War Dogs - Die By My Sword
Fighter Records
Heavy Metal
10 songs (43:28)
Release year: 2020
Reviewed by Goat

Unashamedly retro in sound, Spain's War Dogs command immediate attention on this, their debut full-length. Musically somewhere between early Iron Maiden and Manilla Road, the band play traditional heavy metal with plenty of nods towards speed metal, power metal, and NWOBHM, and do so very well indeed. The twin-axe attack of guitarists Eduardo Antón and Enrique Mas is an immediate selling point, the two cranking out the riffs and leads consistently and are easily the best thing about Die By My Sword, making every song a pleasure to listen to. The able (and clearly audible) backing of bassist Manuel Molina and drummer José V. Aldeguer is just as solid, if less showy. Indeed, fans of 80s metal will find much to like from the instruments alone.

What fewer will agree on is vocalist Alberto Rodríguez. It feels harsh to call him Die By My Sword's main flaw, but he is the closest thing to a flaw that the album has. His accented singing voice is not the worst thing you'll have ever heard, but it sometimes verges on tuneless (that introductory yell on the otherwise terrific Master of Revenge, for instance) if never without charm. This sort of metal doesn't need a Dio-level vocal talent, after all, and given how the greatest singers out there are not the most technically beautiful (Bob Dylan, for an obvious example) it doesn't really damage War Dogs. Yet the vocals does take a little getting used to, particularly if you don't listen to a lot of this sort of throwback heavy metal...

Once you're adjusted, however, there's much to like about Die By My Sword. Songs are well-constructed, twisty little numbers driven by galloping riffs and although there's not a tremendous amount of variety on show meaning songs can seem repetitive, generally the standard is high enough to drive the album onwards. Touches like the gang-shouted chorus in Castle of Pain or the slightly more speed metal tone to Kill the Past are enough to keep things interesting, and guest vocalist Bryan Patrick of Manilla Road makes Mark Shelton tribute The Shark stand out, despite some clumsy lyrics. For a forty-odd minute album this is just long enough to satisfy; a little more songwriting experience and the band's natural talent will lead them into creating something even better. Die By My Sword is one hell of a debut, though.

Killing Songs :
Die By My Sword, Kill the Past, The Shark
Goat quoted 70 / 100
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