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Warrior Soul - "Salutations From the Ghetto Nation" (1992) album review
Warrior Soul - Salutations From the Ghetto Nation (DGC Records, 1992)
Warrior Soul should have been huge. There, I said it. If there was one band that deserved a chance to take metal to a whole new level in the 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 was it. This band certainly seemed to have all the necessary firepower to break into the big time as they prepared to release Album #3 in 1992 -- a bulging catalog of critically-acclaimed, killer anthems, a major label deal and big time management, and most importantly, a brand-new set of amazingly angry, literate, politically charged songs delivered by a charismatic frontman who was blessed with a big mouth and a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Rushmore. How could such an explosive combination possibly miss? Yet Warrior Soul was doomed to languish in obscurity, while Rage Against the Machine (who were basically preaching to the same choir as W.S.) grabbed the brass ring and went on to become big time rock stars -- an oversight that will forever remain a mystery to me.
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 heads. The Seattle Brigade had taken over MTV and radio, and much of metal's old guard was either being dropped from their labels, taking time-outs due to lineup troubles, or merely releasing sub-par records in the hopes of coasting a little further on the fumes of their 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. Basically, everything about life pretty much sucked at that point in time.
In other words...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. It was catchy, it was intense, it was fresh, and it sounded just as pissed-off as I felt. FINALLY! Someone I could rally behind! 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 the first track was no fluke and 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 intense hatred for Republicans is all over this record (it had been a recurring theme on the previous two discs as well), but it's more pointed than ever on the absolutely 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.
This is one of the albums I want buried with me when I die.
...fat lot of good it did me, or the band, for that matter. Salutations From the Ghetto Nation stiffed on the charts, just like the band's previous pair of albums. Record label 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. The Space Age lineup fizzled, and the dream seemed to be over.
In the mid 00's, Kory Clarke relocated to Europe and built yet another new lineup of Warrior Soul. Their 2009 home-brewed release, Destroy the War Machine, showed some of the old fire, and the recent Stiff Middle Finger is another angry, ass-kickin' good time. I'm glad that Kory is still fightin' the good fight, but deep in my heart I know that this band will never top Salutations From the Ghetto Nation. 25 (!) years after its initial release, it 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 could have had it all.
If only the world had bothered to listen.