The War theme continues on this, the second release from Tank’s comeback lineup, with ubiquitous gun-for-hire Doogie (Rainbow/Malmsteen/Schenker) White again adding a sheen of vocal sophistication to the band’s classic metal sound. White’s been around so long now that anything bearing his vocal imprint cannot immediately be dated. His voice straddles several decades of rock and metal transition, and that’s a distinct advantage for a band with a past. After 10 years in business, Tank ceased trading in 1989, only to start up again in 1997, with White replacing original vocalist, Algy Ward. In their original guise, as befitting the band name, their music was a melodic metal battlefield, full of unabashed, brazen power and steel reinforced riffs. This new iteration has toned things down, jettisoned all ballast and concentrated on the fundamentals.
So no, they don’t do anything new or spectacular, but what they do they do damn well. This is the stuff of Dio, Saxon and other practitioners of classic metal…compact, punchy and melodic. And although it veers toward melodrama, the album boasts a decent quotient of strong songs among its clarion calls and compassionate tales of the downtrodden. Politicised metal is an unusual commodity, and the so called ‘Arab Spring’ may not immediately come to mind as an ideal song subject, but the title track, ’War Nation’, opening the album – a little muddy in meaning perhaps – gets an emphatic yet sympathetic performance from White, turning it into a low key Cri de Coeur.
Nothing really ignites but almost everything smoulders satisfyingly. White’s wailing musical tones breathe fiery life into the glowing embers of the quasi religious ‘Hammer And Nails’ and the phantasmagoric ‘Dream In The Dark’, causing the odd spark to fly and fluttering flames to flicker.
Elsewhere – and too often – the album trips over ponderous passages of cliched lyrics and plodding rifferama…’welcome to my nightmare’ indeed. That said, White’s voice has matured and evolved subtly over the years, often adding a veneer of operatic grandeur to otherwise ordinary tracks – like ‘Dreamers’ and ‘Justice For All’ – carrying them triumphantly through the banality of the lyrics. And on classier stuff, like ‘Grace Of God’ (sounding remarkably like John Schlitt) and ‘Wings Of Heaven’ for example, he matches Mick Tucker’s and Cliff Evans’s swarming solos and lively, uncluttered riffs pound for pound, making the music soar.
All in all, ‘War Nation’ is a worthy addition to the Tank canon (sorry), but may struggle to recruit new fans.
Rated 6 out of 10