For the most part, the metal community has accepted the transition from Algy Ward to Doogie White at the forefront of an underground metal legend. Those who attend a TANK concert these days might lament the absence of Ward's "Wakey wakey!" call to arms. Yet his retirement has opened the door for TANK's self-revitalization with White broadening their channels for sustenance. As a former RAINBOW vocalist, Doogie White has a sharp sense of harmonics on top of an inbred sense of confidence that has made TANK's recent releases "War Machine" and "War Nation" worth checking out. In essence, this becomes a perfect time for TANK to issue a live document of this make-or-break changing of the guard, "War Machine Live".
It might be argued that Algy Ward's punk background in THE SAINTS and THE DAMNED gave TANK a tougher edge than they have now. On the other hand, the exchange for Doogie White allows TANK to open up their songwriting scheme beyond the proto punk, thrash and power metal elements that made them important (if often overlooked) figures of the NWOBHM. White can field TANK's fiercest cuts including newer songs "Feast of the Devil" and "Judgment Day" to band classics such as "This Means War", "Echoes of a Distant Battle", "Honour and Blood", "(He Fell In Love With a) Stormtrooper", "The War Drags Ever On" and "Power of the Hunter". He also brings a newer elegance to the band, which they display on "Grace of God", "Dreamers" and "Don't Dream in the Dark" from "War Nation".
"War Machine Live" shows TANK having to effectively cover two spots with Ward (as former bassist and vocalist) leaving the scene. Fortunately, the expansion to a quintet opens up their sound space with White and bassist Chris Dale covering more fills, thus creating a bulkier tone for the band. There's a slight relinquishment of the hunger that drove TANK's hallowed catalog beginning with 1982's "Filth Hounds of Hades". In turn, they opt more for precision. With the return of drummer Steve Hopgood, TANK is in as solid shape as ever to tromp the metal underground once again, this time with a bit more refinement than their rowdier days of "This Means War" and "Honour and Blood".
"War Machine Live" was filmed March 9, 2012 at the Stodola Club in Warsaw, Poland and while there must've been a cold feeling from the audience's side of the gaping barrier from the stage to allow for the track cameras, the presence onstage is hot enough to thaw their suggested angst. Doogie White has his flung-out audience in his paws from the get-go on "This Means War" and mainstay guitarists Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans draw from White's vigor. The set feels more dignified than outrageously heavy, even if the band rises to full combustion on the blazing "Power of the Hunter" and "The War Drags Ever On". As this set's closer, "The War Drags Ever On" represents both the climax and the exeunt, wrapping on such a high note you buy into the group's new concept wholeheartedly. Even better that Steve Hopgood looks every bit like a war machine on the kit. His attack is meticulous and restless, though he looks like he's hardly building a sweat. The clear calculation behind Hopgood's drumming is thus an awesome spectacle in itself.
In addition to the main performance, "War Machine Live" serves up a nice round of goodies including interviews with Doogie White, Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans. The interviews sound like they were captured in an echo chamber but they're pretty amusing insights, in particular to White, who may or may not be acting diva-cheeky in describing his minor demands on the road which include having his own hotel room. Other extras are the promo video for "War Nation", behind-the-scenes peeks into TANK's studio and road life, photo gallery and the bonus concert, "Live at Metal Hammer Festival 2011". The Metal Hammer show is especially worth digging into. While the sound quality is less superior to the Stodola Club gig, the Metal Hammer concert exposes the nuttier shades of TANK their fans have always loved.
As long as we can expect another live video spotlighting TANK's early years, "War Machine Live" is a perfectly acceptable companion piece to their vintage era as the band hails those days with appreciation and reverence for their diehards.