When it comes to trad metal, Paul Di’Anno is a legend. His two albums with Iron Maiden are genuine classics. His voyage into more melodic climes with his eponymously named band showed a strong affinity with great hard rock and metal; the short lived Killers shared a strong combination of heaviness and melody with Di’Anno clearly in good form, and his brief tenure with Praying Mantis also yielded a decent live recording showing off some very recognisable vocals.

Paul doesn’t always get it right, though. His recordings with Battlezone are hit and miss, and his 2014 solo recording ‘The Beast Arises’ is an absolute travesty. The band on that live album are more than competent when cranking through the Maiden classics – often at great speed – but Paul grumbles and wails, often with no regard other than to convey a sense of energy. He was never the most melodic of vocalists, but the show is an absolute chore to get through.

Paul Di’Anno’s Warhorse, unfortunately, represents another project where the former Paul Andrews appears to be struggling. His voice has volume, but rarely much else. But if the 2014 Paul was past his best, then the 2024 Paul should possibly have just thrown in the towel. It’s admirable that various health conditions have spurred him on, and that he desperately wants to give back to the fans, but he’s the weak link in his own band. His press materials claim that the vocals on this Warhorse EP will “leave his fans speechless”. That’s certainly not a lie, but it won’t be for any positive reasons.

The title cut begins promisingly enough, with a thunderous old school metal rhythm, and guitarist Hrvoje Madiraca delivering a guitar riff that has all the power of an old NWOBHM banger dressed in slightly chunkier finery, but the show’s pretty much over once Di’Anno starts to sing. A shouted refrain working the track’s title works well enough – and certainly will aim to rouse the audience with ease – but the overwrought, wailing vocals that fill the bulk of the track waver between overly loud and fairly tuneless. Unfortunately, by attempting to push too hard, Paul overcompensates and actually ends up sounding like a comedy sketch from 1988 featuring a joke heavy metal singer. His voice is horrible; certainly ugly enough to derail anything good here, which is a pity, since Madiraca steps up with a great solo and a couple of really powerful squeals. The only respite comes from a very brief middle eighthere the metal subsides, and Paul drops into his old voice – sounding very much like a throwback to ‘Prodigal Son’ and ‘Strange World’ – but it doesn’t rescue the track overall. Di’Anno would have been much better off trying to summon his old punk-edged aggression, attacking the track in a style more familiar to legions of Maiden fans.

‘The Doubt Within’ opens with a superb riff that could be borrowed from early Saxon, and shows off Madiraca in great shape once more, and the stomping groove that runs throughout the track creates some fine, if very traditional metal. On the quieter parts of the number – used effectively as pre-chorus bait – Di’Anno sounds fine, but as before, when the band rocks things up considerably, he sounds genuinely bad. In this case, he battles against the riff and a collection of shouted backing vocals with an indistinct wail, interspersed with a comedic squeal that might even make Jack Black squirm. It’s a little better than the opener, but it doesn’t stretch beyond average metal fare, whilst the band’s de facto title song (‘Warhorse’) follows suit with some great, late 80s riffs – working a more than suitable galloping rhythm – and a solid drum part adding extra power. Unfortunately, a great riff in hand rarely stretches the track beyond being any more than very dated, workmanlike metal. It might have worked out better had anyone remembered to write an actual chorus. Just shouting the title over and over really doesn’t cut it in this case, and that, combined with a really misjudged backing vocal leads to something that sounds a little embarrassing. There’s a reasonable solo here, but it’s utterly wasted, and the increasingly gruff Di’Anno sounds like a performer way past his best. Overall, this is a track that doesn’t sustain any more than a couple of listens, and in that regard, is fairly typical of this band’s output.

Overall, there’s a great energy here, and some decent guitar work in a very old school style, but it’s pretty much all for nought, since almost all of the material is pretty much killed by Di’Anno’s over the top, absolutely tuneless vocal style. There’s almost nothing to actually recommend this EP. In all honesty, if it’s trad metal you want, you’ll find stuff that’s far better elsewhere, not least of all from Paul’s former bandmates in Praying Mantis. Despite being only a couple of years old at the time of this recording, this is a horse that’s already fit for the glue factory.

April 2024