Warrior Soul, "Salutations From The Ghetto Nation" Album Review
Warrior Soul - "Salutations From the Ghetto Nation"
(DGC Records, 1992)
Warrior Soul should have been huge. There, I said it.
If you'd asked me which band was going to take heavy metal to a whole new level in in the early 1990s (and give the world a swift kick in the nut sack in the process), Kory Clarke and his NYC-bred crew of gutter rats would have been my answer. As they prepared to release their third album, Salutations From The Ghetto Nation, in 1992, they certainly seemed to have all the necessary firepower to break into the big time.
Their two prior albums had been critically acclaimed, and they were being managed by the same guys who handled heavy weights like Metallica and Queensryche. Most importantly, their brand-new album was packed with amazingly intense, literate, politically charged anthems delivered by a charismatic front man blessed with a big mouth and a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Rushmore. There was no way such an explosive combination possibly miss...yet somehow it did.
Warrior Soul was ultimately doomed to languish in obscurity, while Rage Against the Machine (who were preaching to the same choir) grabbed the brass ring and went on to become big time rock stars -- an oversight that will forever remain a mystery to me.
The First Listen...
Salutations From the Ghetto Nation hit me like a hand grenade when I first heard it in 1992. I seriously thought that this was the band that would save metal, which at the time was in danger of disappearing up its own ass. For those of you too young to remember, the early 1990s were a very dark time for metal fans. The Seattle Brigade had taken over MTV and radio, and much of metal's old guard was either being dropped by the major record labels, taking time-outs due to lineup troubles, or releasing sub-par albums hoping to coast a little further on the fumes of their past reputations.
It was also a very dark time for me personally. I had just graduated from college and was having no luck at securing a job in my chosen career field. I was still living with my parents, working a crappy minimum-wage retail job to pay the bills, I had no car, and no girlfriend. So yeah, basically, everything about life sucked at that point in time.
The dream seemed to be over, until the fateful day that Salutations' first track, "Love Destruction," came blasting out of my speakers on the local college radio station. I bought a copy of the CD based on that one track, and was thrilled that the rest of the album was just as catchy, intense, and pissed-off.
After that Molotov cocktail of an opening track, the buzzsaw guitars of John Ricco and Clarke's howling vocals gave me a crash course in cynical civics that could never be taught in any school. "Blown" and "Shine Like It" quickly proved that Warrior Soul weren't just another troop of pre-fab "tough guys," they walked it like they talked it. By the time I got to the shoulda-been-a-hit-single "Punk and Belligerent," with its irresistible, infectious refrain of "I don't give a, give a, give a, give a S**T!" I was ready to go outside and give somebody a "Clockwork Orange" style beat-down.
Clarke's contempt for the Republican Party had been a recurring theme on Warrior Soul's previous two albums but it was more pointed than ever on Salutations, especially on the corrosive "The Party" ("Infrastructure is wasted/and we're deaf to the crowd/nothin' left for the children/it's OK, we won't be around!"), whose lyrics seemed to be ripped directly from the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. "Ass Kickin'" and "I Love You" briefly break the tension with some good old fashioned goofball headbanging, which leads into the gorgeous, epic ballad "The Golden Shore" (even bad-asses like Kory Clarke have a soft side, y'know) before crashing into the one-two punch of final tracks "The Fallen" and "Ghetto Nation," which combined to paint a bleak picture of the declining American empire, whose youth is being swallowed up by the streets. The effect was absolutely devastating... yet at the same time it rocked like a ton of bricks. It was official, I had a new favorite band.
...fat lot of good it did me, or the band, for that matter. Just like their previous pair of albums, Salutations From the Ghetto Nation got great reviews, but stiffed on the charts. Record label tour support was non-existent, and within a year from the time I discovered them, Warrior Soul was falling apart. They released Chill Pill in '93, an occasionally interesting but mostly meandering art rock/post punk album, as a contract-fulfilling middle finger to the DGC label, and Kory assembled a new lineup for '95's The Space Age Playboys, an experiment in cyberpunk-influenced glam/party rock, which was fun... but it just wasn't the same.
In the mid 00's, Clarke relocated to Europe and built yet another new lineup of Warrior Soul. 21st century releases like Destroy the War Machine, Stiff Middle Finger and Back On The Lash still show some of the old fire, and I'm glad that Kory is still out there fightin' the good fight, but deep down I know that he will never top Salutations From the Ghetto Nation. More than a quarter century after its initial release, Salutations still sits atop my list of Desert Island Discs, and someday, I want it buried with me when I die. For one -- ONE -- brief goddamn shining moment, Warrior Soul almost had it all.
If only the world had bothered to listen.
This is one of the albums I want buried with me when I die.
© 2011 Keith Abt