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CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: Soldier – ‘Sins Of the Warrior’

CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: Soldier – ‘Sins Of the Warrior’
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Soldier – ‘Sins Of the Warrior’ (DISS034CDD)

Originally released on Heavy Metal Records, HMR XD 245, November 2005

Probably best known for their one and only single ‘Sheralee’, released in 1982, Soldier picked up the tag of ‘the band that got away’, in that they never made an album back in the exciting days of the New Wave Of Heavy Metal. And that’s despite the fact that a contract was offered by Heavy Metal Records and they had a wealth of great material just begging to be recorded. It didn’t help that the band’s line-up was subject to numerous comings and goings. Formed in the second half of 1979 by guitarist Ian Dick, Soldier started out with fellow guitarist Al Cannam, bassist Ram Tiwary and drummer Steve Garner. Garry Phillips joined on vocals in March 1980, but later that year Steve Barlow and Ian Astrop came in as new recruits on bass and drums respectively, and Al Cannam left.  A change behind the kit saw Steve Taylor replacing Ian Astrop; a second guitarist Nick Bicknell was recruited; and then, although he was unhappy with the way things were going anyway, Ian Dick found himself sacked from his own band, his place being taken by Nick Lashley. It was around this time that Heavy Metal Records waved a contract in their direction, but collectively they decided to hold out for bigger and better things. “That,” says Ian, “was the final straw for Steve Barlow, and he quit. Vocalist Garry Phillips quit or was fired,” he adds, and although Soldier carried on with Phil Lewis (ex-Girl) for a while Soldier faded into obscurity.

Nudged back into action by the interest being taken in the NWOBHM once more, the original four-piece line-up recorded the ‘Infantrycide’ EP in 2003, and – in a bizarre twist of irony – the revamped Heavy Metal Records offered Soldier a deal once again. This time the band signed on the dotted line, and the result was ‘Sins Of the Warrior’. Not that things were quite that simple, of course…

“I think we were all frustrated that we never released ‘The Album’ which all the other bands managed to do back then, so this was a biggie for us,” says Ian. “Also, some of the old songs such as ‘Starhaven’, which was a real crowd pleaser, we never got round to recording.”  As an aside, Ian is happy to admit to that particular song’s roots. “I remember playing a gig back in the day and an album was being played over the PA. I wanted to know who this was as I’d never heard anything like it. It turns out it was Rush” – the track that bewitched the guitarist was ‘Freewill’ from ‘Permanent Waves’ – “and after listening to their music I (along with countless other musicians!) ripped them off and wrote ‘Starhaven’!”

‘Sins Of The Warrior’ was planned to be a mixture of the older songs that had never been recorded properly and some of Ian’s newly-penned material, but early in the proceedings Ian Astrop left. “I’d written ‘Murderous Night’ and Ian just couldn’t get his head round it, so sadly we parted ways leaving the three of us to crack on with no drummer.”  A replacement was found in Steve Hamper, a session player with a broad CV who, despite not being a rock drummer, completed the album to everyone’s satisfaction. “Then,” recalls Ian, “I was talking to someone about music after we’d finished ‘Sins Of The Warrior’, and this chap mentioned that his son Alex was a drummer. So we auditioned Alex for the band and he was good – really good – and we were really impressed… Once we’d met Alex we knew we’d have to re-record the album to include him. He was only eighteen years old at the time, but he was such a dynamic drummer.”

The change of drummer also led to a change of tracks, with ‘I’m Taken In’, ‘Under the Gun’ and ‘Man From Berlin’ being sidelined to make way for ‘In My Room’, the Alter Bridge sounding ‘I Still Believe’, ‘Fire In My Heart’ and ‘Natural High’, creating a longer and perhaps more cohesive album. One of the many things that makes ‘Sins Of The Warrior’ so interesting is the way it seamlessly blends material from way back when – written by a variety of collaborators within the band – with the new songs from Ian. ‘Storm Of Steel’ was probably the first song most people heard from the band when it appeared in its original form on the ‘Heavy Metal Heroes’ compilation in 1981, yet it rubs shoulders effortlessly with the drummer-troubling ‘Murderous Night’.  The album hangs together beautifully, and crackles with life from start to finish: the solo that runs out in the title track is a finger-knotting beauty.

‘Sins Of The Warrior’ forged the way for two further albums of wholly new material, ‘Dogs Of War’ and ‘Defiant’ . Unfortunately, it looks like this year’s ‘Storm Rider’ EP will be the band’s swan song, but, hey, never say never…

To buy ‘Sins Of The Warrior’ please click on the links below: