Artist: Warrior Path
Album Title: The Mad King
Label: Symmetric Records
Date of Release: 5 March 2021
I have been a fan of Daniel Heiman for many years, dating back to the very first time I heard his vocal skills with Lost Horizon on their two studio albums released at the beginning of the Millennium. I loved those two records and I mourn the apparent passing of the Swedish power metal band. I’d never previously heard of Warrior Path, but when I heard, quite by accident that Heiman had joined, to replace Yannis Papadopoulos (Beast In Black) there was no doubt in my mind that I had to give Warrior Path’s new album, ‘The Mad King’ a listen.
Formed in the last few years, Warrior Path already have one full-length album under their belt, their self-titled debut in 2019. And, with some further research, it turns out that Heiman isn’t the only familiar name within the fold. At the helm is guitarist and songwriter Andreas Sinanoglou who, alongside drummer Dave Rundle, have welcomed the renowned musician and producer Bob Katsionis (Firewind, Serious Black, etc.) to the band to help provide those twin guitar harmonies that are such a feature of NWOBHM and power metal, particularly the European variety.
After a slightly slow start where my lofty expectations felt a little let down, I have grown to become incredibly fond of ‘The Mad King’. I have spent a great deal of time listening to this sophomore album and the more I listen, the more I seem to like it; the hooks in the choruses lodge themselves deeper in my brain, the Maiden-esque dual guitar harmonies become more infectious and pleasing to the ear, the solos create a bigger impact, and the riffs carry with them a greater sense of power and urgency. The whole thing just feels as if it gets more and more epic as time goes by. And then there are the vocals. Oh my, how I truly have missed Mr Heiman. The guy is one of the most talented metal vocalists currently in action and he adds another dimension to the music upon which he sings – just check out the final minutes of the closing track ‘Last Tale’ if you’re worried that the guy has lost any of his magic.
In fact, allow me to revise my thoughts at this juncture, as ‘fond’ is not the right description of my feelings towards ‘The Mad King’. This is a brilliant album that I love and which is becoming more and more difficult to remove from my playlist. I have other great records to review but right now, they’re not getting a look-in. And it’s a delight to feel this way about power metal, given the past year or so for the genre.
Despite the subject matter surrounding this album which is dark in places – it is, after all about the madness of a ruler – ‘The Mad King’ does to me what truly great power metal should do. It makes me feel happy, it energises me, it is uplifting, and it makes me feel alive. And goodness knows we need that kind of positivity in our lives right now.
The brooding clean guitar intro to ‘It Has Begun’, with noticeable keys courtesy of Andreas Sinanoglou for added atmosphere sets the tone before the speakers are destroyed by a ballsy opening riff that carries a fair amount of heaviness. The pace picks up until we’re catapulted straight into full-on NWOBHM gallop mode, complete with nice guitar melodies, leads and a rock solid rhythm section. It’s essentially a sub-three-minute instrumental intro that sets the scene expertly for what’s about to follow over the course of the next 49 minutes or so.
Before picking any of the other nine songs for specific praise, it has to be said that there is no such thing as a weak track to be found; no filler, nothing skip-worthy. This is an album that can be played from start to finish without any problem whatsoever.
The title track is the first ‘proper’ song to emerge after the opening instrumental and it wastes no time in making an impact with a fantastic dual guitar riff and a melody that grows with repeated listens. Surprisingly, the song then veers off into quieter theatrical territory briefly, complete with clean guitars, the sounds of a medieval banquet or some such. And then, in comes the speed, the urgency, and the spinetingling wail of Heiman, signalling his arrival. The riffs are vibrant, the rhythms are powerful and authoritative, and the lyrics tell a story, all topped off my a grower of a chorus. The Maiden-isms are there to be heard, but they don’t cloud the identity that Warrior Path have; this isn’t an original approach, but rather a blending of various NWOBHM and power metal influences to create a rather intoxicating listening experience.
‘His Wrath Will Fall’ is another brisk number, full of riffs, vibrant lead solos, instantly catchy hooks and a big chorus that you can’t help singing along to, although I suspect none of us will be able to hit some of Heiman’s lung-busting notes, especially within the ‘woah-ohhhh’ sections. ‘Beast Of Hate’ carries a similar style, being a bold up-tempo and uplifting composition full of European power metal intent executed with panache.
Arguably my favourite song on the album at the current time is the truly wonderful ‘Savage Tribe’. Kicking off with the sound of a hunting horn, it varies its pace nicely but generally sits more at a mid-tempo. The early melodies have a vague folk feel to them, but it is the mid-section where the true magic happens. The heaviness departs to reveal a gentle acoustic guitar bathed in atmospheric synths before building to a shiver-inducing epic, heroic lead guitar-led melodic section. It doesn’t matter how often I listen, that part gets me every time – it’s stunning.
I love the way that Warrior Path use sound effects to help tell the story throughout the album, but in a sparing, clever way that keeps the cheese at bay. ‘Avenger’ begins with a spoken-word section from Heiman alongside the sound of rolling thunder. The ensuing track boasts one of the grooviest riffs that gets the body moving whether you want it to or not, the bass playing a pivotal role in the throbbing heartbeat of the song.
‘Out From The Shadows’ is one of the most immediate tracks, as well as demonstrating ballad-like moments within it. It’s a great example of Andreas Sinanoglou’s songwriting abilities, in that ‘epic’ doesn’t have to mean ‘long’. The ground this track covers, including a delicious Maiden-influenced dual guitar harmony, up-beat moments, introspection, and effervescent lead solos is impressive given the sub-five-minute run time.
As I said before, there’s an impressive consistency across ‘The Mad King’ in terms of song writing and individual performances, meaning that there’s not a wasted minute anywhere. And when you add on a really nice production job from Bob Katsionis that feels warm, inviting and smooth, there’s a clear argument to suggest that we have a new contender for power metal album of 2021. ‘The Mad King’ will not disappoint in any shape or form. If you’re a fan of power metal, then Warrior Path have delivered an essential album for your collection.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: