Damian Wilson is one of the most popular and versatile progressive rock vocalists in the United Kingdom at present. Probably only Steven Hogarth of Marillion is on the same level at this time. Wilson’s vocal range and style is quite staggering and his presence is quite literally ‘built for fighting’.
He is also a very busy young man. At the time of writing this article he has to wrap his schedule around being lead singer with Landmarq (3 albums), Threshold (6 albums), progressive rock super-group Headspace (2 albums), an album with Adam Wakeman (son of Rick and present Black Sabbath Keyboard player. Changes anybody?), plus Wilson’s own band and solo work which adds another 4 albums to the workload. In all, Damian Wilson has appeared on over 70 albums and when not in the studio doing recordings, he is out on the road with one of his bands where his presence and stage diving have become legendary.
Last year he presented us with a new solo album “Built for Fighting”. Here he has veered slightly away from his progressive rock roots to give us a real singer-songwriter album. Eleven of the songs are originals whilst there is also a very clever cover of “Somebody”, a tune by Depeche Mode. There are still progressive touches here and there, but the songs are very eclectic in feeling, varying from the orchestral “What have We Done” to the almost southern rock of “Can’t Heal The War”. But the songs fit together very nicely and give a very satisfying listen.
The opening song “Thrill Me”, which is also the album’s first single for radio play, fairly bounces out of your speakers and on all the songs the lyrics are very strong and direct. Damian Wilson uses the full range of his vocals and the musicians he has collected around him for this album have not let him down. Letting you know that it’s not all sweetness and light, “Sex and Vanilla” is the only song on the album where Wilson really lets his metal progressive rock flag fly, a track where the guitars unashamedly slam down.
Although the album title carries aggressive undertones the songs themselves do not, and most of them are kindly put across with great feeling.
As with most good things, the best is kept for last. The penultimate song “I Won’t Blame Life” is a reflection on the passing years with little or no regrets. Friendships are rightly put up on a pedestal here and the vocals are beautifully emotional. “Battlelines” finishes the album with sumptuous strings and keyboards whilst Damian Wilson sings of the pettiness of arguments between friends and lovers.
All in all, “Built for Fighting” is a wonderful addition to Damian Wilson’s canon, and has the feel of an album that the artist himself wanted to make and very successful he has been with it too. What’s next for Damian Wilson? More stadiums, stage diving and albums I trust.
The album “Weir Keepers Tale” made with Adam Wakeman is also a pleasant listen if you are in a mellow mood. For the hard edged Damian Wilson, look no further than his other bands.
When I was Young
Sex and Vanilla
Can’t Heal War
What Have We Done
Written in Anger
All I Need
I Won’t Blame Life
(Written by Mott the Dog and Hells Bells)