Christopher Owens rescues a band from unjustified obscurity.
It's amazing how some bands just fall in between the cracks.
In theory, Warfare should be mentioned in the same breath as Venom, Tank and Motorhead. Bands who took the raw energy of punk, wielded it onto metal and created some of the most gloriously unpretentious, noisy and obnoxious music ever.
Instead, they're often relegated to a footnote in metal's history. That's if they get mentioned at all.
And this just isn't on.
Warfare drummer/main man Paul 'Evo' Evans first made his name with The Blood. A London based punk band, they made their name at the tail end of Oi!, by producing 'False Gestures for a Devious Public.' One of the first punk bands to get good reviews in metal papers, songs like 'Degenerate' clearly set the template for Warfare, with raucous vocals, big choruses and pounding drums.
After leaving The Blood and joining the legendary Angelic Upstarts, Evo began to form the idea of Warfare (undoubtedly inspired by Motorhead and Venom). Quickly nabbing a deal with Neat Records, 'Pure Filth' served as the introduction to the band.
Although packed with great songs (and the three members of Venom on 'Rose Petals Fell From Her Face'), the production from Tank front man Algy Ward was rather tame.
For 'Metal Anarchy', the band enlisted Lemmy as producer as well as future Motorhead producer Guy Bidmead as engineer. According to Evo, "...we had to get him in between a short break in their Euro tour, but he was booked to produce The Ramones...so the phone rang and he asked did we think we could record and produce the LP in four days? We had no choice but to go for it..."
Although that has been used as a stick by some to beat the album with, I've no issue with it. More bombast, more power and more satisfying than their debut, 'Metal Anarchy' is proof that bands produce their best work under pressure.
First thing that hits you about this album is the cover. Although I'm not sure why guitarist Gunner is represented as a woman, or if Evo's meant to have had his fingers eaten off (or is it a heart), it sums up the essence of the album: loud, in your face and filled with leather, bristle, studs and acne.
Opening with a sample of 'The Sound of Music' before giving way to Evo's manic laugh and a barrage of drums and riffing, 'Electric Mayhem' bears more than a passing resemblance to GBH (no bad thing at all). This really was crossover before crossover.
Chorus wise, Evo's half sneered/half tongue in cheek vocals soars over the mayhem and Gunner's guitar solo
'Warfare' features a seriously groovy descending riff, and lyrics about how "the fire burns the flesh/exposure leads to death." It's a moody number until it gets to the halfway point. Then it speeds up into a frenzied solo, not sounding a million miles away from what Metallica were doing at the time.
'Death Vigilance' is pure Motorhead worship, with some particularly outlandish wailing from Evo. The first section of 'Wrecked Society' has more than a hint of 'Fade to Black' in it's DNA (right down to the riffing when the word "free" is uttered), but it then turns into a galloping, Iron Maiden style epic.
The title track is one of the great unsung metal classics. Everything about sounds like it's played by three drunken wasters, and feels like it's about to collapse at any second. But it sounds amazing. Fist pumping chorus as well, simple and yet so satisfying.
And they really did believe it.
Around that time, so the story goes, the band was asked to open for Metallica at the Hammersmith Odeon, but were expected to pay for their own expenses. In protest, they played in the parking lot during the show, where Evo threw his mic stand at the Odeon manager’s car and smashed the Warfare truck into seven parked cars, resulting in enough damage to land the band in court on criminal charges.
He was later quoted as saying "Fuckin' anarchy... Total anarchy... Cars smashed up... Noses bust... Police everywhere... Truck windows put out... God it was fuckin' wonderful!"
Truly, nice boys don't play rock n roll.
'Metal Anarchy' was a peak which the band would never reach again. Although 'Mayhem Fucking Mayhem' and 'A Conflict of Hatred' are fine records in their own right, they don't begin to compare to the fury of what came before. And 1990's 'Hammer Horror' saw the band take a drastic left turn by indulging in their love for the works of the British film studio.
A perfectly fine record, but not a Warfare record.
Since then, very little besides compilations.
Evo seems to be both aware and deluded about Warfare's place in history (quite a combination, I'm sure you'll agree). Asked about a potential Warfare reunion, he said: "If I did, which I wont, Warfare would be playing somewhere much bigger i.e. Wacken or Sweden Rocks etc. As I’ve said many times before there was a time, and its gone, I keep getting asked but always refuse."
'Metal Anarchy' has been overlooked in recent years, presumably due to falling out of print (although a reissue campaign last year saw the back catalogue getting the treatment it deserves) and the band's somewhat embarrassing fall from grace with 'Hammer Horror.'
But forget all that, this is the ultimate Friday night record. All you need to do is crank this one loud, drink a few and feel the power.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.