Welcome back to The Lazarus Pit, a look back at should-be classic records that don’t get nearly enough love.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at Omen’s 1984 debut, Battle Cry. This Los Angeles-based trad/old-school-power metal band—who are actually still a going concern—did a lot right here on this album; if Metal Blade, no small beans in ’84, saw fit to release it, they had to be on the right track… not that every record that came out then and there was a winner, of course. But Omen were on to something here, and it wasn’t just the amazing cover art, which I loved as a kid and I still love to this day.
Opener “Death Rider” absolutely kills it, the band taking no prisoners with that chorus, one for the ages, Omen flirting with era-appropriate trad underground metal and a more mainstream-ready, opening-for-Priest sound here. What a perfect way to get the album started, this song totally a classic for a certain sub-section of longhairs, and for good reason.
“The Axeman” ups the gallop percentage quite a bit as the band hops over to opening for Maiden with this dramatic tale of some axeman or another who you are to bow down to, another killer chorus, stoopid and charming intro, solid, workmanlike playing throughout.
“Last Rites” threatens to go speed metal but instead ends up back in a melodic, thespianic-trad sonic sphere, and, man, it rules. So does “Dragon’s Breath,” at this point the band settling in to a kind of moody, mid-tempo trad sound that doesn’t get too heavy yet would be a bit unsettling for the average, say, Dokken fan of the time. But the average Armored Saint fan, well, they might have been on board to use this as a stepping stone to some heavier sounds. Approved. It’s all approved.
“Be My Wench” closes off side A with a much faster tempo and an absurd song title, the band laying down great riff after great riff here, everything locked in nice and tight.
The title track kicks off side B and continues what the band has established by this point that they do so well, heavy on vibe and spirit; even if the production and vocals aren’t exactly 10 out of 10s, they fit the music perfectly and, in some ways, if they were better, this would be worse. Everything just makes sense here, on this song, on this album.
“Die by the Blade” is about as metal a song title you could get in 1984, and it still makes me mutter “Fuck yeah” to myself under my breath here in 2021 when I see it come up as a song name, so I guess they got something right there. The song itself? Tie up those horses and get ready to gallop to glory.
“Prince of Darkness” holds the important keep-that-energy-up song-8-of-10 slot, and it does the trick perfectly, with another of the band’s speedier tempos backing up this old-school metal rager.
“Bring Out the Beast” is solid and sturdy, a dependable deep cut, and closer “In the Arena” kicks off will some ill-advised acoustics but then quickly enough hammers back into letting the hammers fall, with a suitably atmospheric and dramatic closer, one that ends the album with this slight sense of metal majesty that hangs in the air, waiting for the next listen of this shoulda-been-a-bit-more-classic album.
Look, I get that there’s just not enough hours in the day to call everything that we like a “classic” worthy of spending time with. I’m just saying this one doesn’t get mentioned quite as much as it should. Those in the know always give it a hefty horns up, yes, but the album should really be a bit more of a household name, at least in the sorts of households that Decibel readers live in, which are the sorts of places where sounds like this age like fine wine and are appreciated the way they should be: loud, and in reverence, and with a beer held high and a knowing smile on your headbanging face the entire time.