It feels rather early for White Wizzard to be in the “comeback” phase of their career. The group has been around for just over a decade, yet they’ve already endured as many setbacks and lineup changes as bands like Megadeth and Iced Earth did in twice the time. But like a teen mom turned cougar, bassist/bandleader Jon Leon has gotten the semblance of a stable lineup together to release their first album since 2013’s The Devil Cut. He managed to get original guitarist James J. LaRue and fan favorite vocalist Wyatt Anderson back into the fold, making one wonder if this is some kind of awkward “we’re getting back together for the kids” scenario.
My metaphors are getting mixed up, but Infernal Overdrive shows a good grip on White Wizzard’s signature classic metal revivalism. Their Judas Priest/Iron Maiden fusion is out in full force as the drums are furious, Jon Leon’s bass is at its usual Steve Harris prominence, the vocals have plenty of that Screamin’ Demon Halford worship, and the guitar riffs and harmonies are as bright and melodic as ever. The performances aren’t as over the top as they were on, well, Over the Top, but the musicians are enthusiastic enough to avoid any accusations of phoning it in.
The songwriting also incorporates a fair amount of prog influence that results in the most varied and longest White Wizzard album yet. While the band is no stranger to longer song lengths, there are as many epic tracks on here as there are straightforward rockers. They’re also better written than before, as tracks like the mid-tempo “Voyage of the Wolf Raiders” and the Blackmore-friendliness of “The Illusion’s Tears” flow surprisingly smoothly and don’t overstay their welcome. An hour’s worth of material may be a bit too much to take in, but there isn’t much that feels like filler.
Everything is competently composed and delivered, but there aren’t as many catchy anthems or standout tracks as their prior albums. The title track and “Storm the Shores” come close but don’t quite hit the mark while, “Critical Mass” derails a bit with its overly long instrumental segment and questionable lyrical content. Fortunately, “Cocoon” and “Metamorphosis” come out strong as the former mixes a muscular mid-tempo riff with soaring vocals while the latter plays up eastern melodies and intricate drum patterns.
Infernal Overdrive doesn’t quite reach the wildness suggested by the title but it remains a surprisingly solid White Wizzard album. It runs a little too long overall and isn’t quite as catchy as it could be, but the songs are well composed and the musicians show a fair amount of chemistry despite past drama. I’d recommend Over the Top or The Devil’s Cut before this one but I’ll hope against hope that the band is able to keep it together and show even more growth next time around.