Wednesday, September 23, 2009

White Wizzard - High Speed GTO

White Wizzard
High Speed GTO

Are you tired of the relentless nü-metal onslaught? (I know I am.) Do you turn your nose up at the suggestion that groups like Isis and Mastodon are metal? (I don’t, but I know folks who do.) You’re not the only one. Bassist/bandleader Jon Leon wanted a metal band that pretended that the 90s and the ‘aughts never happened, and, by Zeus, he got it with White Wizzard. The L.A. band’s debut EP is seven songs’ worth of driving, melodic hard rock in the vein of the non-superstar NWOBHM bands like Diamond Head, Angel Witch and Praying Mantis. James LaRue’s guitars are heavy, but not too heavy – there’s no mistaking this for downtuned sludge. Leon’s powerful bass manages to be busy as hell while staying in lockstep with Tyler Meahl’s drums. Frontdude James Paul Luna’s voice neither soars nor growls, but sticks to a tuneful mid-range charisma. The lyrics can be goofy - from the prehistoric shark-loving Megalodon: Denizon [sic] of creepy seas/Born of ancient depths is he/From the world of heinous beasts/Beady eyes a thousand teeth – but there seems to be not jot of irony. Most impressively, the songs are unfailingly catchy without making any concessions to pop – the 80s hair metal crowd would’ve killed for tunes as memorable as those that power Into the Night, Octane Gypsy and the title cut, but these tracks are built for arenas, not top 40 radio. White Wizzard is defiantly unhip and uncool, and that makes this homage to metal’s illustrious past seem almost innocent, giving _High Speed GTO_ strength to last beyond any retro revivals.

Unfortunately, Leon fired the rest of the band after these recordings were made – hopefully the new lineup will propel the forthcoming full-length to the same heights.

- Michael Toland

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