 80s LA club scene. And they knew exactly how to do that – by renting out The Raymond Theatre in Raymond, Washington and recording their live concert debut. Without an audience. And then releasing the VHS of that concert and using its “soundtrack” as their quasi-full-length debut.
As ill-conceived as the venture may have been, 1984’s …And the Cannons Of Destruction Have Begun contains some pretty serious jams. Consisting of the definitive versions of all the material they had written and released to date, these seven songs are stronger than anything a band like, say, Chimaira has written in almost as many albums. After an admittedly silly opening narration about the portentous year of the recording, they kick into “Lucifer’s Hammer,” a song which manages the impressive feat of having a pre-chorus almost as catchy as the chorus itself – the latter of which, about a hammer falling on you (presumably Lucifer’s) gave Swedish power metal masters Hammerfall their name. “Lost and Lonely Days” brings the trademark power metal gallop and a keyboard crisis courtesy of whiz kid Diane Kornarens. “Soliloquy” delivers, as per its name, an agonized internal monologue, while “MCMLXXXIV/Child of the Damned” fills the requisite extended-instrumental-into-Iron-Maiden-epic slot, and “Deliver Us” re-purposes the “Diary of a Madman” riff for much frillier purposes. Also, there’s a song called “Aliens” that’s way catchier than anything Hypocrisy has done on the subject.
They never really got their act together after this, going through a series of vocalists (all with the stage name Damien King, I through III) and never actually putting out a fully formed album. Obviously Zonder went on to better (or at least more successful) things during the late 80s and 90s, but the band did reform in the 2000’s and put out an legitimate record and played some live performances (presumably with an audience this time). Still, they were influential (as evidenced by the Hammerfall thing), and they were instrumental in helping New Wave of British Heavy- and speed metal evolve into the unstoppable iron plated behemoth known as power metal.
Buy it here! (Note: That link is to where you can purchase a DVD of the video; the CD and vinyl of the actual album has been out of print for ages, but the band is releasing a two CD anthology in mid-September that contains everything they ever recorded, so grab that when it’s available!)