Album of the Week 16-2014: Warlock – Triumph And Agony

While each of the four albums that Germany’s Warlock has recorded is worth hearing for fans of traditional Heavy Metal, two of them stand out. ‘Hellbound’ is one of those because of its energetic NWOBHM worship, fantastic songwriting and spectacular guitar work by both Rudy Graf and Peter Szigeti. By the time ‘Triumph And Agony’ was recorded, both guitarists had left the band and as a result, the album is really mainly the work of singer Doro Pesch and American producer Joey Balin. The results are stunning: ‘Triumph And Agony’ is a lesson what was possible in terms of both songwriting and production in the late eighties.

Some of Warlock’s earliest fans claim that this album is either over-produced or not Metal enough. And though there may be some truth in those statements, yours truly can’t resist the catchy sound balancing on a line between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal displayed here. In addition, part of what makes this album so stellar is its production. Especially the soaring guitars courtesy of Niko Arvanitis and American newcomer Tommy Bolan – no relation to one of my favorite guitarists whose name only differs one letter – are nothing short of sensational in this sonic representation.

Had I been in charge of the sequencing of this record, I would have opened it with the moving ‘I Rule The Ruins’ – with its fantastic contrasts and climaxes – instead of the enjoyable, but somewhat plain hit single ‘All We Are’, but that’s only a minor complaint. Pesch has spent most of her solo shows opening with ‘I Rule The Ruins’ though, so she’s well aware of the song’s power. The other hit single of the record, the stunning and emotional ballad ‘Für Immer’, is the album’s perfect closer though, leaving the listener with a positive and uplifting message, despite the melancholic nature of the impeccably written music.

The rest of ‘Triumph And Agony’ moves between extremes, covering each of them with equal expertise. Pesch sounds like a woman possessed on the scorching Speed Metal of ‘Touch Of Evil’, Arena Rock has hardly ever sounded as awesome as on the catchy ‘Metal Tango’, ‘Kiss Of Death’ is a powerful and exquisitely built up semi-ballad typical of the decade and the despair of the full-on ballad ‘Make Time For Love’ is heartbreaking. ‘Three Minute Warning’ – though it stays slightly under the time suggested – is a nice and speedy little number as well.

‘Triumph And Agony’ also signals some of the greatest performances of all the musicians involved. As stated before, Arvanitis and Bolan are simply on fire here, but Pesch herself also has her finest hour. Generally sounding slightly more aggressive than before whilst still retaining her knack for strong melodies, she is the hero of this record. The flawless rhythm section of Tommy Henriksen and original drummer Michael Eurich really profits from the production as well.

Doro Pesch deserves all the respect she can get for soldiering on as long as she has and churning out quality Metal albums every now and then, but ‘Triumph And Agony’ marks the apex of her songwriting partnerships. The production is stainless and the songs are without exception catchy enough to please the eighties Hard Rock audiences, but intense and riff-driven enough to appeal to the Heavy Metal crowd. Both would do themselves a favor by checking the album out. If you haven’t yet, be sure to do so while the album is still relatively easy to obtain.

Recommended tracks: ‘I Rule The Ruins’, ‘Metal Tango’, ‘Für Immer’, ‘Touch Of Evil’

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