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Warrior Soul: Uncompromising As Ever
Warrior Soul frontman Kory Clarke is still pissed off - at politicians, at big corporations, at the current state of the music business, and at just about everything and everybody else. For fans of his long running punk-influenced metal band, of course, this is a good thing.
Clarke and Warrior Soul have recently followed up their 2012 studio album, Stiff Middle Finger, with a new live-in-concert disc, Tough As F*ck: Live In Athens. The warts-n-all live recording, taped in 2016, shows Clarke and the current Soul lineup bashing out a raw-as-sushi set of old and new favorites in front of an appreciative Greek audience.
Throughout Warrior Soul's career, the band - and Clarke - have never been afraid to tell listeners what's on their minds as bluntly as possible. Mixing powerful, socially aware lyrics with head-crushing guitar riffs and in-your-face banshee vocals, Warrior Soul has never been a band for "everybody" -- but those that do "get it" are a loyal (some might say fanatical) breed.
"Junky Stripper" (2012)
The Early Years...
Warrior Soul is synonymous with lead vocalist/songwriter Kory Clarke, the little man with the big voice and even bigger attitude. He's been driving Warrior Soul's ship for more than two decades and has been the band's only constant member. If the universe were fair, this guy would've been a humongous rock star ages ago, but unfortunately things rarely turn out the way they should.
A native of Detroit, Clarke got his feet wet in that city's punk rock scene in the late 70s/early '80s, first as a drummer and then as a vocalist in local bands like L-Seven (not to be confused with the early 90s all-girl punk band "L7" from Los Angeles) and The Trial, who went off to L.A. to record an album that was eventually shelved. Relocating to New York, Kory threw himself into the city's bohemian/activist scene and made a name for himself as a mixed media/spoken word artist. His one-man rants about the dangers of big government and mega-corporations backed by tape loops, video screens and drum machines attracted attention, and one fateful night an admirer reportedly told Kory that if he really wanted to get his message out to the masses, he needed to form a band. Inspired, Kory predicted that he'd have the "best rock band in New York City" within six months and he kept his word, quickly forming an assault force that he called Warrior Soul.
Influenced by classic rabble rousers like Iggy Pop and the MC5, Warrior Soul specialized in powerful, emotional heavy metal anthems spiked with the lyrical nihilism of the best punk rock. The buzz was on, and the band was signed by DGC Records - an imprint of major label Geffen - to a multi-album deal that was reportedly worth a million dollars. Everyone in the industry seemed sure that Warrior Soul would be "the next big thing" in short order. So why didn't it happen?
"Love Destruction" (1992)
The Major Label Meat Grinder...
Despite Clarke's best efforts at making Warrior Soul into a household name, the band never truly caught fire in their homeland despite some killer records and their rep as a "must see" live act. 1990's debut Last Decade Dead Century -- featuring such classic tracks as "The Losers," "We Cry Out," and "Superpower Dreamland" -- received critical acclaim, but radio was resistant and the album languished on store shelves. 1991's drugs, god and the new republic (the all lower-case is theirs, not mine) fared slightly better thanks to the singles "The Wasteland" and "Hero," but a U.S. arena tour opening for Queensryche was a disaster; the progressive metal band's fans were unwilling to listen to Clarke's screams from the pulpit. The band received a warmer reception in Europe, where they toured the continent opening for Metallica and became a favorite of the British hard-rock mag Kerrang, who once raved that "Warrior Soul is one of the most important bands rock has seen."
By the time 1992's Salutations from the Ghetto Nation hit record stores, Clarke was at war with the Geffen company, accusing their label of focusing all of their promotional efforts on proven money-makers like Nirvana and Guns N' Roses (who certainly didn't need the help) and leaving Warrior Soul to wither on the vine. Salutations was the Soul's major label high point, featuring blistering cuts like "Love Destruction," "Punk and Belligerent," and the epic ballad "The Golden Shore." Take it from me, folks, if you can only own one Warrior Soul record, make sure it's this one. When Salutations faded away, the band was trapped in a downward spiral of drugs, egos, resentment, and debt. 1993's Chill Pill was the band's final Geffen release, and it was a bizarre, minimalist art-rock record, almost totally devoid of the hooks and choruses that had been Warrior Soul's trademark. Clarke later explained that Chill Pill was weird and anti-commercial on purpose and was intended as a "f**k you" to their label, since the band knew Geffen wouldn't promote it anyway. They were correct, and Geffen cut Warrior Soul loose shortly after Chill Pill's release. The "classic" lineup of Warrior Soul splintered and the dream seemed to be over.
Ready for another fight...
Undaunted, Clarke assembled a new lineup (bassist Pete McClanahan was the only holdover from the previous band) and signed to the venerable U.K. hard rock label Music For Nations to release 1995's The Space Age Playboys. Punk rock was "in" during the mid 90s and Warrior Soul adjusted their sound accordingly. Describing their new vibe as "cyberpunk," the album was still angry and catchy but decidedly less metallic than their previous output. Playboys received a belated U.S. release via Mayhem Records and while reviews were positive once again, the band fell apart soon afterwards. A posthumous 1996 release of B-sides, demos and other unreleased material entitled Odds and Ends seemed to signal the end of the Soul. Fortunately, that wasn't the case; it just took a while for them to be resurrected.
Ya Can't Keep A Good Man Down!
Even while Warrior Soul was out of commission, Clarke consistently kept his name out there with a variety of projects. First came the Space Age Playboys, a glammy punk band that took its name from WS' final album and continued with the "cyberpunk" sound heard on that record. Space Age Playboys released two discs (New Rock Underground in 1998 and 1999's Live In London) in Europe before imploding. He also cut a record with scuzz-rockers Dirty Rig (Rock Did It, 2006), released a solo album in 2007 called Opium Hotel and drummed on a four song EP by New York retro rockers The Stoned. As if his musical plate wasn't already full enough, Kory joined Mob Research, an industrial/punk flavored project with former Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven. Their debut Holy City Zoo was the last recording Raven worked on prior to his death in 2007.
Most surprisingly, Kory spent a couple of years as lead singer of the venerable Chicago doom-metal band Trouble, replacing legendary vocalist Eric Wagner. Clarke performed live shows with Trouble between 2008 and 2012 and started working on a new studio album with them, but left before any material could be completed, citing the ever-popular "personal differences." Thus, the only Trouble recording he appears on is their self released concert disc, Live In L.A.
"Fourth Reich" (2009)
Return of the Soul!
Warrior Soul was still Kory's baby, of course, and it was inevitable that he'd eventually resurrect the beast. The "classic" Warrior Soul lineup tried reuniting for a 1999 collection of re-recorded "greatest hits" called Classics but the "reunion" never went anywhere. By the mid '00s, Kory assembled yet another new Warrior Soul, backed by veterans of the European punk scene. The subsequent tour was met with great acclaim and resulted in the 2007 concert album Live In England. New studio material surfaced in 2009 when the band self-released a new album jokingly titled Chinese Democracy, in an obvious tweak to a certain, errrr, "other" band who'd been holding onto that title for way too long. When the small indie label Acetate Records came into the picture to re-release the album in 2010, its title was changed (for obvious reasons) to Destroy the War Machine. It was a killer comeback, with an equal balance of politically charged, angry tracks ("The Fourth Reich," "Pigs") and good old fashioned slam-worthy dumb-ass punk-rock throwdowns ("She's Glaswegian," "Bad News (Rock N Roll Boyfriend)," "Motor City"). Fans screamed for more, and Warrior Soul was happy to oblige with a Stiff Middle Finger just in time for the 2012 Election year. Now the new live album provides further evidence that Warrior Soul is still Tough As F*ck even after all these years.
Keep givin'em Hell, Kory. Long live the Soul!
Here's to the Losers!
WARRIOR SOUL Discography...
Last Decade Dead Century - DGC, 1990
drugs, god and the new republic - DGC, 1991
Salutations From the Ghetto Nation - DGC, 1992
Chill Pill - DGC, 1993
The Space Age Playboys - Music For Nations, 1995
Odds and Ends (aka Fucker) - Mayhem, 1996
Classics - Spitfire, 1999
Live in England. - Cargo, 2007
Destroy the War Machine - Acetate, 2009
Stiff Middle Finger - Cargo, 2012
Tough As F*ck: Live In Athens - Cargo Records/Livewire, 2016