OK, the CD cover I have shows a drawn rainbow and flash though cluttered band logo stamped over a beach scene. How metal is that? Well, alright, it was '72. But still what can we expect here? Some acoustic hippy music with a bit of guitar distortion on a couple of songs? Honestly, I knew nothing about this band except that Helix covered their pretty ballad "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want". Then I see the band listed here as proto-metal, and if it's proto-metal from Canada then I'm curious.
So I checked out some of their music on iTunes and decided to just order the darn debut and sink my teeth into it. Turns out this turned out to be a much sweeter chew than I had given the band credit for.
The first three tracks already establish A Foot in Cold Water as a class hard rock / heavy rock act. "On the Wind", "Yalla Yae", and "Deep Freeze" are pretty serious rockers with heavy guitar and at times some Hammond organ. What surprised and impressed me was that the verse parts are some respectable serious hard rock but the chorus parts turn heavier. "Yalla Yae" treads into metal territory with the lyrics "Make way for the devil knocking at your door / Give in to his evil coming through the floor" and some very dark heavy music in accompaniment. "Deep Freeze" though less sinister also packs some heavy guitar punches into the chorus. Special mention must go to Alex Machin's vocals which deliver not only tough bad ass mutha street sneers but also turn to large-grain sandpaper for some impressive early metal singing.
The ballad is next and it does sound lovely with the acoustic guitar and strings. I've always loved the Helix version and though it's been two decades since I last heard it, the song is still clear in my memory. The original here has some marked differences and is longer on this album (a shorter version would be released on the third album) but it's a lovely piece of work.
The next two songs "Who Can Stop Us Now" and "Alone Together" travel the more upbeat style of hard rock that many bands were doing at the time. Still some good hard rock but bearing no shred of dark and heavy music like what cropped up earlier.
"Fallen Man" brings us at last to an acoustic number about a guy down on his luck. I had expected a song like this much earlier. Despite the stereotype I actually enjoy this track. It has a bit of Led Zeppelin in the music but Machin's vocal style is quite comfortable in its own domain and makes no attempt to sound like Robert Plant.
Which brings us to the last two tracks, "In Heat" and "Lady True". We are back to the heavy guitar and for "In Heat" that's an awesome return. The riff would fit perfectly well on a NWoBHM album and the power chords are mighty sledgehammer-esque. The solo part eases off the heavy weight but concludes with a skull-crushing return. "Lady True" is more melodic like a song by April Wine but we are still in hard rock music territory.
Seriously this album and this band were not what I had imagined. I was thinking they'd sound like Canadian contemporaries Trooper, Chilliwack, or April Wine, maybe ever the Guess Who. But no, A Foot in Cold Water rock really hard here. I've since checked out the 1-minute samples of their two other albums on iTunes and though there are still some heavy rockers, the band sound like they were beginning to try to be more progressive and acoustic. Definitely for the first three tracks and "In Heat" this debut effort is worth checking out as a proto-metal / hard rock album. An excellent addition to any proto-metal collection if you love the old hard and heavy stuff.