OVERLORD – Back into the Dragon’s Lair CD
Heaven and Hell Records
I’m all for modern bands who have grasped that spirit of Metal’s early days and have tried their best to recreate it for today’s fans. In the past few years we’ve seen a fair share of bands going the retro route by bringing back the sounds of Thrash, New Wave of British Heavy Metal as well as the classic 70’s Hard Rock/Heavy Metal style. As all of that is fine with me I still stand behind the original artists who first broke ground. Furthermore I think it’s even cooler if you find some obscure band from back then who were regional favorites plus had the chops of the well known acts but unfortunately never made it. Years ago we would comb through the vinyl bins everywhere we saw used records for sale or trade cassettes through the mail. Nowadays it’s Ebay to the rescue or you can turn to the connoisseur record labels that specialize in unearthing the originals or atleast modern bands who sound so close to it you’d be fooled. Heaven and Hell Records is one of those labels who have become standard bearers in that realm of Metal cool. This latest one find will give one of those “holy shit this is cool as fuck” moments. It did to me.
OVERLORD were one of those could’ve, should’ve but didn’t bands from the 80’s and 90s. They hailed from Canada but didn’t sound like RUSH or TRIUMPH who were both big boys back then and no they didn’t sound like ANVIL either. Although OVERLORD did manage to record some obscure EPs and demos back in their heyday it was the inability to sustain a permanent lineup plus the ever changing frontier of the music scene which finally put an end to their hopes of becoming more than just another band out of Ontario. The band was started by two high school pals Mark Platt on guitar and Branko Zuga on bass back in 1984. This duo was the backbone of the band and spent over a decade adding various other musicians to the line-up in order to keep their musical dreams alive. Back into the Dragon’s Lair is a best of compilation which showcases the band’s creative output. For anyone out there who needs their early PRIEST/MERCYFUL FATE prescription filled then the first part of this dink will medicate you quite nicely. Once you hear the opening cut on here “X-Rated Man” you’ll swear that’s a fuckin JUDAS PRIEST outtake. The same can be said for “Endless Sun” as well. These first few cuts come from a four song self titled EP recorded back in 85. This was with their first vocalist, Colin Wilkinson, who alternates between Halford and King Diamond as far as vocal styles go and is way better than Ripper Owens. The song “Distant Orphan” could be a MERCYFUL FATE outtake from Don’t Break the Oath. I’d say the first four cuts on here, plus the fifth song “Walk Softly” from a single song 1988 demo, are worth the price of admission.
Next up the band’s sound as well as style changes significantly with a bunch of cuts from their various demos they recorded in the 1990s one of which was titled Into the Dragon’s Lair. It’s at this point where we’ve got new vocalist Jim Feeney into the lineup. The band’s sound comes close to Sonic Temple era CULT with Feeney doing a spot on Ian Astbury, and Platt’s riffs mimicking Billy Duffy. Their songs from this period like “Midnite Flight” and “White Witch” carry that strong mainstream Hard Rock production quality that I’m surprised they never made it into AOR rotation. The final cuts on here appear from the band’s final outing which was their Open Eye EP from 1983. The band still carries that CULT influence except now they’ve added touches of funk progression which was in form for it’s time. You listen to songs like “Mind Slide” or “Never Enough” and wonder how the fuck did this band not make it big especially by early 90’s standards of popular Rock music. Those guys from VH-1’s That Metal Show could’ve been interviewing the members of OVERLORD instead of their usual ex-members of KISS or sobered up has-beens of Glam Metal. As far as this CD goes, It’s a pretty cool collection that not only showcases their progression from 80’s to 90’s Metal but also gives some justice to a band who were just as good as their peers.