Sjak : After a five year absence (the latest studio album 'Sadistic Symphony' was released in January 2001) Vicious Rumors returns to the metal front with their new studio album 'Warball'. The last couple of releases of this American band were not really to my liking and therefore I was very curious to see whether the band with this new album would be capable to return to the high quality level of their first three records or that they would stay in the rather dull mediocrity of their last couple of releases.
Biggest challenge for band leader Geoff Thorpe was to find a great vocalist, who could step into the footsteps of the legendary and too early deceased world class singer Carl Albert. After some failed attempts he has really hit the jackpot with the inclusion of James Rivera. When I heard the new that James would become the new singer of Vicious Rumors I was a bit afraid that, with his characteristic voice, he would put too big a mark on the overall band sound but that prejudiced fear proved to be wrong. In fact, after a couple of listens it really shows how well he has integrated into the typical Vicious Rumors sound.
Besides getting a new singer in, Geoff has had to do some more alterations to the line-up. One of the changes is that the original rhythm section, consisting of Dave Starr and Larry Howe, are back where they belong. Furthermore Geoff has recruited two very capable guest guitarists to play on a couple of tracks being Brad Gillis (Ozzy Osbourne/Night Ranger) and Thaen Rasmussen (Anvil Chorus) and especially the latter has worked out very well.
The typical Vicious Rumors trademarks being the fast, aggressive yet melodic band sound, the strong vocal parts and the overwhelming amount of great guitar solos are everywhere to be found on nine out of the ten tracks on offer here. Just listen to opening track 'Sonic Rebellion', 'Mr. Miracle' and 'Immortal' as prime examples of this. One after the other guitar solo is fired at you and guest guitarists Brad Gillis and Thaen Rasmussen really showcase their abilities.
The new songs contain a certain freshness, which causes that the link to the first three albums is easily made. Of course the level of especially 'Digital Dictator' (in my opinion one of the best heavy metal records ever) is not reached, but what the band presents on 'Warball' is really Vicious Rumors at its best. The only song which is totally out of place is the acoustic and superfluous 'Windows Of Memory', which is really Vicious Rumors unworthy material. I hope that Geoff is capable of retaining this great line-up and keeping the band at this high level. Great record of a great band!