Tank – ‘War Machine Live’ DVD Review

It is a brave move for any band to return without their frontman after a lengthy absence from the scene. it is doubly brave when you have been one of the most revered names in the NWOBHM scene and you were initially formed by a frontman (Algy Ward) who had already been famous in his own right (in the Damned) and whose battle cry of “Wakey Wakey!” was an essential ingredient of live shows. However, with the band having risen from the ashes of a lengthy hiatus in the more favorable musical climate of the late nineties, Tank failed to gain momentum and it was only following the retirement of Ward and the recruitment of several new members, the most notable of whom being the mighty Doogie White (former vocalist of Rainbow) that Tank began to rebuild their career, although having found their feet they did so faster than many could have suspected. Two albums have appeared since White joined the band – ‘War Machine’ and War nation’ – and both have been blinding examples of attitude-laden classic metal, thus resuccitating the career of a band declared dead by many and thrilling all but the smallest minority of churlish Tank fanatics for whom any change in the band’s internal make up is to be considered anathema.

For those unhampered by an unhealthy resistance to change, this DVD, filmed live at Poland’s awesome Stodola venue (in Warsaw), offers up as clear an argument for Tank having continued as you could wish to see. Stodola has a grand history of live recordings with acts such as Soulfly and Therion having filmed shows there and Tank’s DVD is of a similar quality – well filmed, with plenty of close-up shots and with pristine audio on the soundtrack – but it’s Tanks self-assured performance that seals the deal. Doogie fits in like he’s always been there, equally assured singing old material as he is belting out highlights from the recent albums, while the band lay down a mountainous wall of sound behind him. And speaking of highlights – this set is absolutely filled with them: from the opening strains of ‘this means war’, the perfect introduction to Tank’s riff-heavy metal machine; through the stunning ‘judgment day’ which is, with no word of a lie, as good as anything Iron Maiden produced at their peak with its blistering solos, molten-metal chorus and Doogie’s vital performance; to the closing drama of ‘the war drags ever on’, tank’s performance is never anything less than exemplary and the band comfortably belt out tracks from across their entire recorded history, making sure that their legacy receives equal footing to their current crop of excellent recordings.

If you want to witness Doogie’s skills first hand then ‘feast of the devil’ is the perfect showcase, seeing him step up the microphone with only the thunderous percussion of returning drummer Steve Hopgood at his back before the solid wall of guitars hits home is nothing short of revelatory although, as Doogie himself acknowledges in his remarkably candid interview, if you’re the man whose stepped into the shoes of Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet  and Algy Ward, then there’s never going to be a question over your singing ability. The rest of the band, meanwhile, look enthused, frequently head-banging away as they peal out furious riff after riff to the appreciative crowd.

The main performance aside, the DVD does not skimp on extras. Aside from the twelve track concert, you also get the video for ‘War Nation’ which juxtaposes live footage with studio material and archive footage of WWII for a clip that is hardly state of the art but which offers a great view of what Tank 2012 are all about; an interview with Mick Tucker and Chris Evans as well as a separate one with Doogie White; pro-shot footage from the Metal Hammer festival 2011 show; behind the scenes footage; a photo gallery; a biography and discography and even some preformatted desktop images – it is quite simply as exhaustive a raiding of the contemporary Tank vaults as you could imagine and it’s a generous gesture from a band whose return to action has been a joy to behold.

Looking at sound and video, both are perfunctory but acceptable. In terms of audio you get standard PCM 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1 which is a nice touch, but which adds little to the experience; there’s no option for DTS, but this is a minor gripe. Video is a different matter, however, and it can prove to be slightly frustrating, particularly on a larger screen thanks to the high level of pixilation that occurs, which is a shame because for both the main concert and the Metal Hammer shoot the camerawork is excellent throughout. However, whilst the visuals may not be pristine they are clear enough and it is an excellent opportunity to see Tank at their best and in their natural environment.

Both Tank and metal Mind have done a grand job on this DVD. With specially filmed and informative interviews, a lengthy biography and plenty of extra footage, for fans of the band it is an unmissable experience, whilst for those new to tank it provides a one-stop demonstration of their considerable skills and their awesome back catalogue. This is real heavy metal played with heart and soul by a band who has survived against the odds and whose recent releases have been as powerful, as exciting and as enjoyable as anything from their early years.  This is no way intended as a slight against Algy Ward – the former frontman of the band was a personable and talented musician – but with his retirement, the band were faced with the naturally traumatic decision of what to do next and, in recruiting the mighty Doogie White they were able to not only continue but also to revitalize themselves and develop material more than worthy of Tank’s legendary name. There will always be those dissatisfied that the line-up they remember has changed, this too is natural, but for those willing to give Tank a chance they will find a blistering live act whose exemplary musicianship and enthusiasm for the genre are more than adequately represented on this excellent DVD.

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2 Comments

  1. Johnny Ladshaw December 3, 2012 2:08 am  Reply

    I’ve been a long time fan of TANK with a special fondness for their older stuff. But Doogie White has breathed life into this classic metal band so I look forward to purchasing this new DVD. Long live ROCK!!

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