So we know the story about WHITE WIZZARD's "High Speed G.T.O." EP being released by Earache well after the band had already gone through a mass member departure, which doesn't need repeating here. What is worth mentioning though is that some folks had dismissed "High Speed G.T.O." as a shakily NWOBHM-inspired album with choruses that were too bright 'n shiny, recorded by a band that had not yet felt comfortable in its own skin. Battle hardened veterans these were not, but the free spiritedness and good-time vibes emanating from the disc were among its most endearing qualities, not to mention choruses that did indeed glisten, yet were also catchy as hell. Whatever the case may be, I am pleased to inform that on full-length "Over the Top", the revamped WHITE WIZZARD does indeed sound more confident as a unit and ends up with an album of very strong NWOBHM-inspired anthems that is better than "High Speed G.T.O.", but not necessarily by leaps and bounds.The method of attack on "Over the Top" has changed significantly, though WHITE WIZZARD does not sound like a completely different band either. Infectious melody continues to be a focus, though rather than being blinding, the illumination is toned down, even if lead vocalist Wyatt "Screaming Demon" Anderson will not be accused of having a throat like Lemmy's anytime soon. The album's opening tracks (the title cut and "40 Deuces") establish right off the bat that melody and metal are not mutually exclusive and that "fun" is not a dirty word. At the same time, there is more meat on the compositional bones and a bigger set of balls this time around. The IRON MAIDEN influence is more pronounced, as the Steve Harris-like bass playing of Jon Leon and the tasteful harmonizing of guitarists Erik Kluiber and Chad Bryan (and Leon on a few tracks) so aptly illustrates. The moderately epic "Iron Goddess of Vengeance" (reminiscent of the "Powerslave" period) and "White Wizzard" (the jamming instrumental segments in particular) benefit the most from the influence. Of course, the muscularity is balanced with the band's tunefully focused approach. An album title like "Over the Top" — when not reminding of professional wrestling — might imply a steroid-pumped brand of traditional and/or power metal, yet WHITE WIZZARD succeeds here by smartly using the weapons in its arsenal to enhance, rather than detract from, its song-first style. As far as any pointed comparisons of the full-length to "High Speed G.T.O." are concerned, both are worthy additions to a proud heavy metal tradition for partially different reasons, but "Over the Top" comes with a stronger recommendation from yours truly.
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