ALTERED STATE - WINTER WARLOCK (Death Rider Records)
(Review by Stefan)
If I may speak for myself, to collect US Metal releases was an occupation dating back to the early 80’s. Those days, all started with catching as much as possible demo’s in the form of cassette tapes and of course American stuff on vinyl. On a world wide basis, my own US Metal collection grew day by day… this awesome gem that crawled deep into my soul is still very well hidden under my skin up to date, more specifically June 2013 . Some people do not understand what's so special about US Metal, hard to explain but you just must have an inner contact with this type of music. I approach the age of 50 but due the fact music from the heart is timeless, US Metal always be my number one favourite style of music no matter what others think or claim about it !
I’ve got a HUGE list of awesome US Metal bands underneath my skin but I won’t bother you with mentioning them all. Instead I will tell you a little story of one of my absolute favourite bands called Deadly Blessing and their unbelievable, mighty strong release entitled “Ascend From The Cauldron”. An obscure Classic US Metal masterpiece featuring one of the most impressive, high pitched vocalists ever – Norman Richard Kiersznowski better known as SKI ! “AFTC” came into my life back in 1988 through New Renaissance Records, now 25 years later on still playing the album on a regular basis. Defined as excellent US Power/Thrash Metal, actually it was Ski who drew much of the attention to himself with his extremely high vocal delivery. He was one of the pioneers of high pitched vocals alongside soulmates like Geoff Tate (Queensryche), John Cyriss (Agent Steel), King Diamond (Mercyful Fate), James Rivera (Helstar), Russ Andersen (Forbidden), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Jim Gillette (Nitro), TE Malicoat (Lethal), Michael Sanders (Toxik), Midnight (Crimson Glory), Paul Davidson (Heir Apparent) and many more. Playing their albums at my own house, the only way out was to crank up the volume to fully enjoy the vibes of roaring/screaming guitar riffs and leads and fabulous rhythms. That’s what makes US Metal so attractively beautiful!
After the success of the debut “Ascend Of The Cauldron”, Ski was asked to leave the band due to a still unknown reason for me at this moment. Such a fantastic singer delivering such a world-class album like this… I stay behind with a lot of questions why he was put out of the ranks. Deadly Blessing stayed in the running and recruited a new singer, actually very good musician as well but allow me to stay, not comparable with Ski’s singing talents. Deadly Blessing released the EP called “Psycho Drama” later on and have to admit that it’s still a brilliant product anyway.
It took Ski a while to recover from the split with Deadly Blessing, he said: “It was very hard for me. It took a two year break from music, it was very though to be asked to leave. We weren’t only a band, we were a family at least I thoughts we were”. But Ski would not be Ski when he wasn’t able to survive this struggle even… step by step, he recovered from this big deception. He was determined to form a new band in the vein of Priest, Metallica and Queensryche - a while later on, Altered State was born and all seemed to go very well, they were even asked to open up a lot of shows with Savatage back in 1991.
Altered State’s six new songs were meant to be recorded in hope to release officially afterwards but unfortunately, they could not live it up. At that time, there was another band wearing the same bandname and wanted to change their moniker into Minds Realms which never happened basically. The good understandings within the Altered State ranks went downhill, the short live of the band came to an end. Due to my passion for US Metal, the urge to hear how this band sounded back then was burning from deep within. I can not thank Death Rider Records enough for the fact this label brought out Altered State’s six song loaded demo last year. A gift from heaven to me, entitled “Winter Warlock” the CD has also 3, very rare rehearsal tracks on board!
This US Power Metal feast begins with the song ‘Mindsrealm’, right from the very first moment you will be grabbed by the throat due to the forces of pure US Power Metal take command. Killer guitar riffs going wild and as soon as Ski’s opens up his mouth, all hell breaks loose and the blood in my veins starts to boil. Pretty dark atmospheres comes along with a nice break, in the end the song end up like a true Speed Power Metal bomb. Gearing myself up for a next attack, Off With The Head” appears with less speed but the powers and awesome guitar licks are still on. ‘Judge For Yourself’ comes flown out of my speakers with the everlasting amazing vocals of Ski, this time the pace is down and like to describe the song as a beautiful created US Power Metal ballad. So far I really hade a great time listening to first three songs of Altered State’s “Winter Warlock” CD featuring the best of the best concerning US Power Metal music. Besides Ski’s unapproachable vocals, also the guitar works are so damn fantastic… I’m speechless all the way out.
Next song in line ‘Leading Me Blindly’ brings a perfect opportunity to check out how good the mutual musicianship between the players is. Ski’s throat leads both guitarists to imaginable moves including nail-biting riffs and scorching solo’s, the drums are unlikely well matched with the basslines. My body temperature keeps going up and threatens to approach the boiling point. The following ‘title’ track “Winter Warlock” was inspired by a character from a 1970’s Christmas movie Santa Claus Comin’ To Town but the lyrics of the song absolutely don’t deal with Xmas at all. The lyrical content is all about the elements of nature during a regular winter period, that’s it. Ski screams his lungs out of his chest at the beginning and as usual, he continues to use his throat mighty good and again both guitar players to absorb my attention as well. Superb chorus lines that impresses me, the way the song has been built up is awesome to the core… a True US Metal anthem for sure, my favourite song definitely. Last one, ‘Mental Rage’ is introduced by the full skilled talents of the band’s drummer. It’s time to let yourself go for the last time by the forces of US Thrash Metal delivery featuring a catchy chorus and ear deafening guitar tactics. Once again to focus myself on each one of the bands musical skills, I call it a shame these songs never see the light of day officially. So pure, so fantastic, so US Metal minded…. OUTSTANDING!
As mentioned before, also three rehearsal songs and an outro are added to the tracklist of “Winter Warlock”. The production of these rehearsal songs are rather substandard but still, I will cherish them as hidden treasures of US Metal.
Once again, big thanks and appreciation to Death Rider Records who came on with the brilliant idea to revitalize Altered State’s one and only demo delivering 32 minutes of right-up-into-your-face US Power/Thrash/Speed Metal. Order this masterpiece via: https://www.facebook.com/Deathriderrecords
I keep on following every band Ski is involved with as he was active the last few years in top acts like Obliterator, Factor V, Faith Factor and his cover band Metal Godz. You will also hear his world class singing talents as Ski jumps in as guest musician on albums from Norwegian metallers Tomorrow’s Outlook and American based thrashers Temple Of Blood. Hopefully he’s back with a new band soon, I look forward to it by the grace of US Metal !
My Points: 95 / 100
95+ : Outstanding, high valued albums & Classic Ones… a direct purchase is advisable !
Between 90 and 95: Surpasses the style of music, must be heard/ordered by every Metal fan
Between 80 and 89: Good in its own genre, recommended for those hooked on it
Between 70 and 79: Decent but best previewing
Between 60 and 69: Rather moderate
Between 50 and 59: Bad, substandard
50- : Rubbish