Mark Zonder moved to Los Angeles from San Jose around 1980 or so, an accomplished drummer already, who had played in a hard rock band called “Russian Roulette”. Guitarist and composer William J Tsamis, inspired mainly by the European Metal scene of the time, was already creating his plan for a Metal band. So he chose the name “Warlord” as a band name when it was suggested to him by his metal comrade, Alex Bargelt. Through a girl named Rachel, Mark met William and eventually invited him to move to LA to start Warlord as a professional entity.
One condition of being a member Warlord was that you had to give up your cherished name. You had to take on a mythological pseudonym like Destroyer, Thunder Child, Damien King, etc. There was a complete vision built inside and around the band, present through their unique epic, lyrical and romantic spirit; but meanwhile, the heavy, powerful and thundering musical style that was combined with everything else was band-related: the band name, the pseudonyms, the logo, and even their planned live show when they would hit the stage – everything was planned detail by detail.
One day, Mark and William noticed an advertisement from one Brian Slagel who was looking for metal bands to record his Metal Massacre compilation album to be released on his new independent label Metal Blade Records. The two went to Slagel’s record store (Oz Records) and asked him to play some songs of songs off of their recent (1981) demo. Slagel took the tape and put it into his system, and heard the song “Winds of Thor”. It must have only been seconds when Slagel asked the two if Warlord would record a song for his compilation album. The two accepted, and “Lucifer’s Hammer” was released on the now classic “Metal Massacre II” (released on February 1st, 1983 by Metal Blade Records). It was Jack Rucker (Damien King I) who laid down the vocal tracks, and Diane Kornarens (Sentinel) who played the keyboards, while William played the guitars and bass, and Mark thundered on the drums.
Shortly thereafter, the group gathered a few hundred dollars, the money being about $800 and they proceeded to record their first album “Deliver Us” which was released by Metal Blade Records on April, 29th, 1983. For a young Metal band, surrounded by a glam infested pop scene, the album was a success hitting radio stations and drawing rave reviews from the highly critical British music press. The songs “Winter Tears” and “Child of the Damned” hit #3 and #5, respectively, in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the biggest music marked in the United States. “Child of the Damned“, was also regularly played on the radio in Los Angeles. It was a time when “Deliver Us” albums were stacked in major record stores 6 feet high. Soon after the album release, there was another Metal Massacre release that featured the Warlord song: “Mrs Victoria” which was included on the Metal Massacre III compilation (released on June 20th, 1983). Fan mail was pouring in from everywhere, Mark and William were on the radio doing interviews and radio spots; there was great excitement and promise. Warlord was definitely on the rise.
Line up changes came shortly as Rick Cunningham from Texas replaced Jack Rucker on vocals and a bass player was added: Dave Watry, a student at the “Bass Institute of Technology”, had proven himself worthy of playing with Warlord — indeed, Dave was the perfect player, the perfect “Archangel.” Thus, the rehearsals of Warlord were something phenomenal.
With the writing of the songs “Aliens” and “Lost and Lonely Days”, Warlord was compelled to go into the studio and record a 12″ single (out on May, 1984) which was the first recorded result of the band’s new line up. The single managed to hit #6 in the famous Japanese “Burrn Magazine.” And Warlord signed a deal with Watanabe Music of Japan (that also managed the works of the Scorpions, Accept, and Dio). Watanabe put out the Japanese Pressing of “Deliver Us” in February of 1984.
It was about this time that Warlord decided to go forward with the Video Soundtrack entitled “And The Cannons Of Destruction Have Begun. . .” (released on Metal Blade Records, October 1984). Contrary to other bands who were video-taping individual songs, hoping to get on MTV, Warlord was prepared to give their fans all over the world a live video and a soundtrack. It was another chance to re-record the “less-than-par” production of some of the songs from the “Deliver Us” LP, and it was a good idea for the fans to see Warlord in a live context.
However, there was a problem. After a number of rehearsals, it became evident that Damien King II (Rick Cunningham) was not singing perfectly on key. Since the music of Warlord is so melodic, any dissonance in the vocals caused a disconnection between the music (which was perfect) and the vocals. It became evident that Rick had to go, and the hunt for a new singer became the hunt for the impossible. William remembers that Mark and he went to the extent of “Calling Geoff Tate, or even going to the house of Ronnie James Dio to drop off an album, hoping against all hope that we would, once and for all, find the right singer.” It was the missing piece of the puzzle. And after numerous and numerous auditions, the gang settled for an excellent studio singer named Rick Anderson (who would be Damien King III). However this new line up would not last long.
The quest for the suitable singer kept the band off the stage, with no live show possibilities they focused on attempting to sign a major record deal by recording a new demo including the songs “Father” and “Thy Kingdom Come” (1985) and by trying to reach the record companies in every possible way. William and Mark pounded the pavement of Los Angeles personally going to every major record company to drop off a promotional kit. However not a single response or feedback was given by any label. So, it appeared that the whole endeavor was a failure. So the band members decided to go their separate ways soon after the entrance of Rick Anderson.
Mark Zonder joined Fates Warning first as a drum tech and then as the band’s official drummer when Steve Zimmerman left. Diane Kornarens moved on to the band Sahara and William J Tsamis focused on an academic career in philosophy and theology, eventually becoming a college professor in these subjects. He had moved to Florida and was simply creating music for his own satisfaction. Meanwhile Metal Blade Records released two compilation albums featuring selected Warlord songs: Thy Kingdom Come (1986) and Best Of Warlord (1989).
But in the year of 2001 the unexpected happened as Warlord got back together again to record a new album. William J Tsamis on guitars and bass, Mark Zonder on drums were there to offer up some new music. The vocal slot – which was always the big stumbling block for the band – was filled by the talented Swede, Joacim Cans from Goteborg (the singer of the band HammerFall and a big fan of Warlord). The three began rehearsing for a demo (late 2001) which would contain the original Warlord songs, “War in Heaven,” “Winds of Thor,” and “Sons of a Dream”. The magic was there. The “Rising Out Of The Ashes” album was the result of this reunion and it was released on July 22th 2002 by Atrheia Records / Drakkar Records. The release of the album was followed by the first ever official live show of the band in Wacken Open Air Festival (Wacken, Germany – 3/8/2002), prior to this show there were two smaller ones, a warm-up show at Club Hollywood (Itzehoe, Germany – 31/7/2002) and another one at Headbanger’s Ballroom (Hamburg, Germany – 29/7/2002 Rising Out Of The Ashes release party), with Heir Apparent as the opening act.
The years that followed found William J Tsamis focused on collegiate academic career along with family priorities. Warlord was once again on the ice … In August-September of 2011, however, William J Tsamis started thinking re-entering the music scene. Mark Zonder was enthusiastic about joining him and, it was decided that a new Warlord project and new album would be in the making. It is the fire that still burns and the fan’s unstoppable support for thirty years that helped to bring Warlord back together, plus the simple enjoyment of William and Mark playing together like they did in the very beginning. This Anthology is the first chapter of a new era and a new album will soon follow. The Kingdom Is Coming… Warlord is rising once again!
Chris Papadakis – March 2012