THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO...SOLDIER Dogs Of War Reloaded (Starhaven)
Originally released in 2013, ‘Dogs Of War’ is probably the most important release in the Soldier catalogue. One of the unheralded greats of the NWOBHM, Soldier split before they’d really shown what they were capable of. Reforming in the Nineties under the watchful eye of founder member and guitarist Ian Dick, ‘Heavy Metal Force’ cleared out the cupboard, ‘Sins Of The Warrior’ showed the shape of things to come, and then the exciting and exuberant ‘Dogs Of War’ served up 60 minutes of the best of British metal. The original album, which became the gateway to a number of high-profile gigs across Europe, featured alongside Dick original bassist Steve Barlow, frontman extraordinaire Richard Frost, second guitarist and Duracell Bunny Miles Goodman and drummer Alex Smith, and was rounded out by three bonus tracks: a Twenty-First Century romp through the band’s 1982 single ‘Sheralee’, a short, head-shaking instrumental work-out called ‘Crash Course’ and finally a morose, acoustic ballad ‘The Hanging Tree.’
To celebrate its tenth birthday, the album has been revamped and remastered – or ‘Reloaded’, in Soldier parlance – for a digital re-issue and an extremely limited CD run. First up is a new mix by Dick and frontman Frost. “‘Dogs Of War did really well for us, and we got loads of really good gigs on the back of it,” explains Dick. “Unfortunately, though, as the studio were doing us a favour with time the recording and mixing were done very quickly, and Richard and myself were never really happy with the mixes. We just felt the songs deserved better. Anyway, the CD has been out of stock for a long while and we constantly get requests to purchase a copy, so when Richard and I were discussing pressing some more we thought why not remix and remaster the album at the same time. This,” he adds, “was in 2020, pre-Covid.
Soldier, Brofest 2014
“As the project went on we decided to drop the two original bonus tracks ‘Crash Course’ and ‘Hanging Tree’ and instead pop in ‘Death Is’ which was written for the album but never made it onto the record, and a new recording of ‘Magician’. ‘Magician’ was the first song I ever wrote, and it’s an itch I've had for over forty years. Sadly, Steve [Barlow] bowed out as recording was never his thing and I don’t think he wanted to commit the time and effort on that side of things, but now, finally, ‘Dogs Of War’ sounds as I’d wished it too. On good speakers the album not only has much more punch and low end but you can hear lots of the additional guitar parts that were muffled in the original mixes.”
Dick’s not kidding, as although the original album had a lot to offer ‘Reloaded’ really charges from the speakers. It’s bright and hard-hitting, and to mix things a little different, the solos on ‘Death Is’ and ‘Magician’ are by Andy Poynter (a friend and former bandmate of Frost’s) which adds a different feel to the leads. If there’s a minor gripe, it’s a shame that the artwork wasn’t tweaked a little for this reissue, but that’s of little consequence given the audio punch the new mix boasts.
For more background to the release, Ian, Richard and Miles have recorded a short promotional clip where they discuss both the new release and look back on the original songwriting and recording:
Ironically, while at the time of the album’s release one of the criticisms was that it was a tad too long, the ‘Reloaded’ version clocks in at 63:44, about three-and-a-half minutes longer again. The critics will just have to suck it...
© John Tucker April 2023