I intimated that Rockwell and Icicle were the label's highlights, and they don't disappoint here: Icicle's "Alien Groove" is the kind of sleek but hard-hitting drum & bass he perfected on Under the Ice, while his collaboration with Distance is a welcome repeat of his tonnes-heavy dubstep experiments last year. Rockwell, meanwhile, shows new sides to his personality: his Phace collaboration "Rat Race" is far grubbier than the diamond-sharp percussive science he's made his name on, and "4U" is positively lush, coating his precision in warm jets of funk. Unusual collaboration is another theme on Warrior, whether it's the dream team of Alix Perez, Rockwell & Spectrasoul on "Montpelier"—recalling Photek's smooth Solaris soul—or the closing duo of Icicle & Commix, who deliver on the promise of a track with a title like "Ultra Clean" with a sterling silver workout.
With names like these and "fiftieth release" baggage to boot, Warrior sets itself up to be a big deal, and it certainly qualifies. But perhaps what's most appealing is that these tunes, with some notable exceptions, just sound like more solid tracks from one hell of a strong roster. There's no pretense, no bullshit and none of the odds-and-sods leftovers that usually pockmark compilations like this. Each producer feels like they're giving their best—or going beyond. Like Hotflush's Back and 4th, it shows a label confirming what makes it great and boldly moving forward at the same time. Again and again we get variants on drum & bass that steer clear of both the mainstream's midrange-heavy noise and the stuffy minimalism of the purists. There's been a lot of talk about a drum & bass revival, but it's largely been achieved through appeals to outsiders (e.g. Autonomic). Way of the Warrior shows that it's possible to do so from the inside.