I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Warrior Soul - "Salutations From the Ghetto Nation"
(DGC Records, 1992)
Warrior Soul should have been huge, dammit.
There, I said it.
If you'd asked me in the early 1990s which band was going to take heavy metal to a whole new level (and give the world a swift kick in the nut sack in the process), Kory Clarke's crew of NYC-bred gutter rats would have been my answer. As they prepared to release their third album, Salutations From The Ghetto Nation, in 1992, they certainly seemed to have the necessary firepower to break into the big time.
Warrior Soul's two prior studio albums (1990's Last Decade Dead Century and '91's drugs, god, and the new republic) were critically acclaimed, and the band was being managed by Q-Prime, who handled heavyweights like Metallica and Queensryche. Most importantly, Warrior Soul's brand-new album was packed with twelve new amazingly intense, literate, politically-charged anthems delivered by a charismatic frontman who was blessed with a lion's roar and a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Rushmore. There was no way an explosive combination like this possibly miss . . . yet somehow it did.
Warrior Soul was doomed to languish in obscurity, while Rage Against the Machine (who were essentially preaching to the same choir as Kory and crew) nabbed the brass ring and went on to become big-time rock stars—an oversight that will forever remain a mystery to me.
The First Listen . . .
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 fans. The grunge-rock brigade had taken over MTV and radio, and much of metal's old guard was either being dropped by the major labels, taking time-outs due to lineup troubles, or releasing sub-par albums hoping to coast a little further on the fumes of their past 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 living with my parents, working a crappy minimum-wage retail job to pay the bills, I had no car, and no girlfriend. Soooo, yeah, basically, everything about my life sucked at that point in time.
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. I bought a copy of the CD based on that one track, and was thrilled that the rest of the album was just as catchy, intense, and pissed-off.
After that Molotov cocktail of an opening track, the buzzsaw guitars of John Ricco, and Clarke's howling vocals combined to give me a crash course in cynical civics that could never be taught in any school. "Blown" and "Shine Like It" quickly proved that Warrior Soul wasn'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 contempt for the Republican Party had been a recurring theme on Warrior Soul's previous two albums but it was more pointed than ever on Salutations, especially on the 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 was 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.
. . . fat lot of good that did me, or the band, for that matter. Just like their previous pair of albums, Salutations From the Ghetto Nation got great reviews, but stiffed on the charts. Tour support from their label 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.
In the mid-'00s, Clarke relocated to Europe and built yet another new lineup of Warrior Soul. 21st-century releases like Destroy the War Machine, Stiff Middle Finger, and Back On The Lash still show some of the old fire, and I'm glad that Kory is still out there fightin' the good fight, but deep down I know that he will never top Salutations From the Ghetto Nation.
Almost thirty years (!) after its initial release, Salutations 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 almost had it all.
If only the world had bothered to listen.
© 2011 Keith Abt
wsboots on May 12, 2016:
Great rant, I feel the same way about this album - it's perfect. I read a piece about the band a while back that put forward the idea that their problem was they had no audience, they were too Metal for the Alternative crowd & too Alternative for the Metal crowd. I think there's an element of truth in that.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 16, 2015:
Hi darkprince - I agree as well, the band came along at a weird transitional period in hard rock and I don't think the Geffen label - or the band themselves, for that matter - knew which crowd to market Warrior Soul to.
I didn't see them on their ill-fated Queensryche tour but Kory Clarke has talked for years about how the "spoiled rich suburban brats" in Queensryche's audience didn't "get" them at all.
darkprinceofjazz on February 16, 2015:
I was able to see Warrior Soul open up for Queensryche in 1991 in Cincinnati. I agree, very underrated band. I do sort of agree with an above reader comment about the mixed signals of the image, but even the Seattle bands had an image, it just happened to be the image was no image.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 02, 2013:
Hi Nicky - always good to hear from another Soul fan. Thanks for stopping by.
Nicky1971 on November 02, 2013:
A friend and I were discussing why Warrior Soul weren't more successful and he said. "They're just too good.".
Our consensus was that WS had lyrics that were highly intelligent and thought provoking - things which neither big business record companies nor many punters want in a band sadly. The combination of brilliant, adrenaline and anger fuelled music and equally outstanding lyrics is just too intimidating for many people. WS are right up there in my all time top ten favourite bands.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 19, 2011:
Thanx for your comment, Phobos... all I can say is "diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks," Warrior Soul were right up my alley whereas Rage did nothing for me... it's all a matter of taste.
I agree, my fanboy love for them probably may cloud my objectivity more than a little bit. Haha.
Probos on June 19, 2011:
I loved Warrior Soul, but your love of them clouds your objectivity. The reason Warrior Soul didn't "make it" was based on three things IMO:
Their image was not well defined. Cory looked like a guy kicked out of a hair band for not being glam enough. John Ricco (guitar) had a similar look and the other two were kind of forgettable. They came up when the hairband/glam stuff was on the decline and "grunge" was on the rise. Things were more stripped down image and sound wise,.....band timing for them. Lastly the sonics and production of their records was very 80's sounding. Image if a guy like Brendan O'Brien could have produced and mixed Salutations From The Ghetto Nation?
Saying Rage Against The Machine were "overrated" is BS. Rage were great, had a better image that fit the times and a more stripped down sound that people expected back then. Not saying they were better or worse, the timing just worked out better for them. Lots of luck involved.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 04, 2011:
Thanx for your comment, Ninjakitten -- and may I add a "hell yeah" for your support of Trouble! Love that band, though honestly I'm still not sure if Kory is a good "fit" for them ... the few live clips I've seen of him fronting them on YouTube haven't impressed me much, but I'm a fanboy for both bands so I'm cautiously optimistic about the forthcoming new Trouble studio album w/Kory fronting them ... we'll see what happens.
ninjakitten on June 04, 2011:
Agreed that Warrior Soul never received the accolades or fame that it deserved however Kory Clarke is still one helluva frontman, let alone a pistol - never afraid to tell you what he thinks. I think it's refreshing and encouraging to see artists like Kory continue to do what they do despite combating the challenges faced, when we live in a world of where singers/bands are being produced almost solely for profit.
I've also seen Kory as the new singer for the band "Trouble" and he rocked! (Trouble is another band that should have received a lot more than their cult status. Perhaps fodder for your next rant?)
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 21, 2011:
Thanks Skurvy... glad you enjoyed it...watch for more Retro Metal Rants in the very near future!
ScurvySkalliwag from Judith River, Montana on April 21, 2011:
I didn't always agree with Kory's perspective but I respected and appreciated the way he did things. IMHO, the drugs were more of a factor in this band imploding thana mere lack of success. This album has lots to take notice of and shouldn't be dismissed on the basis of any preconceived notions. Give it a spin !