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Fight - K5: The War Of Words - Demos (CD)

K5: The War Of Words - Demos
by Alex Zervanos at 31 December 2007, 7:48 PM

From clean-voiced art-rocker in bell-bottoms to the menacing raspy shout of a law-breaking, bank-robbing priest… From impeccably automated arena-rock entertainer to banshee-screaming, Nosferatu-like hell-patroller… None of Rob Halford's many intricate transformations was as indicative of his restless artistic temperament as his nineties' risky reinvention as a cutting-edge alternative-thrasher.

Right after introducing himself to a younger audience through collaborations with the likes of SKID ROW and PANTERA, and months before typically parting ways with JUDAS PRIEST, Rob went on to recruit the members of his first solo project. Starring PRIEST's Scott Travis on drums, the newly formed group was flown into Phoenix during the summer of '92 in order to rehearse several songs their legendary inviter had developed during the final months of the Painkiller tour. FIGHT were warming up for what was to be a landmark recording, '93's War Of The Words, a triumphant metal classic that managed to update Painkiller's primal scream by channeling the latter's urgent aggressiveness through stripped-down orchestrations and street-style intensity, matched with decidedly confrontational, socially relevant lyrics.

One week into these introductory sessions Halford decided to hit record and put down some tracks of the tunes so that the band could reference them as the process continued. The results were then shelved under the code-name K5, and …laid to rest until now. It's been about fourteen years since those turbulent times and the Metal God, back on his throne as JUDAS PRIEST's frontman and finally at ease with his past, his ambiguous nature and his legendary status, has decided to resurrect these demos as part of a full-blown, exhaustingly detailed summation of his solo work, repackaged, expanded and reissued by his own recently launched label.

Bear witness to treason… K5 punches in with Into The Pit's astonishingly violent frenzy. War Of Words's infamously powerful opening track has over the years lost none of its shock value, Halford's eloquent verbal assault still comes across as immediately unsettling as portentous newsflash. The early version of the track featured here is slightly different to the one included in FIGHT's debut, as the latter's mixture of Travis' non stop double-kicking and the guitars' machine-gun riffing is substituted during this edition's verses for a groovier, galloping drum pattern supported by a simple yet effective succession of occasionally harmonized power chords. This twist opens things up for the vocals to shine brighter than ever, and Roy Z's masterful multi-track mixing of six of the demos of songs finally included in the original 1993 release makes sure that the extra space provided by the naturally sparser orchestrations is used to bring the Metal God's charismatic performances to the forefront.
The Californian producer's spirited knob-twiddling results in a sound that essentially echoes War Of Words' sonic ampleness, but ultimately gets rid of the extra studio sheen that had constrained some of the material's exhilarating crudeness the first time around. K5's incarnations of both Into The Pit and the title track finally reveal the true grinding power that had always been lurking deep in these tunes' metallic structures, unleashing to the world two priceless scream-fests that have to be heard to be believed, two gems loaded with the most fearsome shrieking imaginable, pricelessly and undeniably documenting Rob's passionate audacity to risk abusing his vocal chords to the outer limits of their physical ability, even when simply recording a demo.
Nailed To The Gun's skull-crushing mid-tempo sounds even more furious in this context and finds Halford letting go of all kinds of singing control, manically loosening it up to the point of almost exhausting his voice, which can be heard virtually cracking during the song's noisily intense climax. Life In Black's dark tale of romantic disillusion turned to vengeful, solitary slow-burn to madness is enriched by a strained, emotionally charged vocal delivery, its ill-fated hero fading into the depths of hatred in a way that is as painfully convincing as it is decadently romantic. Contortion is hereby evidenced to have initially had some Garage-y soul squeezed into its colorless industrial heart, while For All Eternity is this release's real calling card, led by a heartfelt, devastating interpretation courtesy of his metallic majesty, a dazzlingly skilled manipulator of dramatically charged rock right at the top of his game. Tears could well up in your eyes if you ever bump into this, possibly the ultimate edition of this haunting confession of a ballad.

K5 additionally treats us into five previously unreleased songs, all of them recorded during the aforementioned rehearsal sessions. Roy Z has been called in to work his magic on three of them: Now You Die is a hostile celebration of a child-killer's facing death sentence, crafted into a rather energetic mid-paced head-banger. Down is a simple, melodic, catchy trip to nihilistic melancholia, for the sake of which Halford cleverly juxtaposes the lyrics' mournful acceptance of loss with a gravelly, majestic, low-registered tenor (an approach quite similar to the one he would much later re-adopt for Crucible's epic Golgotha), thus giving flesh to the focal antithesis that makes the song tick. Dead Men Talk is an enigmatically demonic thriller, loosely themed around some kind of paranoid conspiracy theory. The rest two of the new-old cuts are present in their original 1992 DAT demo mixes, which means that they sound really, really thin.
Forbidden, based around a central two-chord sequence distantly reminiscent of FAITH NO MORE's Kindergarten feels more like a song sketch than a clear song concept, and is, in this ragged edition, as close to negligible as anything with Rob's voice on can be, which - some would say - is still far enough. Beast Denies's case is radically different, as its viscerally evocative, eerily cacophonous portrait of a lustful, anti-Christian, shadowy lord, complete with typical aggro-riffage, distorted vocals and a whispery acoustic segment, is definitely worth a listen.

With three War Of Words songs bafflingly omitted, namely Little Crazy, the outstanding Immortal Sin and Reality: A New Beginning, K5's track-listing is rounded up by two super-harsh sounding, aurally tiresome demo mixes of  Laid To Rest and Vicious, an equally unrefined yet magnificently chaotic rendition of  Kill It, a War Of Words hidden track almost identical to its previously issued, already demo-like form, and another surprise tune straight from FIGHT's sophomore release (the stubbornly lo-fi, uncompromisingly experimental A Small Deadly Space), Psycho Suicide, which gets upgraded from a odd ghost song drowned in intentionally uncontrolled white noise to a fully remixed, pristine rocker, and improbably pulls off the difficult task of remaining …weird!

This release is a must-have for the completist, a more than essential purchase of significant musical and emotional value for the die-hard Rob Halford fan and a useful companion to an important album of nineties metal for those who either dug FIGHT's debut album in the first place, or found themselves this much away from effortlessly enjoying it . For Rock'n'Roll know-it-all nerds it will provide an interesting, insightful retrospective look at a crucial period in the career of a genre-defining artist.

Anyone who is less than averagely interested in the Metal God's music and legacy should of course keep away.

4 Star Rating

Into The Pit
Nailed To The Gun
Now You Die
Life In Black
Kill It
War Of Words
Psycho Suicide
Beast Denies
Laid To Rest
Jesus Saves
Dead Men Talk
For All Eternity
Rob Halford - Vox
Brian Tilse - Guitars
Russ Parrish - Guitars
Jay Jay - Bass
Scott Travis - Drums
Record Label: Metal God Entertainment


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