In 1983, Triumph was a band fresh off the success of Allied Forces, the fifth album by guitarist-vocalist Rik Emmett, drummer-vocalist Gil Moore, and bassist-keyboardist Mike Levine two years earlier. Songs like "Magic Power," "Fight The Good Fight" and "Allied Forces" had pushed the Canadian trio's markedly 70's sound upstream against the tide of new wave music and alongside that juggernaut dubbed the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal).
With chart success—any chart success—and the jump to headlining status there always came pressure, pressure to deliver a follow-up that would not recycle past writing achievements, pressure to deliver on an aesthetic as well as commercial level. Triumph's approach was one of muscular, blues-rooted hard rock, an updating of the Trapeze sound of years earlier. And did the guys deliver! While Never Surrender was a most polished effort, the songs that comprise these brisk forty minutes brandish yet another degree of maturity attained, and certainly the power aspect of "power trio" hadn't been forsaken. Nor was every edge worn smooth to the touch: opener "Too Much Thinking" surges forth on sails powered by Moore's vocal winds, and "Battle Cry" must count as one of Gil's most emotional performances, with its poignant lyrics that include the line I think the loneliest man in the world is a soldier. All the while, Moore's drumming serves as its own anchor, seldom frenetic, and consistent—almost too consistent—but very solid and purposeful. Nor was Levine ever touted as a virtuoso bassist, but his structurally friendly grooves did just what they were supposed to; it would have made little sense for him to veer into Emmett's space.
At the time, Never Surrender also featured the most sons synthetique to date on a Triumph album (this would be topped by A Sport Of Kings and the abhorrent Surveillance further on down); but in this case, all are of the analog variety. And thankfully so: not only does Triumph's greatest title track ever enjoy a swell "Overture," but the bass notes from Levine's Moog synth at the beginning are much more prominent than on any live version (we can thank David Thoener, who recorded and mixed Never Surrender). Perhaps these are small bones I cast, but nuances like these make a difference in the overall scheme, another example being the prelude and postlude of "When The Lights Go Down," which are picked on an acoustic guitar. Live, Rik seemed to always play these notes on his electric, which makes the studio version a little more interesting, all twangs considered! And speaking of acoustic, the obligatory Emmett instrumental this time out is the forty-three second "A Minor Prelude." The way that man's fingers do a jig over the frets…no, this review shall not end without mention of Rik's laudable technique. It almost seems redundant at this point to reflect on those fiery note-perfect solos that virtually one-upped nearly every other axeman's solos—EVH included.
The new Millennium Remasters restore this very special album to its proper glory, thanks to the continued efforts of Moore and remastering engineer Brett Zilahi at Moore's & Levine's Metalworks Studios in Toronto. Of interest to the art crowd is Never Surrender's fine airbrush-and-marker cover, by fellow countryman Ken Steacy, a graphic artist with a long career in comics and commercial illustration, and a one-time Harlan Ellison collaborator. Recommended to hard rock aficionados everywhere!
1. Too Much Thinking (5:34)
2. A World Of Fantasy (5:03)
3. A Minor Prelude (0:43) (Instrumental)
4. All The Way (4:22)
5. Battle Cry (4:57)
6. Overture (Procession) (1:54) (Instrumental)
7. Never Surrender (6:40)
8. When The Lights Go Down (5:03)
9. Writing On The Wall (3:34)
10. Epilogue (Resolution) (2:41) (Instrumental)
Total time – 40:31