In the hilariously low-budget video for the best heavy-metal single of the year, L.A. band White Wizzard escape a curiously non-homely witch brewing up frog eggs alongside her bearded inbred hunchback monk sidekick (who’s apparently obsessed with fluffy drapery), then go racing down a Western desert highway in their “High Speed GTO,” which is the name of the song. “So glad I got away! No way I’m gonna stay!” celebrates their babyfaced singer; like a few other tracks on their High Speed GTO EP (at least the ones that aren’t about marching skeletons and giant prehistoric sharks), it’s a super-catchy breaking-free-from-treacherous-girlfriend sing-along and car-club number, themes that haven’t exactly been metal staples in the quarter-century since the prime of Van Halen.
Yeah, that’s how Southern Californian they are. But on paper, at least, White Wizzard are potential lead players in a cross-national mini-movement said to draw inspiration from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, an almost mythic early-’80s pre-thrash moment of jean jackets, fast tempos, and poverty-driven production techniques, wherein both eventual stars (Def Leppard, Motörhead) and future footnotes (Tygers of Pan Tang) theoretically took DIY cues from punk and returned metal to lager-pint basics, until Slayer and their ilk decided being “extreme” mattered more than having hooks—which is to say they’re a welcome throwback to a time when metal lyrics were audible, and hence fun to make fun of.
On Earache Records’ instructive recent New Wave of New Wave of British Heavy Metal compilation Heavy Metal Killers, White Wizzard are also one of the few non-European bands—though it’s true that the sampler’s most notable song not about hot rods, the mind-bogglingly redundant s/m anthem “Chained Up in Chains,” comes from kids named Cauldron out of Anvil’s sweet home, Toronto. And if turn-of-the-’10s NWONWOBHM does have a U.S. headquarters, it’s clearly Cali, especially now that ex-Brooklynites Early Man are based there. L.A. has also got Trigger Renegade, whose Destroy Your Mind ranked with 2007’s ravingest rock albums; Jet Fuel and Night After Night made some killer tracks, too, before imploding.
Confusingly, so did White Wizzard: The lineup making its New York debut at Club Europa’s Brooklyn Thunder Fest this weekend (alongside onetime sports-uniform-clad Newcastle numbskulls Raven and old Manowar dictator Ross the Boss) shares only bassist Jon Leon with the lineup that recorded High Speed GTO—which is to say babyfaced escapee James-Paul Luna did indeed escape; the singer and two other ex–White Wizzards are now in a rival Pasadena outfit known as Holy Grail, who seem more given to poetry about Valhalla. In fact, as they practice more, both by-products of this band fission seem to be upping the theatrical bombast a bit—not the most promising sign. But White Wizzard’s new roster, rounded out now with provincial heshers from Florida and Michigan, is still coming up with cheerful new road-trip tunes like “40 Deuces” (“Shifting gears to ride the sky/My metal heart will never die”). A recent interview also has them welcoming tranny fans and admitting that, in metal these days, “There’s always some church-burning Norwegian warlock in the forest who’s badder than you.” Who needs that ugly crap, when you’ve got music’s most blown-out GTO since Ronny & the Daytonas?
White Wizzard play the Brooklyn Thunder Fest August 28 with Ross the Boss and Raven
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 25, 2009