Eleven years after “Rising Out Of The Ashes”, and many more since the mid 80s, Warlord returns with “The Holy Empire”. Guitarist / composer William J Tsamis and master drummer / percussionist Mark S Zonder along with vocalist Rick Anderson bring back Warlord's musical innovation and establish majesty and uniqueness once again. With them, we have the privilege to hear bassist Philip Bynoe, an amazing player, three-time Grammy nominee and Emmy Award winner, known from his appearance with Steve Vai, Ring of Fire and more.
The legacy of Warlord is growing. The music is here again. The myth becomes reality for all those who will witness Warlord live next month. But how did myth become reality once again?
I remember interviewing Mark Zonder around February 2010 during the “Parallels”-reunion - Fates Warning shows. Mark was, is and I guess will be forever, my favourite drummer (along with Neil Peart). He has this unique characteristic style beyond words. Sometimes I am listening to Fates Warning or Warlord and I concentrate only in his drumming. So, back then, he was kind enough to reply my interview-mail in one day, and when the questions strayed from Fates Warning to Warlord, he told me that he was amazed that Warlord didn’t become big back in the 80s. When we discussed for the Wacken Warlord live show in 2002, he told me that he would drop everything to play with Warlord again. At that moment, I knew that everything was up to Bill’s hands.
Forward in August 2011 and I had the opportunity to do an interview with Bill Tsamis, his first since many years, a huge and very informative interview with many unknown details. Then, when he was asked, he told me that he would love to play with Mark again, but they live three thousand miles away from each other and he had family health problems, plus his daughter will enter college very soon. He would love though to do another Warlord album. Since then, Bill started to be very active in the (soon to be) Warlord Battle Choir Facebook page. Old and new fans started to gather in this little group and then the news came. Warlord is back.
Like the butterfly effect in chaos theory, one by one, things started to move very fast and one day at Bill’s birthday, he present to us a gift, a new song entitled “Night Of The Fury”. A familiar voice was there, Rick Anderson, also known as Damien King III back in the last Warlord days from the 80s and also the voice of Lordian Winds. A Warlord Anthology came out, a Lordian Guard Anthology followed, along with the “Sea of Tranquility”, and of course three live shows are confirmed. Keep It True Festival in Germany and two dates in Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki) for 2013. A new, fan-based but absolutely professional management is here now, and Sons Of A Dream Music LLC, the official company founded by William J Tsamis and Mark Zonder to produce and promote the music of Warlord.
The Holy Empire is here. Eight songs, 55 minutes of music, engineered and mastered by multi-Grammy award winner Phil Magnotti, this album is about to open a new chapter in the long history of the band. Bill created this album with the “Warlord fan” in mind, but without letting him obstruct his artistic creativity. I don’t think there will be any Warlord fan that won’t like (at least) The Holy Empire and I don’t think that Bill could offer something better at the moment. This album is made for all the Warlord fans. Mark’s contribution is something more than obvious and Rick’s voice has the Damien King aura that Warlord needs. I always believed that, even if Bill is the composer, there cannot be Warlord without Mark also.
There are songs (70000 Sorrows, The Holy Empire) that go back to the “lost” demo and rehearsal tapes of Lordian Guard - for those who know. “The Holy Empire” also, was supposed to be the title of the third Lordian Guard album, which was never recorded / released. The Lordian Guard touch is vivid in “The Holy Empire” and it wouldn’t be otherwise, since this is the evolution of Tsamis’ musical vision. There is also “Father”, known from Lordian Guard’s “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” (actually it is dated back in the 80s Warlord days), but the arrangement here is superb, even if I love Vidonne’s version. The Lady’s voice after all, is something more than a simple voice for me. It is part of the music, the way Lordian Guard’s music has grown inside my heart.
“70000 Sorrows” is majestic with unique arrangement in all levels, a redefinition of Epic Metal… I could separate Epic Metal in three different forms:
1. The Barbaric - the Battle, and the quest for the Secret of Steel (Manowar).
2. The Wisdom of the Ancient Gods and the Old Ways, before the cometh of Christianity (Bathory).
3. The lyrical – Dark & Holy - Knighthood, that battles beyond Good and Evil (Warlord).
Warlord, in 2013 manage to redefine Epic Metal and take it to higher levels, combining all the different forms in one EPIC masterpiece, and keep also the uniqueness of their music untouchable. There are few active bands that can play Epic Metal and take it to another level, both musically and lyrical, because if the lyrics are childish, no matter how epic or “big” the music sounds, it remains incomplete, and if Warlord, Manowar and Bathory are the ones that define the different forms of Epic Metal over the years, there are also many others inspired from them, that continue their legacy, like War Dance, Doomsword and Atlantean Kodex.
“70000 Sorrows” has this huge emotion that dwells (for sure) in the heart and soul of Bill. His personal emotions are strong enough to touch every contemplative listener. Inspired guitar and vocal melody lines and amazing drumming from Mark lift the song to heavenly heights.
“Glory” has this familiar Tsamis guitar melody, a melody that fills the listener with positive bittersweet memories of lost childhood years. The lyrics are the kind of words that everyone could relate to. In a fair world, songs like “Glory” would be taught in music schools as an example of how a musician can transform emotions into musical notes.
“Thy Kingdom Come” is a title dated long time ago and keeps the “epic” element in a more sentimental way. Anderson shines on that one and the structure of the song has a unique escalation that fades to redemption before the walls are cracked… “City Walls Of Troy”, one of the lost Warlord songs finally sees officially the light of day. A Dark Epic Metal composition in the vein of the “old”, dark, mystical Warlord-style. A song that could fit in “Deliver Us” and that means that Warlord of 2013 have strong bonds with Warlord of 1983. 30 years later and the magic cannot be lost. This is not a “usual” reunion. I can’t remember something equal; I can’t remember a reunited band with such a great release in general. Maybe Celtic Frost’s “Monotheist” is the only exception for their genre. But, there is also an unusual composition like “Kill Zone” (with Giles Lavery from Dragonsclaw in lead vocals), that somehow is so close but also so far to the “typical” Warlord style. That’s a great Power Metal moment and I would like to hear more from Warlord in this style. Obviously, Bill Tsamis is a charismatic composer and he has listened to Metal all these years, so he cannot be “out-dated”. And how could he be? After all, Warlord music is eternal. “Kill Zone” transports Warlord through time and space, from the swords and walls of Troy, to recent history and wars of the new millennium - “Night Of The Fury” continues the war but the music is more lyrical. Bill hates war; he doesn’t promote the power of America. War exists over the years in different forms and territories. Humanity can’t look away and just pass by. Same goes for some artists. War is cruelty, but it’s for real.
“Father” has a very special meaning for Bill and I am somehow related also with this song (and also “Bridge” from Queensrÿche) because of personal reasons. I can’t say more, it is always difficult to express such deep feelings in words…
And finally, “The Holy Empire”, a song that probably compact what creating music means for William J Tsamis at the current time. The spirit of Lordian Guard is here and Bill, like a musical architect, builds an Empire of unique harmonies and melodies. Mark and Philip are the stones that hold the Kingdom and the vocals are the poetry that chants what’s inside… The final march comes upon us, and this time it’s here to stay.
Don’t let “The Holy Empire” pass you by. It is an album that grows inside you day by day. It has songs that can mark your life. It stands above the mediocrity of today’s music. It is a gift. It is honest and comes from the heart and soul of William J Tsamis. It has the magic touch of Mark Zonder. It is what I was expecting, and my expectations are always high…