When Psycho Ward‘s new album, committed, comes rumbling in on an impressively huge-sounding riff from guitarist Miguel Angel Lopez Escamez and a Bachian growl from vocalist John Ward, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen asleep and woken, John Simm-like, in 1988.

The song in question, Crazy Angel, really is a bit of a stonker, melding Accept and Skid Row in a bombastic mashup of orgiastic riff worship. It’ll clean the wax out of your ears if nothing else, and it serves as a warning that this is an outfit for whom the word ‘modern’ is, well, on the nose to say the least… Unfortunately they throw in a slightly hamfisted ballad at track two; Forever More would probably have been turned down by Saxon in their wilderness years, and it does dilute the momentum established by the first track a tad.

In fact, despite there being some fine moments scattered throughout the rest of the album (notably Sleepwell) they never quite reach the high water mark established by Crazy Angel again. Escamez is a fine guitarist – his capture of something as vague and ephemeral as ‘the eighties tone’ is perfect, his soloing often sublime – and Ward is a capable vocalist, a board-treading trouper of many years standing who throws his heart and soul into every performance as if his life depends on it, but together they don’t quite spark the sort of songwriting fire you feel their undoubted commitment to the cause deserves. Don’t get me wrong, if I stumbled into a Spanish rock bar to find the band hammering through the Whitesnake-lite of Chinese Whispers I’d have a fine old time, probably, but on disc this and tracks like Part of The Machine just lack that certain something to make them indispensable.

That said, the potential for this pair to develop into something of a hair metal wrecking machine going forward is obviously there, and I’d love to see them partnered with a  producer who can really harness their skills for good. Has anybody got Michael Wagener‘s phone number?

Committed releases on January 12th.