Metal Music Reviews from Certif1ed

METALLICA Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.63 | 29 ratings
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I couldn't not write a review of the most significant metal release of the 21st century so far.

The box set arrived this morning, and I made a nice playlist out of the Videos which have been released of ALL the songs, so as not to scratch my vinyl.

There will be long analytical reviews to fill your boots with, so let's cut to the chase.

On first hearing, this album has moments of Metallica at their best.

Possibly Master of Puppets best.

It raids Metallica's own extensive back catalogue, citing mainly Justice and the Black Album. It raids other bands, notably Iron Maiden. It has new inspired riffage, cautious experimentation with style - it is not uncompromising on the whole, which is a shame.

Repeat listenings reward for some songs, bore with others but who knows, maybe the boring ones will get better with time? Metallica can be like that. Dream No More only hooked me on second listen, really piqued my interest - case in point.

This is Black Album II, but then again it's not. It's Metallica showing who they are. The biggest heavy metal band in the world. The best at what they do.

Jaymz' riffs. The absolute, grin-inducing highs in many songs here. When he's good, he's the Master. When he's bad, he's probably better than most, but why settle for sub-standard ever, Jaymz?

The lows to me are the lack of experimentation in form. This is the secret sauce that made RTL and MoP unbroken benchmarks in terms of the balance of pure metal techniques without sacrificing melody, boundary pushing without losing the plot - indeed, redefining the plot - and uncompromising heavy metalness.

The other big low is the tribute to Lemmy. Really, guys? You are the band of all bands who should record a tribute to the Lemster, but did you play it back to yourselves? Maybe future listens will change my opinion, but I'm not sure I could bring myself to listen to Murder One again. Apt title.

The highs of this album are so good, you simply have to own it and experience them yourself. It's intimate, personal, and will slap you on the back as it high fives you then kicks you up the ass and blows your brain out.

Then you come back for more like a Moth to the Flame.

**Edit Diary 19/11/2016. This album really tempts you back.

On 3rd listen. Starting to forget where the boring bits were on disc 2 especially.

Confusion - still confusing me, not getting it.

ManUnKind has just hit me as being far better than I remember it, with joyous remembrances of old Judas Priest - proper headbanging stuff, real driving riffs from the old school, but with polish and class (stained, of course).

Here Comes Revenge - this is Nu Metallica, catchy and fun, but will it last?

Am I Savage? Like a different band, stretchy, nearly funky, twisty, tense, ungraceful, spooky, animal intellect. Was thinking it was too long at halfway point, by the end, felt it was too short.

Murder One - opens like "One". Lyrics make me cringe. Riffs 3rd grade, no feel of Motorhead - no real feel of Metallica. Solo worthy of Nigel Tufnel. Cannot overstate how much hate I feel for this awful song.

Spit Out the Bone has just sent icicles up and down my spine. I am succumbing to the power. Magnificent, ball of spikes, Whiplash rush of power.

Just get rid of Murder One and Confusion and there's an excellent album here, Metallica really showing in places how it should be done. An album that contains Masterclasses, not a masterpiece, but a perfect Metal album for 2016.

MODULO 1000 Não Fale Com Paredes

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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2010 CD re-issue with bonus tracks.

Normally I like to sit down to a nice slab of vinyl and live the album experience. Whatever the scientific evidence for greater accuracy in the digital experience, there's just something about vinyl that seems more musical - more alive.

But that's not going to happen with this one - I've no idea how much an original fetches, but the 2010 reissue already seems to be marketed around the $50 mark, and the dodgy 2000 bootleg is unthinkable obviously...

So the title translates as "Don't Talk To Walls", and the music is like Cream and Hendrix stirred into the heaviest side of US psychedelia, bounced around the Krautrock scene, colliding head on with Black Sabbath and Fifty Foot Hose, then inserted directly into the Latin sound.

"Turpe Est Sine Crine Caput" is like nothing else from that time - massively dark and heavy synth sounds, like Hawkwind mixed with Cabaret Voltaire, and some of the most awesome drum work imaginable. The main riff drives through in 5/4, producing a highly unsettled feel. We can ignore the widdly lead guitar as a product of its time - everything else about this track is decades ahead of its time.

Then comes the huge title track, the same features dominating the landscape - the brutal tritonic riffs and the monstrous drumming. We're in the more standard 4/4 here, but the barked, harmonised vocals are really sinister, and the stoner/doom feel is tangible. The lead guitar still sucks, unfortunately, but there's a really cool dark drum solo that evokes a more dangerous side of Carneval, like Black Sabbath covering Santana.

A lighter, more Floydian moment follows in Espêlho, but this is no mere take-off. Gilmour-esque slides soar above boomy acoustic guitar and beautiful, floaty keys, with harmonised voices repeating the chant "Espêlho" for 2 and a half minutes of sublimity.

This is followed by the manic minute or so of "Lem - Ed - Êcalg" - back to the strident keyboard/guitar dominated riffs and crazy drumming.

As one might expect, the menace is not let up for "Ôlho por Ôlho, Dente por Dente" (Eye for eye, tooth for tooth), which features some great links between the riff sections that bound off into crazy time signatures - a little clumsily, but hey, this is groundbreaking stuff that no-one else was doing at the time - and unlike much groundbreaking / experimental stuff, this is really, really listenable to, and striking in its early metal styling.

If you're a fan of odd time signatures, then "Metrô Mental" is a track you'll really get your teeth into as it careers off crazily, yet maintains a fantastic, headbanging momentum (or head-nodding, in some places, interspersed with wild improvisational sections influenced by "Echoes" on the "Live at Pompeii" film). Astonishing track - this must've blown the minds of audiences at the time, just like it would continue to blow the minds of modern audiences who think they've heard it all.

It's hard to know what to make of "Teclados", a keyboard fest of magical sounds with a jazzy and slightly disturbing edge that flutters around, never settling on a key base, or indulging with a cadence of a conventional nature, but there's more slow doom/stoner/time sig madness in "Salve.Se Quen Puder", and "Animália" seems to represent a lot of fun with guitars, backward tape loops and delay boxes.

In summary, then, the album is quite unique, and would be a masterpiece of its own genre were it not for those awful guitar solos.

The bonus tracks on this issue are interesting, and show a band not stuck in one particular dead-end style, but developing and playing with a style pretty much of their own creation, based on all the various musics that influenced the individual musicians.

The latin/rhythmic influence in the bonuses is very strong indeed, as is the tendency towards the more experimental and jazzy rather than the heavy - and the mix gets a bit confused in places, but nonetheless it's very enjoyable if you're in the right mind for it.

Standouts from these are "Ferrugem E Fuligem", "Curtissima" and "Waiting For Tomorrow".

A flawed gem for collectors of early metal music - and one for the stoners and heavy psych fans too. Well worth a listen by any metal fan with a taste for the more adventurous and exotic.

Rating - 4 and a half stars for the original album, 3 and a half for this version, as some of the bonus tracks are just a bit too light and unexciting.

HEAVY LOAD Full Speed at High Level

Album · 1978 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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Heavy Load's debut has got the whole NWoBHM thing going on, but with better production, vocals aside.

There are also some awesome Progressive ideas in here that belie the frequently sloppy execution.

The opener, "Full Speed at High Level" is a kind of low-grade Vardis meets Saxon thing, hard to listen to because of the execution, and mercifully short.

"Midnight Crawler", on the other hand, is packed full of invention - that main riff totally destroys, and the contrasting answering riff is progressive in flavour. The drummer kicks things up several notches, and the lead guitarist chucks in some tasty licks. There is a kind of harmony choir of backing vocals which isn't half bad too - the complete opposite of the opening song, this is actually really, really good and well executed. Unlike the opener, this is unforgiveably short.

Things stay on a good level from here, with the "Keep Yourself Alive" opening riff of "Moonlight Spell". A lot on the sloppy side, but really inventive and pushing the bar at the cutting edge of NWoBHM - or NWoSHM, as many people seem to have started to call the Swedish version which appears to have kicked off at the same time as it did in England. The song progresses in an Iron Maiden / "Sin After Sin" Priest style and again, goes from pretty good to brilliant - which is more than can be said for the vocals.

The quality drops for the intro to "Storm", which seems to be based on a Ritchie Blackmore riff, but played with that high-octane Judas Priest sound - and it's more of a drizzly shower than a storm. The howling gale sound effect just evokes a Spinal Tap moment of embarrassing proportions.

The long instrumental section kicks in around 3:05, where the song proper ends, and it's a brave attempt... it could also be heard as highly influential, as the ideas are really good, but the execution sucks. The tempo and stylistic changes are a demonstration of an imagination on overdrive, but the lack of the skills necessary to bring the imagination fully alive. The slow section is actually executed with painstaking care, and you can hear that, with practise, this would be a really nice Floyd-flavoured section, with added technical snippets, putting this in the running for an early Prog Metal category. It's a great idea to move to an uptempo section, but ouch... and that drum solo feels too much, despite being reasonably executed. A very tasty, massive riff is then appended, which builds, and drops disappointingly back to the song.

So it is that "In Two Minds" is a very good summary of how I feel about this album.

Good NWoBHM riff, rubbish song, appalling vocals even by the standards so far, and a terrible wailing guitar solo. The riff/rhythm section is nice and strong, and the song comes across like a really well made cake that's been iced and decorated by an incontinent seagull.

Weirdly, at this point, I'm reminded of the monster obscurity "From The Fjords" by Legend (which is an awesome album, well worth 40 minutes of anybody's time). I'm now wondering if Legend heard Heavy Load and got inspiration to record this sort of music properly?

"Rock And Roll Freak" has the Legend sound all over it, with solid riffing and bass, and driving drums. Yup, and horrid vocals. The Priest flavour is even stronger here - and, for my money, is better than much Priest of this time when the instrumental kicks in around 2:50. There then appears a riff I recognise from "White Rock" by Riot from their "Narita" album of the following year. I really wish the band hadn't returned to the song!

"Caroline" begins in Progressive territory, with keys and plinky guitars tracing a nice, imaginative progression. The vocals fit this style a little better - but still not the most attractive feature. When the band kicks in, we're still in a Progressive mood, and there are tempo-changes a-plenty, with a really individual approach to the arrangement. Some really stunning ideas in here, well worth tolerating the bad execution for.

The album wraps up with "Son of The Northern Light", and it's time to stand up for Exciter as far as the main riff and double-bass drumming is concerned, exploring a kind of proto-thrash territory. The modal flavours of the mid-verse sections are really very cool and modern sounding, despite the old school amp sounds and production, and the instrumental again explores like crazy:

This isn't a lame bunch of two chord tricks, but a clear attempt to try different structural methods and build some dramatic tension into the overall structure. It's really good to hear a band having a go at the hardest parameter of music to be progressive in: Form, and this is probably my favourite piece on the entire album.

In summary, a hard album to listen to, and a Game of two halves";

On the one hand, a bit of a mess with rubbish vocals.

On the other hand, some fabulous musical ideas and some moments of real trailblazing brilliance where it all comes together to form a progressive NWoBHM sound such as the world had never heard in 1978.

An album for those able to hear past surface horribleness and appreciate beauty within, and definitely one for fans of Progressive Metal. A tough one for more traditional metal fans to appreciate, I'd wager - but there is plenty here to headbang to nonetheless.

LIMELIGHT Metal Man

Demo · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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WOW!!!

Another "How did I miss these guys" band - especially as they supported Saxon in the 1980s, and Saxon were a band I saw a few times, I can tell you...

I recently found a copy of Limelight's extremely rare album in my local vinyl store, and I'm going to live with that for a few weeks before reviewing it, as it's plain, listening to this single, that there is/was a huge amount to these guys.

Progressive Metal in 1980?

Mellotrons, complex arrangements, the whole shooting match?

Thrash metal too?

"Metal Man" is a thrash prototype, and what about those Mellotrons, eh? Judas Who?

This'll have you questioning the whole nature of metal, revising your history books, and becoming an instant Limelight fan.

Mind-blowing, and I really don't use that term often.

Flip it over, and the flanged bass of "Hold Me, Touch Me" lets you know you're in for something very, very different, and Limelight duly present a totally unique take on NWoBHM, with shades of Indie bands (when Indie bands weren't simply boys with guitars) like Kissing The Pink and other less well-known acts.

This won't be to most metal fans tastes, but Limelight were about doing their own thing, their music was all self-financed, and it ROCKS!!!

Masterpiece. No Question - although "Hold Me, Touch Me" is so very different to what you might expect that I'd imagine it would divide tastes sharply.

"Metal Man", however, goes up with Vardis' "If I Were King" and the first two Jaguar singles as a Thrash Metal template.

JUDAS PRIEST Sad Wings Of Destiny

Album · 1976 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.42 | 141 ratings
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The sound of a piano and a synth is not what I'd normally expect on a metal album - but then we are talking about 1976, a year or two before the genre finally started to cut loose - and this is arguably the album that kicked it all off.

With Sabbath producer, Rodger Bain still twiddling the knobs, the production seems at odds with the music still, as it did on the debut, but the band's identity is becoming ever stronger, and shines through.

To my ears, this isn't as strong an album as The Scorpions mighty "In Trance" album of the previous year, Alan Moore's drumming being noticeably "boom-pish", and the playing and compositions are far less technically challenging - I do feel that this album is rather over-rated, although I do enjoy it and recognise it's importance in the great scheme of things.

Tipton's compositional skills really aren't all that, as Prelude is a somewhat unconvincing start to this impossibly influential album, with sounds of Queen-lite (meaning Queen on their first two albums!).

An ominous mood is nevertheless established, and "Tyrant" is the song that launched a thousand bands, many taking the title as their name. It's not as intense as "Dark Lady", but that riff can be found in many a NWoBHM composition, and the bridge passage to the solo duel that follows is classic Priest. The second bridge/twin solo is also a great progressive twist, and Rob's own vocal duet is masterly.

The somewhat hesitant intro to Genocide leads to yet another classic Priest riff that was to be plundered by the up and coming generation. Again, the structuring is more progressive than you'd expect from a Metal song of this period, but there are moments where I feel the music is somewhat hollow.

Epitaph is a straight homage to Queen, and a non-metallic song - but the composition is far better here - not Queen by any stretch, but actually not far off.

Island of Domination is a welcome return to the heavy stuff, but again, there's that sense of hollowness until the main riff kicks in, with heavy Budgie and Sabbath ("Children of the Grave") flavours.

Again, Priest get most experimental during the instrumental section, exploring ground laid by Sabbath before them, but taking it forward.

This is an album of two sides though; Side 2 (the first 4 songs on all but the first release!) is the stronger - if the album had continued in the same vein as Side 1, it would be a different story.

Side 2 takes a lot of influence from fellow Brummies, The Sweet - particularly from the song "Sweet FA" on the album "Fanny Adams" of 1974. Play the song (or, at least, the intro and outro - also listen to "Into The Night" and "Set Me Free" from the same album), then listen to the following tracks, and the direct line is unmistakable.

Victim Of Changes, a composition by original vocalist Al Atkins, is the strongest on the album - and a mighty fine epic it is too, although much of the soloing is rather bluffy for my tastes - and packed with Rudolph Schenker style whammy bar action! There are plenty of more original touches - and I can hear the direct influence on Diamond Head.

The Ripper follows - building on a long tradition of songs about the infamous Victorian criminal, popularised in the 1960s by "Screaming" Lord Sutch, and is another massive song, with more Queen and Scorpions tribus.

Dreamer Deceiver is another Atkins song, and the obligatory balladic moment. While slightly bluffy still, the solo here is beautiful as it slithers, snake-like around the frets, competing head on with M. Schenker and Uli Roth for the "most awesome solo of 1976".

Wrapping things up is the "Children of the Grave" inspired "Deceiver", with the unmistakable rhythmic motif derived from the theme to the UK long-running sci-fi series "Dr Who", originally composed by Ron Grainer and realised in electronics by the impossibly talented Delia Derbyshire, later abused by 90% of any metal band that wanted to be taken seriously...

An absolutely massive finish to a rather weak starting album. I disagree with the masses in that I don't find it to be a masterpiece as an entity - Side 1 is just too weak.

It's true that "Sad Wings" is massively influential - but there were other bands that were touring and exerting a huge influence too - so I have to come to the conclusion that this album is rather over-rated, in the truest sense of that over-used term, and in fact it's "Sin After Sin" that bears the real Priest crown. Both Simon Phillips and Les Binks kicked Alan Moore's ass, and provided the powerhouse that Priest needed to catapult them into the Metal Gods realm.

An excellent, nay, essential addition to any metal collection - but do check out the albums I name-checked to keep things in perspective!

SCORPIONS In Trance

Album · 1975 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 37 ratings
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In the beginning, back in 1975...

The other sort of heavy metal was well and truly born. Rather than a hard rock album with a couple of metallish songs, "In Trance" is the very first bona fide METAL album.

Far from being traditional, this sets the ground rules for how the passionate fans of the genre hear the music; It's diamond-hard, noticeably blues-avoiding, technically peerless in its genre, and razor sharp.

Let's go on... the riffs totally kill, the vocals are powerful and screamy, yet in total control and richly melodic, the drums and bass pound, and the solos are light years away from that infernal noodling bluff that you get on most hard rock albums.

Of note, for those who've been living under a rock, are Uli Jon Roth's breathtaking solos, like Jimi Hendrix reincarnated and having gone to college for some intense guitar lessons - then having forgotten it all to simply provide liquid metal solos that flow like mercury, yet cut like a laser.

To top it all, the great music also coagulates into great songs with an edge of radio-friendliness.

This is a far cry from the Krauty-space rock of the first album, despite the loss of Rudolph Schenker's tech wizard of a brother. This is an acknowledgement of the metal god power The Scorpions found in songs like the prophetic "Speedy's Coming".

"Dark Lady" sets the scene for metal's development, with it's aggressive, snarling intro and Sabbath-esque gallop, this, combined with Meine's trademark screams is where it's at.

People often cite Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash as the forerunners of the twin guitar attack, but nowhere is it more evident and prevalent than in this song. The trilling decending motifs scream Iron Maiden at you in no uncertain terms, and the trem work is Slayer all over. The tech riffs suggest Megadeth - gods, the list of dues to pay goes on and on.

Try to find something more intense outside of Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy" from before 1975, and tell me what it is!

The title track follows, the template for all metal ballads. Feel those ice-cold fingers running up and down your spine, and hold that lighter up high. Stone Cold, Ice-Cold, Metallic classic, with harmonic minor runs a-plenty.

The instrumental sections are so achingly melodic, with twin lead bliss, that you positively die of that "something beautiful lost" feeling. You have been warned... these are melodies of timeless beauty enriched with harmonic perfection and sonic wondrousness.

The twin guitar work continues to kill, and Roth shows off his Hendrix chops in "Life's Like a River". File under "Betcha Can't Play This" unless your name is Andy James. Meine demonstrates the full dramatic potential of his stunning voice - and there are some rather redundant while well exectued bass lines, but all in all, a great attempt to make this song progressive in the awesome arrangement.

"Top of The Bill" follows, a mid-paced but intense metal killer, with some nice double bass-drum work, molten guitar lines, and curious vocal overdubs - in places paying homage to Queen. The guitar at 2:10 is pure evil - Slayer through and through, and there's that harmonic pull-off, whammy bar thing that I've always associates d with Zakk Wylde.

Maybe there's a surfeit of metal ballads on this album - maybe not. What's certain is that there's no let up of intensity or quality of songwriting and performance.

"Living and Dying" hangs around a tritonic motif, with eerie keys provinding a deathly backdrop to snarling bass growling guitars, and Meine suspension power.

"Robot Man" is another stand out metal track, which tends to get included on Scorpions compilations - so I'd guess it's well known. Here the power lies in potentia, with Schenker's whammy bar insanity providing the perfect foil to Roth's technical pyrotechnics.

The intro to "Evening Wind" slays, paving the way for a kind of atmospheric, twisted balladic number, ever threatening, portentous and moody. Meine is not so convincing on this one, and neither are the rather bluesey instrumental sections - but I'm digging the fullsome bass growls and rich production - and it does get better towards the end when it all comes together for some haunting chanting.

"Sun In My Hand" is a tough chugger, modelled on Cream/Hendrix style slow blues. Roth's vocals are far less convincing than his phenomenal off-the-wall guitar playing.

"Longing For Fire" is a rather experimental instrumental, with some tasteful soloing, but that's about all that can be said for it, while "Night Lights" is yet another ballad, with some beautiful modal playing, if you're not fed up with slow/mid-paced songs by now.

From 1:58 is where the real interest lies - the duetting trilled descending runs are drop-dead gorgeous.

In summary, an album for those who like their metal technical, and think that metal only got technical in the mid 1980s - and an album for those who can't tell the difference between metal and hard rock from the 1970s! This defines it.

Half a star dropped for the over-indulgence in slow songs, which make this album feel unbalanced. Other than that, an immaculate display of everything that makes metal great.

Vorsprung Durch Technique, as they say...

DEEP PURPLE Stormbringer

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.25 | 43 ratings
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Stormbringer is the second album from Mk III Deep Purple, with David Coverdale handling vocal duties, and it's yet another inconsistent effort, with metal interest only in the title track - but OMG, what metal interest there is!

Stormbringer (the song) absolutely smokes; Judas Priest, we hear where you came from! This is riffing from the Metal Gods - on your knees and chant after me; "We are not worthy"!

There just aren't enough superlatives - and you'll have read a million other reviews saying how good this song is. Those reviews are absolutely right - any that don't praise it to the skies don't know what the hell they're talking about!

But it all takes a nosedive from here.

The funky aspects are still present, albeit to a lesser degree, as the sleaze fest of "Love Don't Mean a Thing" demonstrates - Lord really piles on the dirt here, but Blackmore is happy to noodle up and down the pentatonic for decoration. It's whiskey time!

The weakest song on the album follows, a real snore-fest of a ballad with faster bits, with Coverdale singing like a girl for crying out loud. The guitar solo is altogether too pretty for my tastes - utter mush.

"Hold On" is a MoR plodder - Coverdale gives it all he's got, and sounds amazing, but that ain't going to save a song that sounds like aural wallpaper.

"Lady Double Dealer" is more like it - uptempo, balls out rock and roll. Very lacking in the metal department, though Blackmore's solo kicks some ass.

We're back to shaking our funky stuff for "You Can't Do It Right" - play that funky music, white boys! Sensuous stuff, and a really cool song, but 0/10 on the metal scale.

"High Ball Shooter" is an interesting mish mash of Boogie and straight Southern rock with a backbeat. The performances of the musicians are impressive, but no metal.

"The Gypsy" and "Soldier of Fortune" are both standout tracks - the latter casuing my neck and back hairs to rip my T-Shirt from my shoulders - but neither are in the same league as the title track.

1/9 is a pretty poor score to have to translate into a rating, but I reckon "Stormbringer" (the song) is so good that I'm going to bring it up to 2.5 stars for the album - which is a pretty darn generous score for a metal site in my opinion!





AGNES STRANGE Strange Flavour

Album · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.76 | 3 ratings
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Strange by name, strange by nature...

Strange Flavour is a bit of an acquired taste, mostly due to the unconvincing, rather dry production - although I have to say I've heard far worse NWoBHM demos, and I rather like it.

"Give Yourself a Chance" is based around a hard, driving Status Quo boogie feel, the underlying currency of this album.

"Clever Fool" is more of the same, with very little effort put into the vocals - so if those are important to you, you're just going to switch off. The lyrics contain a nice level of humour - but the attitude is there in truckloads - it's carpet-sweeping time, and your hair is the broom. All together now - dah-nah-nah-dah-nah-nah-dah-nah-nah-Daaaah!!!!

The endings are done with such style and rock and roll panache, you kinda feel like these guys invented the whole thing - this is pure, from the gut, sweat and sawdust stuff.

Technically speaking, it's hard, blues-based rock rather than metal - but the time of release, and something about the smokiness and detectable heat of the valves, overdriven to within an inch or their circuit breakers has that metal vibe. Consider "Smokin' Valves" by Holocaust, or a slowed-down Vardis, and that's where this is all coming from. It's a heavier place than Quo, that's for sure.

And those breakdowns! Standard stuff, for sure, but so many, and so convinvincly done - here we go - Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Dah-Daaaaaaaah!

Neckbreaking stuff after just 3 songs - and basically, this is an album of this single style, all tight as a gnat's chuff, immaculate boogie rock with rather plain vocals - no worse than, say, Dave Brock.

The title track is the centrepiece though, in more ways than one, finally breaking the boogie style in favour of a strong Budgie vibe - and the songwriting here is easily as strong as Budgies, standing up squarely to the likes of "Breadfan", "Crash Course in Brain Surgery" and the other songs from Budgie's heavier moments.

Fortunately, it's also an instrumental, so you won't have to spend the whole song expecting Burke Shelley and getting Dave Brock. The let-down for some may be the lack of virtuosic lead guitar playing - but that's not what Agnes Strange were about, and what's been recorded works just fine.

"Alberta" is the weak point, a rather pointless, countrified ballad, but it's followed up by the beautiful "Loved One" - a true heavy metal ballad in two parts - the song, then the heavy bit, with a really tasty metal riff, partially based on "Hocus Pocus", which drops back to the favoured boogie rock, with plenty of tasteful if rather unimaginative pentatonic licks. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, though.

A Wah-drenched Groundhogs-fest follows, in "Failure", some space-rock and heavy Kraut in the smokin' "Children of the Absurd", then the inappropriately named "Odd Man Out", a slice of heavy boogie a la UFO, with maybe an edge of "Roadhouse Blues".

"Highway Blues" - a piledriving heavy 12-bar with an instrumental to die for - again, no virtuosics, but a veritable library of licks and tricks that provide a huge amount of entertainment, making me wish I'd thought of putting this song together - no, it's not hard, but the point is that these guys did it and I didn't.

That's great for me, as I can simply put the record on and enjoy loud, and with beer - it's also a fair summary of the entire album.

"Granny Don't Like Rock and Roll" contains the most metal riff on the album - and possibly the most metal riff of 1975, predating Iron Maiden with that famous gallop rhythm. Neck-snapping stuff - now where's 11 on this amplifier when you need it?

"Interference" rounds things off by introducing the band in a very amusing way - if you have beer, be careful not to drink it while listening to this, as most of the beer will end up being sprayed around the room.

Hugely enjoyable, nothing "classic", not massively original, smacking highly of a better-played Deviants album - but somehow, as the old TV advertisement for a famous Sherry brand used to say; "One instinctively knows when something is right" - and this entire album is oh, so right, and hits so many sweet spots.

I guess it's not essential for everyone, but man, I'm glad I have a copy, and if you like Hard Driving Boogie rock and beer, then this is simply perfect.

FOX Sun City Part I / Sun City Part II

Single · 1970 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.25 | 2 ratings
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Heavy psych single with the only heavy moments rather disappointingly based on "Tobacco Road". The light, plinky breakdown only serves to highlight the psych aspect - and when you flip it over, you get part II, which is obviously based on Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit".

The crunchy chords and chugging rhythm are somewhat similar to music you'll find on Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny" ("Victim of Changes"), and some of the soloing is similar to some of Tony Iommi's less imaginative pentatonic moments (I noticed a few bars that were similar to a section of "War Pigs") - but all in all, this is stretching the term proto metal a bit.

A foot-tapper rather than a headbanger - pass it by.

UFO Phenomenon

Album · 1974 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 23 ratings
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Phenomenal

If you want troo Heavy Metal from the early 1970s, it don't come much truer than this.

The addition of ex-Scorpions guitarist Michael Schenker in 1973 to UFO served to supercharge a rather dull Krautrock-style jam band into one of the first bona fide heavy metal acts - if not THE first. Schenker was chosen above Larry Wallis, ex Pink-Fairies guitarist, who would go on to join the earliest incarnation of Motorhead.

True, there had been Black Sabbath and the hordes of imitators, and there had also been some wonderful acts in the Krautrock scene, Ladbroke Grove in London - as well as across the globe in various guises - but none had produced an album which was 100% heavy metal in form, style or attitude, with the exception of Sabbath.

Sabbath, however, represent a different branch of metal, one that would not resurface for almost a decade - but when it did, all metaldom went ballistic and paid maximum homage.

What UFO brought to the table was everything about metal that Sabbath weren't. Sabbath were the dark, doomy side - but as everyone knows, metal has it's melodic side, there are swathes of bands that focus on the technical aspects, and some may hate the radio-friendly side of metal, but it's no less metal than the really unlistenable hardcore stuff.

It's also true that Phenomenon isn't 100% metal - especially in its latter half, when it kinda kicks back a little and puts its metaphorical feet up - maybe saving energy for the ultimate climax. "Queen of the Deep" contains some of the best soloing you will ever hear - but more of that later.

Musically, Phenomenon lives up to its title, with really strong songwriting and dazzling guitar soloing - the pentatonic noodly rubbish favoured by so many bands has been chucked away in favour of Schenker's trademark encyclopaedia of metal licks, based on a wide variety of scales and influences - but always with a diamond-sharp edge.

This album is the perfect answer to dandruff - simply crank it up as loud as it'll go and hey presto! In no time, you'll be banging your head so hard that the white stuff'll have no chance whatsoever.

We dive straight in to the pounding "Oh My", take a little breather with "Crystal Light" (watch out as you hold that lighter above your head - you don't want to set fire to the room above), then it's Classic time. If you don't already know "Doctor Doctor", what planet have you been living on?

Another mellifluous ballad follows, and it is such as Journey would base an entire career on, albeit a very welcome showcase for Schenker's amazing feel for extended melody.

There then follows the other track that you NEED to know, which is another Schenker showcase, and I won't insult anyone by naming it. Suffice to say that the title is the exact opposite of the music.

Side 2 is devoid of classics, infused instead with a slightly countrified air, and begins with the rather average "Too Young To Know". It's no slouch, however, with the gorgeous "Time on My Hand", the driving cover of the Willie Dixon tune, "Built For Comfort", the classically inspired "Lipstick Traces", which is a foundation stone of the Malmsteen style, and "Queen of The Deep", a metal classic that never was.

Herein lies some of Schenker's finest soloing work - an almost unplundered library of licks well worth stealing, some tasty breakdown riffs - and the single most annoying fadeout I've ever heard - it's far too early!

Phenomenon is quite simply essential listening.

DEEP PURPLE Burn

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.68 | 62 ratings
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Over Hughes and Coverdale - the burning bush.

The brand new Mk III lineup returned to Montreux with the Rolling Stones mobile studio, presumably to try and capture some of the mojo of the iconic Machine Head album.

There are moments of that, indeed, the whole album smokes, to coin a phrase, but really, the most iconic thing about this album is the cover.

"Burn" carries all the hallmarks that would find their way into the debut of Blackmore's new band the following year, topped by the fledgeling machismo of new frontman David Coverdale. The riff is of legend, and the song construction is almost a template for songs like "Man on the Silver Mountain". Blackmore's solos are more articulate here than they've ever been - and that's really saying something.

As rock songs go, the remainder are way beyond filler - this was a great band, after all. Coverdale's voice contrasts badly with that of Hughes especially in places during "Might Just Take Your Life", a tune he only truly owned in his post-Purple band, Whitesnake.

"Lay Down, Stay Down" is a mighty piledriver of a song, but again, I'd prefer it if Coverdale took all the main vocal duties, as Hughes' voice is rather thin and wavery.

"Sail Away" is almost like a kind of heavy Disco piece - nothing wrong with that - this is, after all, just before disco went crap. You could almost sing "Ah-ha-ha-ha, Staying Alive..." to it though.

There aren't any real surprises here, or on the rest of the album - all the music is top-quality funky boogie rock (with the exception of the MIGHTY "Mistreated" - a true slow rock song, not a ballad per se), with lovely arrangement touches, some great singing (Coverdale), some mediochre singing (Hughes), some brilliant drumming, solid keyboards, bass where you'd expect bass to be - and then there's A200, which is a surprise, although not a very good one.

In summary, a great album, an essential for any rock collection - but your metal collection would survive just fine without it. Maybe it'd miss Blackmore's superlative soloing, but that's it.

COLOURED BALLS Heavy Metal Kid

Album · 1974 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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Outside Australia, John (Barry) Lyde, AKA Lobby Loyde seems to be a relative unknown:

The son of two multi-talented musicians, exposed at an early age to the latest R&B, Jazz and Blues sounds, he found his feet in rock music very early, joining a group called Devil's Disciples in the late 1950s.

In 1965, he was a member of The Impacts (not the Melbourne group), who supported The Rolling Stones and released a cover of a Graham Bond song later that year. In October 1968, he joined up with the legendary Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

Coloured Balls were formed in 1972, and their first album was originally slated to be called "Rock Your Arse Off" - doncha just love these guts already?

Of course, a chickenshit record company wasn't going to release an album with that name - indeed, it didn't get released until 1976, as "The First Supper Last". What a cop-out. With songs like "Liberate Rock" and "G.O.D. (Guitar OverDose - do you see what they did there?), the guys had a trajectory set for metal goodness.

After Supporting Marc Bolan and T-Rex, CB released their highly acclaimed debut, Ball Power, and this, their second album, around 6 months later.

The music it's a real hit-and miss thing - where it hits, it hits hard, and where it misses, it can get pretty awful.

The title track blasts things off - and it's a belter, based on Deep Purple's "Stormbringer" until the chorus chants of "Heavy Metal", and the obtuse, spine-tingling bridge section. The comedy rock ending is a real treat. If all the music was like this, I'd have no hesitation comparing the album to Sweet's "Fanny Adams".

The lyrics are a real call to arms;

Speak up I can’t hear what you’re saying Still can’t dig the game you are playing We should all be praying even you HEAVY METAL HEAVY METAL HEAVY METAL Blinding stuff.

Here's the but - and it's a big but...

"Do It" is a bit disappointingly traditional rock stuff, "Just Because" has punk attitude running in its veins, alongside a huge Skynyrd influence, and some mellifluous soloing, and "Baby I Don't Care" is a dose of pure Rock and Roll (as in 1950's rock and roll) silliness.

"Private Eye" begins a bit more like it, with a huge "Peter Gunn" style riff, which is returned to, thankfully, as the rest of the song is rather light. The lyrics make a reasonable engrossing story about a guy who was pushed around at school, then became a private detective, "too cool for words".

"See What I Mean" is a tasteful ballad, but not really of interest, "Dance To The Music" is a bit of filler - a light boogie thing that gets monotonous instantly and "Yes and No" is completely inexplicable filler nonsense.

"Back To You" is a welcome return to the rock - and you can imagine Metallica covering this one - it's a bit like something off a Budgie or early Priest album. The burn-out is from heaven - or hell, if you prefer. Wherever that place is that you're taken to when you hear an awesome driving, metallic instrumental with spine-chilling, hair-raising tendencies in truckloads.

A bit of a shock next - I'm not sure if this is intended to be Zappa-esque, but there's an element there in the rocked-up Doo-Wop of "Need Your Love".

"Sitting Bull" sounds like a tribute to Geronimo, the American Indian band to start with, then descends into drivel. "Custer's Last Stand" is a much more macho thing, with a muscular main riff and tasteful soloing driving this short instrumental.

Disappointingly, "Metal Feathers" isn't a Budgie tribute, or particularly metal - it's a synth/acoustic couple of minutes of floatiness sounding a bit like a Hawkwind out-take.

"Tin Tango" is a welcome return to the heaviness, remaining in the Hawkwind vein, but at the heavy end of the spectrum, with wooey noises inexpertly wafting around. "Summation (U Baby) is yet another couple of minutes of "Shit, boys, we've got a whole album's worth of time to fill - how do we do it?"

In summary, a very, very disappointing album with perhaps 3 decent hard-rocking tunes on it which are head and shoulders above most of the drivel coming out of Australia in the early 1970s - Buffalo aside.

2 stars, because the good stuff is very good. But you've been warned about the not so good stuff. It's not intrinsically bad, but it makes the album feel like a padded-out mish-mash of well-executed but terrible ideas, with no overall consistency.



SLADE Slayed?

Album · 1972 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 2.91 | 8 ratings
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Rock and Roll album par excellence - to get any better than this you had to wait a year or two for The Sweet's "Fanny Adams".

Driving it all is that "Whoompah-Doompah" Glam Rock beat, and Noddy's unique and highly distinctive voice is absolutely at it's peak here, dripping with excitement, and, conversely, sounding almost exactly like Suzi Quatro on the incendiary "The Whole World's Goin' Crazee".

The album romps through several stylistic changes - this isn't just a bunch of similar sounding songs, there's real variety within the Slade remit.

The somewhat melancholy "Look at Last Nite", reflects during the morning after the Nite before, with sumptuous harmonies and tasty bass runs, then "I Won't Let It 'Appen Agen" packs an exciting melody, predicting some of the songs on The Scorpions' mighty "Virgin Killers".

Rounding off side 1 is a cover of the Janis Joplin song "Move Over", which Slade completely own, while staying faithful to the original - Holder's voice is probably the only male voice in history which could follow on from Janis, although he doesn't quite get the same spine-tingling factor she had, this is a killer cover with crashing goodness. Play the two back to back - it's amazing how great they both sound.

Flipping the vinyl over, the mayhem continues. "Gudbuy t'Jane" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" are two of Slade's biggest hits - the former a lightweight rocker, and the latter a drop-tuned, barnstormin' classic. Sandwiched between these chart toppers is the stompin classic that never was, "Gudbuy, Gudbuy".

The more alert among listeners will have noted the deliberately mis-spelled song titles, a practice which was widely adopted among NWoBHMers and Glam Metallers in later years. It's worth noting, especially in tracks as heavy as "Gudbuy, Gudbuy" that Slade's influence went far beyond the interesting naming conventions.

The final Slade original on the album, "I Don' Mind" is a down tempo throbber, reminiscent of early Priest.

Rounding things off is a blitzing cover of "Let The Good Times Roll" - again, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a Slade orginal, as it gets the complete assimilation treatment. The guys really kick some ass on this one.

Slayed? is a tremendous album, bridging the gap between hard rock and metal, with a boot firmly planted in each camp - but the main focus is on letting the good times roll rather than contemplating anything of a serious nature, hence my marking is "Great, but not essential".

DEEP PURPLE Fireball

Album · 1971 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.69 | 68 ratings
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Where could Purple go after the awesome "In Rock"?

More of the same, of course!

The title track of Fireball is a kind of watered-down "Speed King", with similar, but more tired aspirations to speed, Paice's amazing Motorhead-esque drumming somehow bearing a slightly lethargic edge, Blackmore's chugga-chugga proto metal rhythms and Lord's keyboards permeated with a sluggish laziness at complete odds with the music's firey nature.

This is followed up with the pathetic "No, No, No", with any number of cheesey licks thrown in. And yes, by 1972, everything in here had been done better by someone else already. Even Gillan's legedary larynx is sounding hoarse and tired. The terrible tempo change just serves to underline the sense of a band on downers.

Deadly dull after a mere minute and a half - and there are another 5 minutes to go - and nothing new to hear, apart from Lord rehashing Manzarek - badly.

"Strange Kind of Woman" is the famous radio-friendly side of Purple - a classic, of course, and must have been recorded in a separate session, since the energy and "vibe" is there in spades. Then there's the classic melodic guitar solos - nectar to the ears of those tired of cheesey pentatonic bluff.

Some bizarre tinkling about begins "Anyone's Daughter", which begins in a kind of Pink Floyd vein - I've read about this being a progressive track - well, OK, if the most average side of Floyd is Prog to you, all power, I suppose.

Unfortunately, the song degenerates into a kind of Johnny Cash number. I suppose it's OK as a song, but it feels totally out of place, and country and metal never mixed until Hayseed Dixie.

"The Mule" follows, with a proud, crashing entry to something very different again. This isn't what we're used to hearing from Purple, and is pleasant, if unexciting. There's quite a strong late sixties vibe running through it, a la Procol Harum, or, more strongly, The Beatles "Tomorrow Never Knows", giving a retrogressive feel.

Unlike TNK, it's not kept short and sweet, so gets very boring very quickly.

The penultimate track is "Fools", again, sounding like an outtake for "Revolver", or "LA Woman" - the twin influences worn openly on the sleeves here, until the crashing chords around 1:30, which mark the most exciting moment on the album, atop a fine collection of riffs that predict Blackmore's later work with Rainbow. Gillan is still sounding rather hoarse, and the screams are disappointingly absent.

The whole caboodle is kinda repeated, with the Beatles/Doors stuff dragged out unnecessarily. Purple were neither group, good as they undoubtedly were - and "Fools" ends up being 4 minutes too long.

Rounding off the album is something more chunky altogether. The late sixties vibe is still there - maybe Traffic, definitely Spooky Tooth.

Very low metal quotient on this rather average album - and I don't mean average for Deep Purple.

It's saved from "Poor" by the very few high points - which are genuinely great moments - but only just, as most of this is crushingly average dross.









SLADE Play It Loud

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.01 | 6 ratings
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This is a great album.

It reveals more with subsequent listens, rewarding the listener with arrangements and performances of surprising quality and rock-ness.

It gets better the louder you play it - true to the title, and the more time and patience you give it, the more it gives back, like a kind of musical buddy.

The metallic moments are few and far between, hence the rating - for itself, I'd give it a solid 4 or even 4 and a half stars. It's not quite a masterpiece, as there's nothing that I could comfortably describe as outstanding. It is an enjoyable and reasonably raucous romp in rock, Holder's distinctive larynx qualities and occasional towers of "crunch" being the main attractions here.

"Raven" has moments of pure power that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stick up, causing a draught down the back of your T-Shirt. It also has moments of pub-band silliness, and irritating chickin-pickin-ness - but it's a great intro to the Spinal Tapness of "See Us Here", a bass-driven crunch fest.

Holder's voice really impresses here, like he's screaming through a truckload of gravel - and there are some tingly vocal harmonies in the chorus among other sumptuous arrangement details.

"Dapple Rose" is the first of many highlights - a ballad that turns and twists through various Beatles stylings. The violin solo could be lost, but otherwise, the arrangement is superb, as the violin works better in it's counter-melody setting.

It's back to the R-O-C-K for "Could I", a twisted stomper, like a Turbocharged Beatles number bent around a sledgehammer.

The album flows well into "One Way Hotel", which has a load more original twists among the Beatles cues and bluesy passages - and hints somehow at David Bowie's later Glam albums.

"Shape Of Things To Come" is the song from the film "Wild in the Streets", originally from the album of the same name by fictional rock band Max Frost and The Troopers. The song was later released by Dave Allen and The Arrows - Allen getting much credit for being the missing link between Link Wray and Jimi Hendrix as Fuzz box innovator.

Holder's voice, the cranked guitars, the vocal harmonies and the tasteful arrangement details dominate the remaining tracks, none of which stand out from the others, as they are all of a similarly high quality - making this album a rewarding listen for any rock fan.

Metal fans may feel a little short-changed, however, so should look to Slade's later releases for the "proper" proto stuff.

UFO UFO II : Flying

Album · 1971 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.51 | 12 ratings
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For their second album, UFO decided to stick to the formula of the first, ie "heavy" psych rock, based around a small collection of rather unadventurous riff patterns.

An album for fans only, there's little to get excited about in here;

The opener, "Flying" is a somewhat dull jam - indeed, there's not much "psych" about it. There are a few tasty licks among the neverending noodle - Mick Bolton is no Michael Schenker for sure, and is the weak link in the jigsaw puzzle, as Pete Way and Andy Parker serve up a solid but ultimately boring backdrop that only serves to hint tantalisingly at the superb songs they were later to pen. Phil Mogg's voice has also yet to find its feet, so to speak, so this is not the UFO of "Phenomenon".

After several listens, I still find it fairly difficult to differentiate the pieces - they're all much of a muchness, although not quite as crushingly dull as some of the more mundane Krautrock from which this album undoubtedly springs - there is an emphasis on the sound of the crashing rhythm chords that suggests some thought has gone into the structuring.

Turning up the volume doesn't fix this, and neither, I've discovered, does beer. The (literally) monotonous vocals of "Star Storm" are not the soaring masterpieces that the band would come to write, and do not come up to the kneecaps of their peers.

The incessant wailing of the over-effected guitar really gets old quite quickly - and there are 3 tracks to go, which, for better or worse, sound exactly the same, except the notes are in different orders.

Avoid unless you're desparate to hear what UFO were like before they were amazing.

One and a half stars - really it's a half star album, musically and metally - but Way, Parker and Mogg are at least there, and solid. Nothing to dislike there.

DARK Round The Edges

Album · 1972 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.54 | 3 ratings
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An intriguing album to say the least - and Dark Round The Edges is a fairly accurate assessment.

The music has a melancholy almost folksy flavour, with vocals that remind me somewhat of David Sylvian's mournful baritone.

Despite the non-heavy rock feel, the vibe overall in "Darkside" is very much in the original sense of "heavy", and the metal connection is tangible in the dissonant harmonies, many of which avoid conventional diatonic cadential structures.

The music itself is free-flowing and makes a lot of use of riffing that seems a fair distance from standard blues progressions.

Occasionally, a fuzz pedal is kicked in, and a bigger, dirtier sound overtakes.

"Maypole" begins in a much lighter vein - like the lightest side of Wishbone Ash. Around 2:10, the heavier sound is re-introduced over a shuffling, almost reggae-fied drum beat, and things get a bit more exploratory from here - mostly around a simple descending chord pattern, but with moments of craft, guile and heaviness - but it's not too long before the uber-lite song returns.

"Live For Today" opens with an acoustic passage, rather like that famous one stolen by Metallica from Bleak House's "Rainbow Warrior". Again, Ash-lite is the order of the day in the song until the intro, continuing in the formula - there are some fabulous psychedelic touches here, but notalot of metal, and the noodle is notable only in the lack of real invention. Great for stoking a stogie to, but that's not really why we're here!

The crashing chords at the end are worth hanging around for.

"R.C.8." is a welcome return to the heavier sound, and is infused with the unique sound of Dark, passing through a kind of quasi-jazz rock section.

A brief flurry gets us into "The Cat", which is a largely Hendrix-inspired song with the Dark twists. The flurrying psychedelic style bluff is a bit annoying, but the overall effect kinda works. The obligatory long jam section is surprisingly laid back, and has intonation issues, but is more than bearable overall.

Rounding off the album is the heaviest number by far, entitled "Zero Time" - a sample can be heard hear, so no need for me to dig in. It is my favourite song on the album, and gives almost completely the wrong idea - there are many moments that sound like this song, but the album overall is a real mixed bag, so not one for most metal fans.

It's not hard to hear how this album could be massively heavied up and turned into "proper" metal, so if you're out of song ideas, this is a great and, as far as I know, untapped source of unknown material to cover that would "metal up" well.

Collectors only - but I have to say it's a fascinating and enjoyable album, so I'll push it up to Good, but non-essential.

ATTILA Atilla

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.33 | 5 ratings
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A devisive album indeed...

I'm happy to see Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic (not exactly the world's leading heavy metal critic!) describe this as "undoubtedly is the worst album released in the history of rock & roll -- hell, the history of recorded music itself", and Billy Joel himself is reported to have sought out every vinyl copy he could over the decades in order to destroy them.

It gets better - I read somewhere that Joel hislef described the album as "psychedelic bullshit", and tried to kill himself with furtniture polish after the complete failure of this album.

It must be really, really awful then?

Yes and no.

First, we never take much notice of music critics, especially when a non-metal fan is attempting to review a metal album, as they always get it wrong. For example, the review in Smash Hits, 1979, of AC/DC's mighty "Highway To Hell" read something like "An awful mix of chainsaws meeting piledrivers" - 3/10 (in a magazine that rarely gave less than 5/10).

That review made me buy "Highway" just to find out how bad it was - and guess how much I hated it? Enough to catapult AC/DC to the top of the list of my favourite bands, buy every album they've ever put out, and see them as much as possible. Too bad I missed out on seeing Scott - but what a treat witnessing them playing the Back In Black album live for the very first time in 1980.

All of which says nothing about the album in question whatsoever.

So let's dig in, metal heads - what horrors await?

Well, it's not so bad, at first - a kind of curious mix of Deep Purple, Sir Lord Baltimore and Hendrix.

See, Billy Joel stuck his Hammond B3 through a Marshall Stack, with a Wah Wah (yes, really!) in the effects loop alongside the obligatory fuzzbox - and you'd swear blind that organ was a guitar in places.

This is utterly primaeval stuff - Joel was clearly on a mission - and the lyrics are so freakin' bad they're accidentally brilliant in places - and that's a fair summary of the album. So bad it's awesome. The kind of album that gets dragged out once in a while when you're bored with everything else and need a blast of air.

I hesitate to say "fresh" air, as the gas that wafts out of this recording is that of a putrid cesspit of paleantological dimensions.

This album pillages your taste buds and rapes your ears. It thrusts swords of distortion through your hifi and drowns your neighbours' complaints at 50 paces. There's a kind of queasy sickness that runs right through the core, and those big slabs of meat on the album cover are only the start.

I can tell some of the more hardcore metal fans are liking this already.

We kick off with one of the album's highlights, an amazing song called "Wonder Woman". At least, it will leave you amazed that anyone could write lyrics like that...

Joel does a fair Hendrix imitation with his Hammond, before the Deep Purple-alike sounds kick in - and check out the wah-wah - you'll swear that can't be a B3. The various sounds of the B3 are over-exploited, there's the big fuzzed out of Lord, then there's the more percussive sounds - and if I'm not mistaken, the bass is via the pedal board. It almost sounds like a band - although it's kinda like someone's produced the guitar sounds via MIDI. Yes, some of it's bad in a not good way. Yet somehow, this song works in a novel way, and crunches and grinds its wild way well past the torpid debut of Atomic Rooster - if you can take Joel's rather nasty vocals.

Next up is "California Flash" - and I really, really advise listening closely to the lyrics on this, despite Joel displaying his more syrupy vocal tones. Some of the riffs in here RULE - never mind the crappy sound, these are metal riffs of the highest order for 1970 - straight out of the Deep Purple catalogue, but with more attitude. "Suddenly we all heard a crash, and everybody hid all their hash" - man, I don't know whether to laugh, cry or choke, but I'm totally diggin' it for what it is.

The key, as usual with metal, is volume. At low volumes it does sound very nasty, but at high volumes, and (this is important) with BEER, it sounds AWESOME. A true test of metal, ladies and germs.

"Revenge is Sweet" is pure, pure metal attitude, and you'll hear this kind of theme resurfacing in many obscure NWoBHM demos, but not sung like this - not only is this totally from the black, rotten core of the heart, but it's so melliflous, as Joel screams "I'LL KICK YOUR FACES IN, I'LL KICK YOUR FACES IN!!!!". I feel kinda dirty listening to this - but hey, metal does that to me sometimes - like it's digging into a place deep inside me that I want to reject. I applaud you Mr Joel, for allowing me to fully embrace the blackest parts of myself, coz I sure as hell have never sunk to the sickening depths expressed here! This is psycotheraputic brilliance!

Next up, "Amplifier Fire", a tasty jazz/rock fusion vamp a la metal, padded out with studio effects and ever so tastefully done - see, I'm not describing it as either "good" or "bad" taste - but, in a guilty way, I do rather enjoy it. I've read about it being "ham-fisted", but it's no more ham-fisted than much I've heard by the Hammond greats, and both less messy and more articulate and experimental than Vince Crane on Atomic Rooster's debut BY FAR.

The B3 is tortured within an inch of it's life - there's more cacophony to follow than on an entire Nice album - it's kinda like the intro to Speed King fuelled by anyone's guess of a drugs cocktail. As Godzilla segues into March Of The Huns, this is a very "right" moment - stellar noise, horrible, crashing, strident - FANTASTIC!!!! UNBELEIVABLE!!!!

I'm just turning the volume up and up and getting lost in the sound - despite having heard the album a few times before, it's like I just missed this the first times around. I take back what I said about accidental brilliance - this is fantastic, much better than anything I've heard Rooster do.

I will be killed by my neighbours - if I don't do it to myself first... "Rollin' Home is back in less comfortable territory - I should be hating this, but the energy is a massive blast, like a rampaging horde of Huns battering their way through my skull. The song is probably awful, and moments of crapness drop through - but I must've been battered into not caring or something.

The low point comes in the highly melodic "Tear This Castle Down" - which is no worse than anything I've heard on a Wynder K Frogg album - and in no way particularly bad.

"Holy Moses" and "Brain Invasion" wrap the album up in similar style - there are NO BALLADS on this album, no crappy half-assed blues or heavy psych numbers - this is all massively dischordant proto metal music, much more together than Blue Cheer - and in no way the utter mess that some critics would have you believe.

I think that some people find it hard to tell the difference between dissonance for it's own sake and ham-fistedness. There is no ham-fistedness here - it's all intentional, like it or not.

And I LOVE it - even the cheesey Emerson piss-take at the end of Brain Invasion (possibly a tribute to "Brain Salad Surgery").

Billy Joel has proven himself a Hammond GOD on this album, way better than Vincent Crane, and Jon Small's aggressive jazzed-out drumming is a real treat. Welcome to Hell, boys and grills. This is metal, and should be listened to at FULL volume, ON REPEAT until you understand it. You may only stop when you scream out "OK, OK, I LIKE IT, NO, I LOVE IT - NOW MAKE THE PAIN GO AWAY!!!".

Brilliant. Don't listen to the "Music Ciritcs" - what do they know?

Furniture polish, indeed!

BLUE PHANTOM Distortions

Album · 1971 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Known for his film soundtracks - most of which are of a surprisingly high quality - and include "Tomb Of Torture" (originally released as Metempsycho in Italy in 1963), which is reportedly intense - composer Armando Sciascia is not the first you would think of to be involved in a one-off project producing music along the lines of The Stooges, Iron Butterfuly and Black Sabbath - but here you have it!

A one-off, interesting curio, and impressive album to boot, with some serious proto metal moments.

Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is the first citation, and it's given the full movie soundtrack treatment in the track Diodo. Wonderful, pounding stuff that really puts the original in the shade and gets the album going with a bang - a little low on the metal, perhaps, but a real flair for the style is shown here - and there's some fabulous drumming going on.

The main issue this album has from a metal perspective, is that it pulls in so many styles and influences that it's a bit of a stand-alone thing. It's not one style or another, but has flavours from everything, ending up in a dark, driving, powerful concoction that's quite unique - and not a little bit scary.

Thus it is that "Metamorphosis" isn't very metal until the last minute or so of the piece, and "Microchaos" piles straight in, heads down, and "Compression" sounds like something from White Noise's debut - a kind of harpsichord-led Waltz in Black with wooey noises. We are talking wierd here.

Likewise, "Equilibrium" has film track written right into it, but is so provocatively haunting it sends chills right through you despite the Bossa Nova keyboard style drums.

Thus it is that "Dipnoi" is the shock treatment you've been unknowingly craving, and a metallic highpoint, before launching into a kind of heavy Kraut vibe. There are some really great moments in this piece that are a real treat.

The Sabbath influence shines through in the doomy "Distillation", and you won't be ready for how this piece pans out, so I won't spoil it. Brrrrr!

After the brutal assault of "Violence", "Equilibrium" is a complete centralisation - as the name suggests, and "Psycho-Nebulous" is either a chilling ending or a complete let-down dependent on the mood (I've experienced it as both).

Total mood music - the Metal chill-out album you've been trying to find for ages. There are no lyrics as there are no vocals per se - just fantastic, dark sounds. The only slightly disappointing aspects for me are the unadventurous structures, which make repeated listening a rather limited business, and the rather "Radiophonic Workshop" electronic effects.

Those niggles aside, this is a fantastic album to own, although I'd be a bit hard-pushed to describe it as essential. I would totally recommend several listens to any metal fan without hesitation!

T2 It'll All Work Out In Boomland

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 6 ratings
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Off-the-wall hard rock/heavy psych/partly proto metal album with that unmistakable late 1960s power trio sound, furnished with cleaner lines that belie the time of release and give the album a more timeless quality than many of that era.

The range of influences is quite diverse here, but the angular and spiky-edged riff progressions seem to come from King Crimson and Gary Moore's Skid Row, with lashings of Cream and the Hendrix-inspired explosion of the time. There's also a strong vein of Floyd running through, which comes as no surprise in an album from that time that is now labelled "Progressive".

"Progressive" does not mean "Pink Floyd-like" to me, but there seems to be a surprisingly large number to whom that is the definition.

There's also a tendency to drift slightly into 1960s psychedelic nonsense (again, I blame Floyd), but this is all contained in a taut and dramatic structure that teeters on the edge at times, but otherwise maintains an almost frantic momentum with some impeccable lead runs, sparkling feedback and, regrettably, a little mindless noodle here and there from guitarist Kevin Cross.

There are times when the music feels like it's just backpedalling, filling out the moments with sound rather than pushing the musical ideas forward, but this is countered by other times when the music takes off into muscular riffs.

There's quite a mix of music on this album, much of it non-radio friendly - small wonder that it's quite acceptable to describe it as a progressive rock album, despite the minimal Prog quotient.

A Pink Floyd vibe runs quite strongly through everything, I might have mentioned this, but it's is no mere clone, and mostly that vibe simply extends to the overriding dark melancholy that veers pleasingly away from the cheesey and obvious, although sometimes it pushes towards the over-egged and ludicrous.

There's also a jazzy quality to the overall sound (but not the style) in the choice of chords used in the progressions, which evokes the sound of early Camel.

The 8 and a half minute epic "No More White Horses" is probably most of interest to metal historians, with strong allusions to Black Sabbath and Wishbone Ash. It features fast, metallic flurries screaming above the dark and fullsome riffs.

It does tend to slip back to that Pink Floyd style all too often, and the brass section is horribly intrusive, but that rhythm guitar tone is sumptuously hi-gain when it's unleashed, and the soloing, while pentatonic based, is not that all-too-familiar psychedelic wailing (which does appear on the album later, sadly).

The dark and doomy "Questions and Answers" is another highlight, while the "Purple Haz"e inspired CD reminds me of early Blue Oyster Cult, with a screaming, angular solo that's a real head-bang fest. The jazzy solo is an off-the-wall treat for a while, until the Hendrix citations spoil things a little. There is some impressive fast playing among the bluff, but altogether, a bit on the unlistenable side.

Rounding off the album is a reprise of the opener featuring more improv and that strident guitar tone. This has the tendency to descend into chaos of a most delicious nature, but some of the initial control seems a little lost despite the tight structure.

This is a good album to hear from this time, and is a great example of what a power trio could be capable of. Well worth a spin or two, but not one that you'll keep returning to for your dose of metal madness - there's not enough here to maintain the interest beyond a few listens. Keith Cross's somewhat limited vocabulary is probably the main culprit on this guitar-dominated hard rock blast.

SLADE Beginnings (Ambrose Slade)

Album · 1969 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 2.30 | 4 ratings
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Interesting debut from the 1970s Kings of Loud, under their initial moniker, Ambrose Slade, with immediate influences worn on their sleeves, but a really nice, tight style of their own audible from the get go.

The first song on Beginnings is a cool, bouncy number with the catchy title "Genesis" - possibly influenced by The Gods album of the same name. The unmistakable strains of Deep Purple's "Woman From Tokyo" drift out at you a few years early - this is nothing like the Glam band most people know. A massive wash of phase, and a hard "dum-da-dum-da-dum" monotone chug suggests influences from Status Quo and Steppenwolf.

Like Judas Priest's Rocka Rolla, this debut from Ambrose Slade is not what you'd expect; It's rooted in that 1960s psychedelic pop/rock sound, with the pounding drums and hard-edged blues of Fleetwood Mac, Cream, Small Faces and the Yardbirds, and some nice sharp-lined riffs, like creases ironed into denim jeans.

The covers are really interesting, off-the-wall numbers, including the fabulous "Knocking Nails into Walls", originally by The Idle Race, two Steppenwolf numbers - the obligatory "Born To Be Wild", and the (now) less well known "Everybody's Next One", The Moodies' "Fly Me High", Marvin Gaye's "If This World Were Mine", Ted Nugent's Amboy Dukes classic "Journey To The Center of Your Mind", The Beatles' "Martha My Dear" and, incredibly bravely, even a Zappa cover, "Ain't Got No Heart".

The remaining orignals are a mixed bag - while "Genesis" is a strikingly original piece, "Roach Daddy" is a simple, nice piece of blues rock with the distinctive tones of Noddy Holder just starting to assert themselves.

"Pity The Mother" is the standout piece though, with crashing guitar chords, and a dark, Sabbathesque metallic flavour running through a kind of Beatles in their darkest hour feeling. A really amazing song, with all the instrumentalists coming together to produce something *gasp* progressive, dramatic and cathartic.

By way of complete contrast, "Mad Dog Cole" is a stomper, more akin to the music the band would become famous for, based around a standard 12-bar progression. But man, check out the vocals! Now that's unexpected!

As to the covers, with the band members all involved in the production, there's an unrealised if rather diffuse vision beneath all the music, and they are all well done - although I find the Marvin Gaye one grates.

If I'd written a review at the time of release, I would have said something like "An incredible debut, full of promise, but altogether too many covers to provide a good picture of what this band are really capable of. That said, all the covers are so well done that what we have here is a top notch Rock and Roll party album. Buy it - this band are going to be big!".

To metal fans, I'd say it's a really interesting curio - if you have a taste for late 1960s hard rock, then it's a must-have, otherwise, have a listen - it's not a metal album, but there are some great moments.

Avoid "If This World Were Mine" - Noddy has never been Marvin Gaye, and it's the only painful moment on the album, although the cover of "Martha My Dear" is so close to the original that you wonder why they bothered except to show they could.

Two and a half stars - collectors only, but what a collector's piece!



LUCIFER'S FRIEND Lucifer's Friend

Album · 1970 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.18 | 17 ratings
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Probably one of the greatest albums you've never heard - if you haven't heard it, of course...

And, given the lack of attention this album seems to get, I'd guess that those who haven't heard it are in the majority - which is a huge shame.

The monster riffs, twin-guitar assaults and huge, metallic sound will make you check out the release date again and wonder how, as a metal fan, you came to miss this one.

"Ride The Sky", the album's opener, is pretty much the perfect blueprint for a heavy metal song, with the sinister opening, the screaming vocals, the diamond sharp twin guitars and the definitive metal rhythm guitar sound.

Even with the Strong Hammond backing, "Everybody's Clown" sounds like something from The Scorpion's 1975 album, Virgin Killer - can't remember if "Speedy's Coming" is on that album or not, but that's what I'm thinking about.

John Lawton's amazing vocals predict Klaus Meine, and, despite the obvious roots in the Heavy Krautrock scene, this entire album seems almost peerless - although listen carefully and you can hear the strains of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" coming through from the rhythm guitar in the slower moments.

But this really is an astonishing track for 1970, not so much proto metal as being pretty darn close to the real McCoy.

There's a strong Led Zeppelin streak running through the album, and the unmistakable sound of the riff to "Heartbreaker" is the inspiration for "Keep Goin'" - but there's a large dollop of Sabbath in there too, and influences from The Nice (a reference to their almighty version of "America" is hinted at around 2:00) - but also a unique twist. The breakdown riff around 1:30 is pure, molten metal. A monstrous track.

The excitement continues - there is a good reason why you only ever read good reviews of this album. The overall style is a tad on the samey side, but the metallic moments shine out like brightly polished steel, predating Priest's movement to the dark and shiny side by at least 6 years.

Another big highlight comes in the opening of "Baby You're A Liar", with sounds of early Motorhead mashed up with Phenomenon-era UFO. Again, this is all 5 years too early!

OK, the underlying flavour is still from the Hard Kraut Rock scene, a bit more noticeably than Sabbath, but far less so than Zep and their Blues Rock roots.

The unmistakable "Kerrrang!!!" from the rhythm guitar and those wide-vibrato tenor screams are all the cues you need from this era in metal's early development.

This is not only an important footnote, it's a major development in the metallic direction, and an essential part of any metal collection - more so than Zep or Purple, even though I think it's fair to say that this album is probably influenced by Zep, Purple, Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and by direct association, the grandfathers of metal, Spooky Tooth.

ATOMIC ROOSTER Atomic Roooster

Album · 1970 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.42 | 12 ratings
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The Crazy World of Arthur Brown was an amazing band - with no member more amazing than Arthur himself, whose vocal pyrotechnics are a complete joy to behold, providing a range of styles and techniques rarely heard in the world of rock or pop music combined with an instinctive feel for the dramatic. A most undersung hero, I think.

As Warthur notes, at the time, Hammond power trios were ten-a-penny - and it's worth checking out the amazing Atilla, led by none other than piano man, Mr Billy Joel, even though Atilla are, strictly speaking, a Hammond duo rather than a trio. You want wild, metal craziness? It's right there!

Meanwhile, back at the farm, the Rooster's first outing is a so-so affair, and not really of interest to metal fans, hence the low rating.

The opener, Friday The Thirteenth is a slightly out-of-tune mishmash that seems to aim at the heavier side of the Prog market - a dark flavoured organ driven piece, and, if I'm not mistaken, there is an uncredited guitar in there padding out the sound.

The organ solo is deeply inspired by the likes of Mick Weaver and Alan Hawkshaw - the unmistakable funky licks shining through.

There's quite a cool tension/release dramatic structure overall, and the music seems to segue nicely from one song to another - although some of the overdubs are a little instrusive, like the piano interjections layered over the organ.

Carl Palmer drives the rhythm section on very nicely indeed in a swingin' foot-tappin' manner, with walky bass lines and short, repetitive motifs that hint at riffs, without developing into anything interesting. The music really seems to be trying to recreate the sounds of Kingdom Come, but without Brown, this is a mere shadow. A pretty good, shadow, vocals apart - but Crane's playing is rather messy and spoils it a bit for me.

Continuing in the Mansfield/Hawkshaw/Weaver mould, "Broken Wings" is a nice piece of progressive sounding blues, with some great drumming from Palmer - as you might expect. The brass section seems like an afterthought, like a kind of tribute to Atom Heart Mother.

Although it's fair to say that this album sounds pretty much like almost any other organ-driven act of the time, there is overall a nice tightness to it, a consistently dark flavour, and the amazing instinctive and perfectly tight drumming of Palmer to hold it all together.

It's not worth going through the other tracks except to point out highlights, as there is no metal on this album whatsoever, proto or otherwise and, as has been already pointed out, they do tend to blend together with no real identity.

A collector's item only for fans of 1970s Heavy/Hard/organ-based rock - or Carl Palmer afficiandoes!

SKID ROW Skid

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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Horrendously messy opening to this album from Ireland's finest guitarist, Gary Moore, at the tender age of 17, with a 1959 Les Paul guitar inherited from Mr Peter Green himself.

There's nothing wrong with Gary's playing here - it's as top notch as you'd expect - or maybe more so, given that this is is debut recording outing. It's just that his fellow band members have real trouble keeping up with the young virtuoso at first - or maybe Gary is a little over-enthusiastic - it's hard to tell.

Despite writing the opening piece, Mad Dog Woman, Brendan Shiels seems to lurch along a fraction of a beat behind the whole way though, and Noel Bridgeman really struggles with the drumming.

That said, this is a band right at the forefront of what they were attempting, and recording above their own abilities - so full kudos are awarded. This song is a real technical challenge, despite sounding like an adaptation of "Hard to Handle" - and the brightest light of all is that glorious, incandescent guitar tone that bobs along over the top of it all from Mr Moore.

The piece jumps around crazily, fully maintaining the interest, once you've got over the ragged looseness of it all, and Moore's fills continue to delight - one can only applaud Shiels ability to play the same line on the bass without dropping too many notes. Listen to the twist at the end, then pick your jaw up from the floor.

This style is continued into Virgo's Daughter, Moore and Shiels playing a couple of octaves apart, before separating for some astonishing craziness that rivals anything Hendrix ever achieved - Moore's playing is instinctive and wild, yet in total control. A joy to behold.

Again, we are treated to crazy changes in tempo, time sig and key, with some beautiful details, a tasty build up, and some quite irritating, droning vocals... never mind, we can't have it all. Hang on in there for Moore's supremely melodic solo utilising modes in an extremely tasteful manner. Then there's a really cool synchronised passage leading to something that sounds like a tribal Celtic version of early Wishbone Ash.

Another masterful composition from Sheils, over too soon. Or is it? There's another odd surprise bolted on at the end!

A complete change of style follows, some incredible finger picking (and overdubs) from Moore, drawing on a wide range of styles, evoking Arlo Guthrie, Paul Simon, and some of the Country greats. Not my favourite song, and completely non-metallic, but "Heading Home" is tight as you like, in contrast to the ragged performances that preceeded it.

In keeping with the other pieces, there's a surprise at the end, Moore duelling with himself.

Next, "An Awful Lot Of Woman" is a return to the earlier style, but it's like the band have got into the swing of it, and this is a much, much tighter piece, with some uplifting changes and the guitar fireworks we all associate with Gary Moore of the frenetic, fretburning variety - makes my fingers bleed just listening to it. Sheils keeps up much better here - and I can only wonder how.

A complete change of pace to a Zeppelin-esque slow blues - er, hang on, when was this released again? Reminds me a bit of Dazed and Confused, whoever released first. I could care less for the precedent, because this isn't Jimmy Page we're listening to, and we really know it. Moore's authoritative and unique style is stamped all over this piece, as the others, and it reigns supreme. The guitar solo section is INTENSE.

Back to the speedy stuff in "For Those Who Do", and, if crazy tempo shifts, with plenty of ultra-virtuosic shredding are your thing, then this is for you.

I won't go into the last 3 songs, as this kind of song-by-song thing can get dry pretty quickly, but it's all top-quality stuff.

Not really metallic, so not essential for your metal collection, but if you like a good guitarist - no, if you get excited by a GREAT guitarist, then this is missing from your collection if you don't own it already.

If long guitar solos and virtuosity turns you off, this is still worth a listen, as the excitement Moore generates is infectious - and might turn you into a solo freak yet!

An easily deserved 3 and a half stars.



HIGH TIDE Sea Shanties

Album · 1969 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.43 | 8 ratings
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High Tide's debut is a slog through two or three musical styles, and rather limited ones at that. Although this appears on many people's proto metal lists, the metal quotient is practically non-existent, and the music rather samey and limited in exploration or interest.

The opener, Futilist's Lament grabs the attention immediately, with its uber-fuzzed guitar riffing and Morrison-like vocals outlining a melody straight from The Doors.

The styling is pure heavy psych mixed with hard rock, and the metallic feel is only edgy. The drums drive and shift beat emphasis, leaving only the pulse for head banging purposes - but it works.

The solo is a weak affair, simple blues scales, then a really nice, hooky melody line, some fast and very messy bluff, back to the hook, back to the bluff - obviously there's been attention paid to the structuring, but the execution of the bluff is rather poor and unsatisfying.

There's rather too much bluff, and the song goes on about 30 seconds too long, before the swirling fuzz-fest of Death Warmed Up, a decidedly non-metallic piece, driven by a lead violin lending a really cool Celtic air to the extended, hook-laden intro. Hendrix citations abound, before another round of unnecessary guitar bluff, which makes this piece feel a lot too long.

I read somewhere that this is an example of Heavy Prog, but I have to say that there's no Prog here.

There is a monstrous Hawkwind-like riff, which tapers off too soon, but all in all, a very dull and unexciting piece. I got bored by 3:00, and it's 9 minutes long.

There is a change at 4:00, but it's to some Hendrixy style wah, and more of exactly the same quick bluff we heard at the beginning, out of key and totally unremarkable to the point of irritation.

I kept skipping, 20 seconds at a time, but the overall texture doesn't change - pointless waste of vinyl.

Pushed But Not Forgotten is a more laid back affair to begin with, Doorsy in flavour, but with the interest in the violin. The harmonies are jazzy, with plenty of 6ths, and the vocal melody swoops into interesting places - but then it's all spoilt when it suddenly gets heavy.

We return to the mellow music, and there are some interesting textures over the return to the first theme, but knowing that the heavy section will return in a horribly predictable fashion has already removed any interest for me.

The Doors flavour is maintained for the 4th song "Walking Down Their Outlook", but by now I'm tired of the formula of this hard rock album in prog clothing.

About a minute in, there's a lovely exposed moment, but generally, this is an expansion of the previous piece, with quiet sections in the melodic style, loud sections in a messy, bluffy style and that sums it up.

The metallic quotient is almost totally missing from the first song onwards, it should be noted.

The 4th song is an interesting take on heavy psych, but by now I'm too tired of the formula to enjoy it.

At 9:38, I don't feel I'm missing out if I skip it.

The album is rounded off with a song called Nowhere, which is a very apt title, as that is exactly where it seems to go.

Not impressed by this one at all, musically, and the metal content is miniscule.

So on two counts, I would not recommend it to anyone, let alone a metal fan.



ART Supernatural Fairy Tales

Album · 1967 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 3 ratings
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Possibly my favourite album from 1967, this sole album from Art is far more than a collectable artifact.

The wonderful Hapshash and the Coloured Coat designed cover is one of the best ever created - and, it has to be said, looks amazing on the original first press vinyl - later pressings seem to lose something of the multi-dimensionalness of it.

The cover art has an even stronger link than many others of the time to the designers - the members of Art were involved in a project with H&tCC, called "Hapshash and the Coloured Coat featuring the Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids.

Forget Steppenwolf, this was the first documented mention of Heavy Metal in connection with music.

Before Art did that project, they toured for several years as the V.I.P.s, culminating at a gig in Croydon, where Chas Chandler, manager of the Animals, introduced them to his latest protege, an American guitarist unknown in the UK.

Chandler persuaded the band to let his discovery jam with them onstage at this large gig. He went down a storm, and the band changed their sound and style as a result.

Oh, I nearly forgot! The guitarists' name was James Marshall Hendrix.

So on to the album, a mixed bag, which is unsurprising, given the release date, but contains plenty of heavy material that will delight and surprise anyone interested in the roots of the music.

The opener, "Think I'm Going Wierd" is satisfyingly and surprisingly heavy - we're talking at least Cream heavy, if not a little more - but without the "straight" blues feel of Cream. This is darker music altogether, and fantastic proto metal. The crashing intro with massively distorted metallic guitars is a real ear-opener, and the vocals are a fantastic blend of Steve Winwood and Ozzy Osbourne - you can clearly hear a strong influence on the young John Osbourne's vocal style.

There then follows a booming and heavy cover of the Buffalo Springfield classic, "What's that sound", predicting the heavy covers that Vanilla Fudge would become famous for.

"African Thing" is a more psychedelic freakout, with flavours of Gong's 1971 album, "Camembert Electrique" - and not particularly African in my humble opinion, until we get to the drum section, which might cause you to rip your clothes off, daub your body with paint and feathers and dance around - but maintains the overall dark flavour of the album nicely.

"Room with a View" is a crunchy, distorted Small Faces type of song - well done, with a Hendrixy bridge riff - hardly surprising that this band should be influenced by the shell-shock they must've got by being the band to introduce Jimi to the UK!

"Flying Anchors" kind of reminds me of "Changes", or a number of other quieter Black Sabbath numbers, with maybe a hint of later Pink Floyd.

Then it's up, up and away with the title track, which begins with a riff almost exactly like Hendrix's "Can You See Me" - and, given the release date, it's hard to know who copied who. Given the involvement, it hardly matters though. The Hendrix song is the superior, but "Supernatural Fairy Tales" is still a proto metal blast.

With a title like "Love Is Real" you wouldn't expect anything metallic, and this song is indeed just a nice slice of Beatles influenced psychedelia. Smokey!

"Come On Up" is an intriguing blend of Psych/Freakbeat and proto metal. The rhythm guitar sound is so far beyond the average fuzzed sound of the time it's not funny - and the regular chunking rhythm is metal to the core, sounding like "Ballroom Blitz" by The Sweet. The guitar solo rips, and is not your average psychedlic wailing nonsense. The song has a great sense of drama and pathos, using a build-up technique to generate excitement nicely.

"Brothers, Dads and Mothers" sounds rather Kinks inspired, with a little Spooky twist. As a song I find it rather dull, although I enjoy the Kaleidoscope style breakdown towards the chorus, and the Hammond snarl in the outro.

"Talkin' To Myself" is a rather average 60s style song done with impeccable style, and with little details that are actually quite impressive - but not very metallic.

"Alive Not Dead" seems to come from the Progressive music scene, and reminds me a fair bit of the Scottish Prog Rock act Clouds. There's a nice heavy guitar line running through, with elements of Blue Oyster Cult's much later style.

To wrap up, "Rome Take Away Three" features a monstrously heavy, doomy riff, completing an essential addition to any proto metal collection - but let's face it, if you have a hard time accepting Led Zeppelin as even metal related, you probably won't get much from this album unless you're open minded and know good heavy music when you hear it.

Because this is a very good album indeed. I'm struggling to call it a masterpiece, as there's nothing outstanding - and yet it is all outstanding in it's own way. As a historical artifact of metal, it's absolutely essential for its direct influence on Black Sabbath, and the source of possibly the earliest metal sounds ever recorded.

The follow-up to this album is Spoooky Tooth's debut, as Gary Wright joined the band, and they changed their name. Spooky Tooth, especially their second album, is essential owning for any fan of early metal.

SLAYER Reign in Blood

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 166 ratings
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Essential, landmark masterpiece of Thrash Metal.

There's not an ounce of fat here, yet there is the full album's complement of 10 songs, most clocking in at little over 2 minutes, yet replete with all verses, choruses and multiple guitar solos.

When this album came out, it was the equivalent of a nuclear blast across the music industry - the shockwaves were felt across the globe. It was such a dramatic increase in quality, notably in terms of production, thanks to Rick Rubin - but all this is well known now.

The first song, Angel of Death, is the longest - and I must admit I always felt it was a bit too long, until I saw them playing live at Hammersmith Odeon in 1986 on the Reign in Blood Tour, and truly, it couldn't go on long enough. My opinion of the album, which I already held in very high regard, changed for the better, witnessing them performing it for the first time in England.

There are criticisms that the music is "samey" - this is to miss the point. When the music sounds like this, you don't want it to stop sounding like this - you want to live in the nirvana of the "ball of spikes" forever. I swear that concert was the second shortest one I ever attended - after Metallica with Anthrax supporting in September of that same year.

It's all been reviewed so many times, it's difficult to know how to give a fresh perspective on this album, which set a benchmark that has never been surpassed - but here goes. If it's not fresh, who cares? Another masterpiece rating won't hurt this masterpiece. Grin.

The intro slams hard and heavy - the production allows everything to shine through, every hit to slam home, every plectrum stroke (if such a gentle word may be used) and every scream to pierce through in a sonic explosion.

From the opening lines, "Auschwitz, the meaning of pain, the way that I want you to die", we are acquainted with the subject matter - and although I feel that the lyrics are grossly overdone in places, they are as nothing compared to the sad attempts at shock lyrics you hear now.

There follows the middle section, breaking away from standard rock song format, Slayer breaking down the intense thrasherama into THAT riff, which you just want to go on for ever and ever. Another riff is chucked in for the vocal section, and more riffs and breaks are chucked across the mix - how can anyone say the music stays the same, and who cares if it does when it's this amazing?

The various riff sections are buzzed around again, until the twin guitar solos slam in suddenly over a frantic version of the chorus riff, King and Hanneman exchanging evil-sounding swoops and screams, painting a stunning picture of the Angel of Death.

This doesn't feel like nearly 5 minutes any more. I'm sure it was 10 seconds.

Piece By Piece starts with a slower, churning pair of riffs, before returning to Angel of Death speed. The multiple stops and starts rip your brains out piece by piece, and is incredibly catchy, despite having no tune to speak of. The breakdown features an uber-intense descending riff, followed by a Sabbath-inspired tritonic motif, before exiting abruptly with the final verse and chorus - blink and you miss it!

Necrophobic is one of the fastest songs on the album, and simply rips along, severing flesh, tearing limb from limb. Headbanging to this is sure to result in a brain hemorrhage, so dont try it - but try resisting the riff at the breakdown - it's killer. The double solo flies off atop another Sabbath inspired motif before the song makes it's return with an impressive scream and mega heavy ending. I think my fingers are bleeding from trying to listen and type at the same time. Great!

The band I was in, back in '88 used to cover the next two songs, but in reverse order, and they're two of my favourite Slayer songs. It's weird to me to hear them in the album order, but they have better flow in the context of the preceeding songs - and this album does flow magnificently.

Altar of Sacrifice changes key and tempo as a kind of brief respite - it's no slouch, as it fairly zips along, with some brilliant riffing and key changes, and that fantastic exit from the solo, with the awesome passage "Enter to the realm of Satan", whcih picks up almost immediately, with a slower version of the main riff, Priest-like chugging a-plenty (but way more intense), and more guitar solos - Slayer really play around with the structure of the song here.

Rounding off side one of the vinyl, the music segues straight into "Jesus Saves", another catchy ditty from the friendly Slayer guys.

This is kicked off with a dark, explosive riff that's Sabbath-like, another riff follows, and another, you can really feel the build-up, then more explosions before the tempo rockets again, and the music frantically whirls around you - thrashing like a maniac, you might say. There's a guitar solo, another verse, another guitar solo, with some speedy shredding, another chorus, and another shred-fest and BANG! Side 1 ends with real flair. If you listen to the CD, you miss out on this experience, and lose some of why the album is so utterly compelling.

Side 2 starts with Criminally Insane, another of my favourite tracks - hell, they're all my favourite tracks.

Lombardo kills with an impressive recycling of the slow drum beat from Angel of Death - effectively turning the structure of that song upside down, as the verse/choruses return to the fast tempo - we like. More breakdowns and soloing, with wild shredding, and the slow beat is returned to in magnificent style. This never fails to give me goosebumps, especially with the spidery, doomy riff that snakes itself around everything. This song is over waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too soon.

Reborn has a kind of Priest vibe - but there's absolutely no doubt that Slayer have stamped their own, unique personality over every song on this album - it's incredibly rare to find a band that has a truly unique sound, but Slayer managed it. It's more of the same - but more of the same is exactly what we want - especially that mad thrashing that kicks off the guitar solo. Slayer really had the knack of knowing when to time breakdowns and build ups to perfection.

Epidemic has an odd, kind of reigned in feel to start with, which is attacked mercilessly by Slayer's many ultra-short semi-stops. This song has a kind of feel which Sacred Reich built a career on - check out the breakdown to the slow riff, although note that Slayer sneak in some little thrashy motifs to decorate the riffs. Every riff seems to have a long tongue hanging out and drooling - just when you think you know the riff, you hear a tiny detail that you missed before.

Postmortem you just know is going to be unleashed and wild - but again, Slayer tease and tantalise, holding the tempo back until the last possible minute. The riffs describe an amazing, captivating melody that stretches entire phrases rather than simple bar-by-bar work. The whole of the song up to the guitar solo is one evolving organism of a melody. Just when you think the song is slowing, it chekkily speeds up, then is taken back again, speeds up, and ends up in a completely unexpected place, like a new song has started at the unleashed tempo we were waiting for - "Do you want to die?". The song structuring here is astonishing, and it segues straight into "Raining Blood", in a similar manner to the final songs of side one - showing clearly the attention which was paid to structuring not just the songs, but the entire album.

Raining Blood is, of course, the best song in the world ever - this is surely common knowledge /grin.

It's 4 and a bit minutes of musical perfection. Those howling screaming axes shining through the thunderstorm, the thundering drums, the massive columns of riff that threaten to tear your head off - then carry out that threat with no mercy. At this speed, it's a tad messy - but it is what it is. Genuine boundary-pushing from one of the ultimate boundary-pushing bands. The breakdown here is another goosebump moment, and should be about 20 times longer before that scream of "Raining blood from a lacerated sky". The impossible buzzing of the guitars, thrashed within inches of their lives and howling, soaring demons that end in cacophony and the thunderstorm that continues in the run-out (see, you really miss out with CD) is a beautiful, predictable (in a very welcome sort of way) ending to an album that, once heard, feels like a life-changing experience.

Utter Masterpiece.

STORMTROOPER I'm A Mess

Demo · 1977 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Intense slice of, er, punk rock?

The thing is, this sound like punk, except that there are bits (fragments, really) of half decent playing here, and it's altogether too metallic for punk, but too punk for metal.

Flip it over, and the beginning is almost identical too, but heavier than Blue Cheer's cover of "Summertime Blues". The song is erratic and messy - but the ferocity and power of the musicians, let down by weedy vocals - is on an easy par with those godfathers of metal.

It can't really be NWoBHM, as it was released in 1977, which is a tad too early. It was recorded in 1975, which is slightly early for punk. It sounds like 1970s hard rock, but it has punk energy, which means it fits nicely into any NWoBHM collection.

Sid Vicious appears in photographs wearing the button badge that the band distributed with this single when they came to London to flog it around SoHo - so the punk connection is right there.

Ultimately "I'm A Mess" is what it is.

A slab of awesome early metal noise, spoiled by awful vocals - although the lyrics tell an interesting story, artistically painting a picture that many will identify with - and, for what it is, it's a blinding masterpiece.

The drums, particularly are worth singling out, with Keith Moon ferocity and wildness, but the guitar riffs are another great talking point - intense, like Lemmy-era Hawkwind.

I'm only giving this 3 stars, because, in reality, it's pretty horrendous as metal - but I can't help liking it for what it is, and listening to this makes you feel like a paeleontologist that's just discovered the very first dinosaur.

It may be crude, but most of the right bits are there.

7 YEAR ITCH Ooh Ya Ha

Demo · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.00 | 3 ratings
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Lovely A Side, "Oo Ya Ha", with the recurring sentiment "Spend all my money getting out of my head". Wonderful sonic tectures with an underlying guitar buzz and rolling bass/drum feel. Not the most exceptionally metallic song ever, but instantly likeable, soothing and friendly-sounding. Don't let that description put you off - it's well worth a listen, but you won't add it to your metal collection instantly...

The other A Side, "I Wanna Make Ya", is a darker, more angular affair, sounding like it might have been written by a different band, with, as has been observed, some Rush leanings - and, in those harmonies, maybe a little Yes influence, if you can imagine a more punky flavoured Yes. I know I can. There are even a few touches where Genesis spring to mind - the influence that the Neo-Prog movement had on NWoBHM, and vice versa, is not to be underestimated.

Both sides show considerable flair in writing and arranging catchy, well-crafted pop/rock, and it's a shame that this band didn't go on to record more.

There is another single, somewhere in the depths of someone's 45's collection, which predates this one - but I haven't been able to track it down. Hearing this has made me decidedly keen to hear it. Any takers?

2 and a half stars, because I wouldn't really recommend this to a metal fan - except as a guilty pleasure. It's OK - we've all got them... and this is now a confirmed one of mine :o)

RADIUM Through The Smoke

EP · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Messy, sloppy, appalling noise.

FANTASTIC!!!!

Check the date - 1981.

Angel Of Fear is the strongest root of many modern branches of metal that I know of from this time - I hestitate to try to name a genre, but it's thrashy, it's like speeded up Black Sabbath - but it's not, it reminds me of Death Metal, Black Metal, Power Metal - but it's none of these things.

It's mindlessly thrashy, it's intense, it blows everything else from 1981 out of the water - except for the tech metal of Raven, of course.

Next on the EP is a live recording in a completely different vein, like a dark, Meddle-era Pink Floyd, with shades of Wishbone Ash. The musicianship isn't too shabby - no playing that will startle you, but there's a kind of fire behind it that sets your spine tingling, if you've got any soul at all. This piece is well arranged and executed, and shows a more sensitive side of a band that were perfectly capable of far higher-octane performances - which is really what sets this piece in context as being remarkable.

The second guitar solo really shreds - and there's a motif that the guitarist returns to from the first which sounds like a kind of signature - I get the feeling that this band could have been REALLY great if they'd only stuck with it.

Rounding off the EP nicely is a piece that sounds a bit like early Possessed, returning to the Death Metal flavours. There are some nice tempo changes and stops/starts - and some passages of raw intensity that will have you creating a mosh pit in your sitting room.

The production is rough, as is the execution - but this is another side of the true spirit of NWoBHM; experimental, inventive music straight from the heart, made for fans by fans.

It's in no way perfect - but you don't really expect it from kids on the tightest of budgets, eschewing guitar lessons (and tabs were not freely available back then), playing an unpopular style of music - and a rather extreme version at that, using facilites that we would now look at as horrendously primitive, given what can be obtained freely and used on our computers.

So yes, I'm taking all that into account when giving this grading - but that's not to take anything away from the astonishing invention and musical creativity on display here.

Hence a full Masterpiece of NWoBHM - and an EP for ALL Metal fans to hunt down and devour... if you can; There are only 500 copies in existence.

SWEET The Ballroom Blitz

Single · 1973 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Blitzed!

One of the most covered songs of all time, covered by The Damned, Motorhead, Krokus, Tia Carrere (in Wayne's World) and many others - including games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band - backed with one of the most arrogant, glammy, stompy, most rock and roll tunes ever written, a favourite of all hardcore Sweet fans, used in the BBC "Life On Mars" soundtrack, yet unknown to everyone else.

This pounding follow-up to the demonic Hell Raiser goes even further in Sweet's desperate - and very successful - attempt to prove to the world that they were no simple puppets, but real, hard-rockin' musicians with talent, and the scarily misogynistic B-Side proves that beyond any reasonable doubt - and gives lie to the popular myth that The Sweet were a tamer version of acts such as Queen or Gary Glitter.

These bad boys were dangerous - and perfect role models for their American imitators, Kiss.

The story also goes that this song was written following a performance at The Grand Hall, Kilmarnock, in Scotlant, at which the audience took exception to the glitzy costumes and makeup, and bottled the band off stage.

The lyrics pretty much say this;

And the man in the back is ready to crack As he raises his hands to the sky And the girl in the corner is everyone's mourner She could kill you with a wink of her eye

Oh Yeah! It was electric So frantically hectic And the band started leaving Cause they all stopped breathing

So on to the review of the song...

Nah, man - this is Ballroom Blitz - you already heard it a thousand times!

It's a killer classic, and The Sweet's original is still the best.

Check out Rock 'n' Roll Disgrace though - metal it ain't, but it's still a great tune that would give anything by AC/DC a run for it's money.

HELLANBACH Now Hear This

Album · 1983 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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I've already made the "Van Halenbach" joke, on the 19890 demo, but it bears repeating. I might add, Fair Warning...

Interesting, drop-D tuned power metal offering from Hellanbach, with strong flavours of Van Halen, just like their 1980 demo really, but with less Motorhead influence, better rehearsed and produced. Every song sounds like it might have been an outtake from VH's Fair Warning album, only rejected because of weaknesses in the songwriting rather than the performances or soloing.

There are tasty licks a-plenty, speedy soloing and drums, and nice, heavy production - but weak, weak vocals. Jimmy Brash would hardly have kept Diamond Dave awake at nights.

If you've read Eduardo Rivadavia's assessment of this band on Allmusic.com, you'll be intrigued to learn that, in fact, it's only the vocals that prevented Hellenbach from being a "good answer to Van Halen", as the intrumentalists are just fine, if somewhat lacking in originality. Dave Patton is an outstanding guitarist, with many fine flashes of inspiration.

Dancin' is a fast and furious romp through this style, and the band are really tight, giving it everything they've got, right from the core of their being.

The next track, Times Are Getting Harder doesn't deviate from the Van Halen soundalike - veering decidedly towards the heavy side, telling the rock and roll story well through the lyrics - again, the vocals in themselves let it down, and the constant Eddie style licks become a bit wearing - why not listen to Van Helen instead, is the temptation.

It's a pity, because it is true to say that the band are really, really good at playing in this difficult style, and flashes of originality and skull-shattering heaviness are on tantalising display.

As the album continues in the same vein throughout, there's not much to comment on, as we know now exactly what to expect - which is kinda good if you're a Van Halen fan and wished they'd done more heavy stuff (and are a secret DLR hater) but highlights include;

- Raven-style harmonics and flurries in the song "Look At Me" (probably following Hellenbach's signing to Raven's label, NEAT.

- More Raven influence and more speed in the song "All Systems Go" - my favourite track on the album. This is a killer, and highly recommended.

- Some really intense guitar work in "Maybe Tomorrow"

- Killer riffing in Motivated by Desire

- Skip to 3:00 of "Taken By Surprise", the song itself is rather sucky, but for 30 seconds, there is some really nice music.

- Proto thrashing in "Let's Get This Show on the Road". Solo is at 1:14, and is rather Diamond Head influenced - and sounds a bit like something that would later appear on Metallica's "Kill 'Em All" album, but better produced.

- Skip right over the aptly named "Kick It Out", this is nasty filler.

- All The Way has stronger melodies than most of the other songs, so is worth sticking with.

- The grand finale is a cover of "Everybody Wants To Be a Cat", from the Disney film "The Aristocats", and is a real hoot, although I rather feel that VH would have imbibed it with greater authenticity. That said, it's not a shabby performance at all - and the guitar solo is (literally) a scream. Truly inspired choice - I'd love to hear VH doing this... although they'd never dream of doing what Hellenbach do at 2:30, which is their finest moment on the whole album - I hesitate to say "in their whole career".

Seriously, check that last one out - if you're not familiar with it, it'll make you drop your pizza in your lap and spit your beer all over the cat.

With apologies to Hellenbach fans for the rather uncomfortable number of references to a certain American band...

Summary - finely produced album, as NEAT Records finally learned their way around a mixing desk in 1983, some awesome playing and kickass metal, but way too derivative and lacking in melody for my tastes.

TRESPASS One Of These Days

Demo · 1979 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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NWoBHM Classic.

No, it's not the most amazing song in the world or anything like that, but when I think of the music of that time, this song is the one that conjoures up the sights, the sounds, and yes, the smells of that most amazing time in modern musical history.

Underneath the hood are standard chord progressions, but these are flavoured with twists that come directly from the soul - you could call this the "before", since later metal became sharper-edged and strident in comparison.

"One of These Days" is not the famous Pink Floyd song, but an original composition by the band, packed with strong, anthemic melody, even if the arrangement is not in istself anthemic. It has strong flavours of the early 1970s, yet is completely of its own time.

Kicking things off is that beautiful acoustic flavoured introduction, rooted in Wishbone Ash or Camel, with a shining thread of lead guitar soaring over the top. This kicks into the first big heavy riff, and the song proper hypnotises with its natural flow and off the beat stabs.

True, it's a little kludgy, but that really is part of its charm, reflecting the whole DIY aspect of the NWoBHM - it really feels like the band turned up at the studio and laid this down in a single take, as a band, not one instrumentalist after another. There is something intangibly authentic about this song that truly gives it character and charm.

The version that made the "Metal For Muthas" album is more polished, if the slightly ragged production isn't to your taste - but for my money, the 7" is still great value - it hasn't hit the silly levels of the Stormchilds, Marquis de Sades or Big Daisys of the world, despite selling the inital pressing run of 2,000 copies almost immediately. Yup, it was the obscure NWoBHM equivalent of a number one hit at the time.

It's not for fans of the technical or brutal, but for those who can really appreciate great music as not necessarily being produced by people who practise 25 hours a day, but instead by normal kids who are simply huge fans of the music.

Flip it over, and we get a song with a more brutal title - Bloody Moon. This is in a similar vein - it's not one of those non radio-friendly ultra-experimental and heavy B-sides that seem to typify NWoBHM, instead, it continues with Trespass' great feel for a strong melody.

The Wishbone Ash influence remains strong, with long, beautifully melodious guitar solos, including twin guitar harmonies, prominent bass and drum flurries, and smoooth, satisfying changes. The song itself is of secondary interest to the instrumental passages, as with much Ash - so this would please fans of that latter legendary pioneering band.

It's also a grower - if you like it on first listen, you'll like it even more on subsequent listens. Despite the fact that it clearly sounds like it was made in a long-gone era, the songs never get old. Hence my rating of Classic.

SWEET Hell Raiser

Single · 1973 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Still under the control of Chinn and Chapman, The Sweet continued their new-found run of success in 1973 with this barnstormer - and it's real hard rock/metal crossover stuff with changes a-plenty making a real cut above the run-of-the mill.

Hell Raiser has always been one of my favourite Sweet songs, ever since I saw them performing for the first time on Top of The Pops, at the tender age of 9. This was it - this was the music for me, although I wasn't too sure about the glittery costumes. When I later got into the NWoBHM, and Raven covered this song, I could only kick myself for not thinking of covering it myself - but 6 years is a long time in pop music, and like almost everyone else, I'd forgotten just how great this is.

Listening now, the tingles still run up and down my spine as the guitars chug ferociously, the drums escape the "wompah dompah" Glitter Band style beats momentarily in wild, Keith Moon style episodes, and the music breaks down in exciting, unexpected episodes that remind me of Randy Rhodes in some ways, all topped with Connelly's frighteningly wild vocals and the outrageous Queen-style harmonies.

This is perfection, and in comparison with NWoBHM material, pure heavy metal through and through. The fact that Glam Metal even exists as a genre is enough to verify this statement. There are plenty of similarities here with music that Judas Priest was later to record.

Flip it over, and, true to form, you get the heavier, less chart-friendly material. Burning is a really gruff stomper, half way between Queen, Uriah Heep and Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song". As a song, it's not as strong as Hell Raiser, but as a piece of music it's fascinating - Connolley actually sounds like Freddie Mercury at some points, performing "Great King Rat" - doubtless another influence on this hybrid.

The song jets off into power metal territory for the guitar solo, which despite the inexpert execution goes off all over the place with dive-bombing more commonly associated with metal from a much later period, and other theatrical gimmicks. It all holds together well, and remains intriguiging, espeically with all the theatrical sound effects - spot the talking clock and some manic laughter.

I'm giving Hell Raiser the full 5, even though the flip is more like a 3 and a half.

Hell Raiser is where it all begins - the wild core of metal. Even the title of the song says it all.

QED.

SWEET Blockbuster!

Single · 1973 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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The first and only number one for The Sweet was surrounded by controversy, both within and outside of the band;

During preparations for releasing the single, a pounding, stomping rockin' number, much harder than their previous successful single, "Wig Wam Bam" - which in itself was much harder rockin than anything they'd done before - they suddenly discovered that David Bowie was about to release a song called Jean Jeanie which, to the band's horror, featured the same riff, taken from the Yardbirds' adaptation of the Bo Diddley classic "I'm A Man".

To everyone's amazement, the single beat Bowie to the top - Sweet finally getting their reward for being kept off the top slot themselves by Middle of the Road's "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep", for crying out loud.

To this day there are constant comparisons between the two - but it seems to be a genuine accident.

All of which is completely avoiding reviewing the song, which must have been reviewed thousands of times - it's a Classic, capital C, up with Ballroom Blitz, Action, Hellraiser and all those other fantastic Sweet songs which have been labelled Glam Rock because that was the scene The Sweet grew out of - indeed, there was a friendly rivalry between them and fellow Glam rockers Queen, right down to the pantomime delivery.

From the get-go, those sirens grip your attention - and maybe the backing beat does sound a little time-worn and faded - but there's nothing faded about the chugging riff and Connolley's power surge overload vocals - you can practically see the twirling mirror balls and coloured lights when you close your eyes - but it's quite clear that behind the family-friendly pantomime exterior, there's something altogether darker and more sinister lurking underneath - and it's mainly in the restraining you can hear in Connolley's voice and the backing guitars, like Dobermann Pinschers playing at being Labradors.

Flip the single, and here's the first of many commonalities you'll find with the NWoBHM.

"Need A Lot Of Lovin'" powers in stridently, unleashing a lot of the restrained power of the A side, with strong hints of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Hendrix and Queen mixed up in a kind of bittersweet confection.

Most savoury - and great to bang your head to, even if it's not the greatest song ever. Plenty of mindless widdle in the guitar solo, but a few surprises too.

Block Buster (two words - it's about a guy called Buster who breaks out of prison) is a hard rock classic in glittery costumes from 1973, one of the greatest years in Rock - and if you're a metal fan, you should not just hear this, but know it.

NIGHT SUN Mournin'

Album · 1972 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.16 | 4 ratings
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OK, I'm putting this into the category of "How the Hell did I Miss This One?".

As a member of ProgArchives for nearly 7 years, I didn't spot this in the archives of Heavy Prog, and I shall have to make amends and produce a review from a Prog perspective - but here, it's the metal credentials that are important.

This album delivers heavy metal in truckloads, and here I'm talking about railway trucks, hauled by multiple locomotives.

The comparisions to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple are fair - and this a tribute to both bands, because Night Sun were not copycats, but wrought from the molten remains of both bands a form of metal that is unique, brutal, and technically masterful, packed with progressive ideas, and years ahead of most of the NWoBHM, which was to peak a decade later.

Like Sabbath and Purple, the Blues and Jazz roots are there, but being yanked at, hard.

Check out Plastic Sun - it bears a remarkable resemblance to Megadeth.

There. I've said it now - although I can't name the piece(s) offhand, the similarities are there - the style, speed and precision are all there. Let's repeat the comparative band's name shall we? Megadeth - although maybe with John Gallagher from Raven on vocals.

The keyboards make this sound like a Deep Purple or Atomic Rooster record being played at 78 (read up on turntables if this means nothing to you!), and the crazy tempo changes and wierd interjections will have you leaping around like a manic. Truly, this piece is worth the price of admission alone.

"Crazy Woman" begins more how we'd expect a piece from this era to begin, although those crazily detuned keyboard sounds are very eerie, and when the machine gun attack riff slams in, you really don't expect it.

It does become slightly tamer after this - but only in the same sense as you might consider Blue Cheer to be tamer. The style here is remarkably similar to those godfathers of metal - until the keyboard/guitar solo kicks in, which is directly from the Deep Purple school, the guitarist laying down some really neat Blackmore styling in his licks alongside the more predictable pentatonic stuff.

Next up is "Got a Bone of My Own", with a really creepy and doomy intro, with disturbing wooey noises, like Hawkwind on a bad trip. Forget scales and modes (although there's a strong Phrygian flavour here), Hans Brandeis puts in some really tasty and unpredictable atmospheric fretwork - and check out the RIFF (yes, capital letters for this mother). It could only be heavier if they drop tuned it. Oh, wait... and intricate, too - this riff defines the term intricate riff. No - scratch that, it defines the term, rips the term up, stomps on it, then turns it into those railway trucks and multiple locomotives I mentioned earlier.

The onslaught isn't let up for a second, even with odd titles like "Slush Pan Man". Tritones are thrown around the riff patterns as the lead guitar snarls down hybrid scales, and Bruno Schaab (the same vocalist who later joined Guru Guru) barks out what seems to be a tale of drug addiction. The guitar solo has a distinctly jazzy flavour - hardly surprising, given that most of the group were initially in a jazz group who named themselves after Dave Brubeck's famous piece, Take 5. This is one well crafted, and powerfully hitting song.

The title track follows, and it's more of the same, although now it sounds somewhat like early Judas Priest. The song doesn't seem quite so satisfying to me, and the drum solo is sloppy - and heavily phased, apprently in order to hide that fact. Coming out of the drum solo, the guitar solo that follows feels a bit more uplifting, and the keyboard solo flows well out of it. A second guitar solo feels overdone, and a second keyboard solo has me reaching for the skip button.

"Come Down" is a more delicate song - and the intro reminds me strongly of Muse, or possibly Radiohead. I won't make the "it's hard to tell" joke...

Absolutely sublime and inventive - but the least metal piece on the album, esepcially when it jumps into the quasi-funky riff... but what's this? Suddenly it heavies up, er, I mean HEAVIES up. As the song progresses and the structure makes itself clearer, it shapes up to be an incredibly beautiful, and very dark piece.

"Blind" follows, and, despite the density of tritones, feels more like "hard rock" than "heavy metal" - but listening to this, it's hard to tell what the difference is.

If "Plastic Sun" sounds like Megadeth (and to my ears, it does), then "Nightmare" sounds like "Kill 'Em All" era Metallica - only more proggy. It's not in full-blown thrash territory, but sails mighty close to the wind. Faster than you can say "Metal Militia".

The albums closes with the brain-twisting "Don't Start Flying". This is one crazy song, with bits and pieces of Gong's Flying Teapot (Radio Gnome Invisible), or some of the heavier moments of Camembert Electrique mixed up with shreds of Hendrix and Gary Moore.



Fans of "complex" metal should give this album a listen. This is complex, and I don't mean "complex for 1972".

It would be fairest to file this under Proto Progressive Metal - but only because the release date assumes the "Proto" part.

Kickass stuff - and very nearly a perfect album to boot. I didn't like the title track much - but what the hell, this is awesome and should be in every metal collection.

JODY ST Fight Back

Demo · 1981 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Jody St are an odd one really - if it was up to me, they wouldn't get a look in among any NWoBHM catalogue - or be anything to do with Heavy Metal.

In fairness, they're a miscategorised funk rock band, who happened to be playing guitar-based rock music in 1981, and got swept in by rather over-enthusiastic fans of the NWoBHM - by mistake, I'd wager.

So the music isn't intrinsically bad or anything - the musicianship is top notch, by which I mean it's classy, precise rock and roll playing with a liberal dash of jazz funk.

Fight back really shakes its funky stuff - if you're a fan of Wild Cherry's famous song, then this will really shake your tree. The heavy overdriven guitar sounds are a really nice touch, the vocals flow, and the bass slaps, pops and drives like a mean machine.

There are some synchronised bass/guitar passages which will have extreme tech metal fans absolutely gagging for the tabs, and the vocal/lead lines are enough to make George Benson hang up his dancing shoes forever.

Somehow, it doesn't really do it for me - even though I feel like it ought to. The quality of playing and extreme technique doesn't make up for the lack of real songwriting.

The B side, "Granny Did It" sounds a lot like a slightly funked-up Thin Lizzy - even the vocalist is doing a passable Phil Lynott impersonation. The song is even more dull than the A-side, though, and the best performance in the world (which this very nearly is, by the way) doesn't make up for that.

At 2 minutes I found myself checking to see how much song was left to sit through...

Maybe a guitar solo is going to appear any moment - oh, yes - there it is, and it's a Brian May special. A really amazing job - exactly like the Queen maestro in style, without directly ripping the great man off. Neat job, but too short, and it's back to that interminable song. Yawn.

In summary, I've said it all - superlative playing and musicianship, but lousy songs.

Your mileage may vary considerably...

SALEM Cold as Steel

Demo · 1982 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Great cover art, great production, plenty of talent...

This may or may not be a bad thing to you, but for me, it lacks that ingredient so vital to NWoBHM music; Sweat.

On the A side, the song that introduces the band to the world, the performance sounds quite effortless - lazy, really (except for the drummer, who sounds unleashed - we like that). The vocalist sounds utterly lethargic, which is a big part of the problem, and his range is not great to say the least.

The riffs are fairly cool, if standard fayre, and the progressions are predictable - but the guitar solo, which starts out unremarkably, has a nice build, with impressive bursts of flash towards the end - see, I knew you could do it if you tried!

After 3 minutes, though, the promisingly entitled "Cold as Steel" really drags - it's nowhere near as menacing as the cover would have you imagine.

Flip it over, and we get some meat; Pacy and tight - to quote the song itself; "Yeah - this is how it was meant to be...". This is fledgeling power metal up there with Jaguar's "Back Street Woman", with the potential of real greatness and genre-spawning.

This fulfils the predictions of hardcore NWoBHM obscurity collectors, who insist that the B-sides are where it's at - put this in context, and for 1982, this is real ear-opening material.

There's still a feeling that if they really gave it some stick, then this could be a real masterpiece. Again, the lyrics give it away; "Don't you try too hard" - and we feel that they didn't really.

The harmonised guitar break that follows changes all this - it really is awesome - listen to it, and I defy you not to think of Kai Hansen/Helloween several years later (or possibly 220 Volt in Sweden the same year!).

Between the lines, there's some really great potential proto-thrash / pwer metal going on here, and the second guitar break has you longing, nay, gasping for more - there's that genuine nostalgic, aching feeling of something lost forever.

"Reach For Eternity" is a great title for this bleeding-edge material.

2 and a half stars for the A side, and 4 and a half rounded up to 5 for the B side.

I listened to it again, and will listen to it again tomorrow :o)

WOLFBANE Bethany's Sin

Demo · 1982 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Wolfbane's Bethany's Sin demo has acquired quite a cult following, mainly due to the similarities in the music to Pagan Altar, it would seem.

That doesn't stop the first song, Elric Of Melniböne dragging and feeling a real dirge. The liquid guitar solo is reduced to a blur that you hardly notice on first listen - even though it is spectacularly well crafted for the time. I guess it's all about the Tolkein-esque lyrics, if you can actually make them out.

The Howling seems like an extension of the first song - now, this could be because of an underlying "Progressive" approach that would befit the high brow conceptualisations being delivered, but, if it wasn't for the fact that, somehow, an extra burst of energy found its way into this song, you might simply think that there were very few ideas being developed here.

But somehow, The Howling completely rocks, in a kind of wallpapery way - as background, this has a pleasing, head-nodding pulse - nay, throb to the early Priest flavoured persistent main riff, and you kind of want it to go on forever.

The demo finishes off with the high-energy, blatantly Diamond Head/Maiden/Sabbath inspired Midnight Lady. Given the time of release, this is a refreshing shot in the arm, with twin lead-guitar duelling and harmonies atop a relentless chugging riff, rooted in Sabbath's "Children of The Grave".

I find the nasal quality of the vocals somewhat off-putting, but that might just be me - the music just increases in quality as you listen, especially those wonderful guitar solos - which makes a nice change from those bands who put all the decent material first then pad their albums out with the dross.

All in all, a demo slightly ahead of its time, and a treat for Pagan Altar fans who wish that the band had more output.

Shadow Kingdom records re-issued this together with Wolfbane's debut demo a year or so ago - so it is available to check out - and well worth a punt if you want to explore the non-blues-based side of the NWoBHM.

GIRL Sheer Greed

Album · 1980 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Sheer Glee - sweet.

11 songs of pure sleaze, directly influenced by both old and contemporary hard rock and heavy metal acts, infused with glam, but dirtier, harder and stripped down to the bare essentials without compromising the music.

From the outset, the single "Hollywood Tease" defiantly embraces the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, with a rich seam of Iron Maiden (as they were at the time) showing in the painstaking attention to detail in the fills and attitude, simultaneously recalling The Sweet in the form of hard, chugging riffs, mean, dirty vocals with catchy melodies and rich harmonies.

The Led Zeppelin styled breakdown is awesome too, with a stunning burst of shredding in the solo, and a great strip-down for what is possibly the bridge.

The main problem with Girl at the time was, as Annie Nightingale more succinctly put it, here is a hard rock / metal act comprising 5 guys in make up and a get up that looks like they raided their sister's wardrobes. The hair is a bit over-styled too.

Today this sort of thing barely raises an eyebrow, but in those post Punk and pre New-Romantic times, this was seen as overly pretentious, risque and, if you were an un-PC "true" metal fan, downright poofy.

That didn't stop Girl from raising quite an audience, and if you pay attention to the music, it's really not hard to hear why - despite yourself at times.

Because Hollywood Tease is, of course, just the beginning of the Sheer Greed album, and Girl romp through the 11 self-penned tunes, which include no less than 3 strong singles, with Sheer Glee.

"Things You Say" carries a kind of post punk, new wave, stuttering reggae vibe, and serves as a stark contrast to the heavy metal extravaganza until the breathtaking shreddery in the guitar solo - no short phrases here, this is one heck of a burst. The song wraps up with a jam-out with all manner of wooey noises and tremolo abuse.

"Lovely Lorraine" follows, a stomper that suffers in places from being a little bland, but picks up a bit with some Ramones and Cars inspiration. The guitar solo flounders a bit, but this is probably one of those that worked better live.

"Strawberries" is a real curve ball - the metal edge is all but lost, in favour of a New Wave edge a little reiniscent of David Sylvian's Japan, with a large helping of Andy Partridge's XTc mixed in for good measure. The guitar solo is suitably restrained and melodic - absolutely beautiful in places. This segues straight into Little Miss Ann, a far harder rocker straight out of The Sweet's school of how to write great songs, but with strong Aerosmith influences and a belting pair of Angus inspired solos.

"Doctor Doctor" sounds like it might have come from the later Hair metal bands, Motley Crue et al - let down a little by weedy drumming, and this theme continues with the somewhat bland "Do you Love Me". There is some sumptuous twin lead guitar playing in the latter, which doesn't develop like you'd want it to, and a beautiful chugging tone to the rhythm guitar, but that's about all you can say about it.

"Take Me Dancing" is another one that kinda drifts past a bit like a Bon Jovi filler track, while "What's up" is much more of a heads down rocker, with some intriguing clashing harmonies and thumping, running bass designed to get you up and into your funky shoes. The bridge is especially notable, a really surprising light jazz flavoured interlude followed by a funky, clean melodic solo.

There's a real surprise next, a kind of dub reggae flavoured piece, interspersed with light jazz - a bit Police inspired maybe, but with Pink Floyd overtones. A little messy in places, but some great grooving going on here, and an intriguing blend of ideas - especially when it comes to the Flamenco guitar solo.

The final single "My Number" follows, with more Cars inspiration, from the chunky, clunking bass line to the chugging guitars and off kilter harmony changes topped with simple, angular guitar lines. Extremely infectious - should carry a Government health warning.

To round the album off is "Heartbreak America", another song that reminds me of The Sweet on one of their experimental tips. Some magnificent melodic soloing in here, which I really like, given that the guitarist has proven himself a more than competent shredder on other tracks, but hasn't got carried away and let rip all over everything.

In summary, a patchy album, with rather too much bland, forgettable mush, but where it's strong, it's very, very strong, with some more than competent performances showcasing musicianship far beyond that of most of their NWoBHM peers, Iron Maiden included. In between the mush and the dazzling showmanship, there's also some very capable cutting edge songcrafting going on, and an applaudably bold approach to bringing diverse genres into the mix, giving the impression that this band was one with a huge amount of potential - but not entirely within the metal domain.

LEGEND (CT) Fröm The Fjörds

Album · 1979 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.94 | 9 ratings
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Legend. How very, very apt.

This album has everything.

The right band name, the right status (it is utterly legendary, and for good reason), great musicians, the right artwork, and the right title for starters.

The only thing that's wrong with it is that it's not a British product - it's American - and yet it sounds like it comes from the very heart of the NWoBHM.

It doesn't sound like late 1970s American Rock at all - and to cap it all, it lives up to it's title admirably, sounding, to my ears at least, like it was put together by a band deep in the Norwegian Fjords, many centuries ago, as they sharpened their swords, prepared their axes and the oarsmen and drummers took their position in their longships to go off a-pillaging in the treasure isles of Britain.

Here, of course, the axes are the sort we love best - those with 6 strings and a big, fat Marshall stack attached - and there's just the one drummer, apparently with octopus arms.

The truly awesome thing about this album, the thing that will have you reaching for it again and again, is the intricate and disparate profiencies of the musicians as they each play their quite separate and technically challenging parts, yet draw it all together to make this immensely pleasing whole - a fusion of styles that comes together with an almighty bang in the new heavy metal format.

The opener, "The Destroyer" again lives up to its title, with bludgeoning riffs and drum and bass koshes a-plenty, haunting vocal melodies and threatening lyrics, and, of course, mighty axe-wielding painting striking portraits of angry Norse Gods. Weaving in between that lot are more atmospheric passages of stunning beauty during which you can imagine the majestic Fjords and forests of Norwegian pine in the snow as you race by in husky-drawn sleds.

There is no let-off. You are to be further subsumed by the awesomeness, which may prove to be so overwhelming that, on first listen, you simply cannot take it all in.

The Wizard's Vengeance is a quite terrifying burst of high energy, as a dischordant rhythmic figure slices off the top of your skull and waves of magical fire gush in to envelop your brain.

The haunting epic tale of The Golden Bell follows, in glorious Prog Rock style - maybe a little Wishbone Ash inspired, but completely in a class of its own, with a hugely enjoyable jazz-rock styled section, reminding me a little of a hard-rock flavoured Gong in places - the musicianship is that good.

Next is the blitzing confrontation, a psychotic mish-mash of Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Wishbone Ash and Blue Oyster Cult - but wierder. The energy from the drum kit is simply unbelievable, like Carl Palmer competing with Neil Peart and Cozy Powell, while on the guitar, imagine if you will, Gary Moore sending out guitar firebolts

R.A.R.Z. returns to the roots - a little light blues - before the mayhem kicks in once more. For me, this is the weakest song on the album, despite the high energy, until the improv section around 2:00 into the piece. Here, we have some incendiary lead guitar playing, which seems to predict the likes of Steve Vai in places. There are some nice arrangement touches, but the song returns to spoil things a bit before the lush closing instrumental which is pure rock and roll.

There seems to be a touch of Frank Zappa in the next track, "Against The Gods", which could just be the vocal styling, or the jazzy, rocky arrangement, or something. Again, it's the instrumental which really impresses. I read somewhere about some Opeth album or other having a Camel influence. Here is schooling - this is what it sound like to be influenced by Camel - and Mirage-era Camel at that, rather than Stationary Traveller era Camel.

A six and a half minuter follows, in the extremely jazzy Iron Horse - not a bit like the Motorhead version, it has to be said. The drumming is utterly impossible - although I must admit, I find some of the guitar work to be surprisingly lounge bar. This piece is all about the drumming, though, and the guitars duly drop out to allow the animal with the sticks space to stretch out all 8 of his arms - or is that 10? Be prepared to be battered beyond submission into that "we are not worthy" state, as blast beats rain down on you - MANY years before they wre credited to have been first used - and legends like Buddy Rich are given a real run for their money. It doesn't really matter what I say here - you won't be ready for this, even if I say it's the best drum solo ever played. It's not - I've heard far more entertaining solos, but for what it is, a heavy metal drum solo, it's completely at the top of its class.

The best is saved for last, of course, and we get the 8 plus minute Prog Metal epic of a title track to round off proceedings very nicely indeed. It's hard to imagine anything better - this is about the only time I think I could ever truthfully write that a heavy metal band is clearly influenced by Genesis, King Crimson, Gentle Giant et al - this is the REAL DEAL. Progressive Metal. Modern bands listen, learn, and be well and truly schooled.

If you think that lot's a bit gushy, then it's merely the manner in which the music has inspired me to write and I make no apologies. This is an awesome, legendary album and forever will remain that way.

Masterpiece is the lowest mark I could possibly award this exemplary, progressive heavy metal album.

ARC War of the Ring

Demo · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 2.98 | 2 ratings
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Very highly regarded song among NWoBHM connoisseurs, and it certainly has a striking introduction, and creative makeup.

Personally, I find it a bit weedy and lacking in energy.

Things to like; It's not your bog standard Priest clone, there are plenty of changes and each band member, drummer apart, is doing their own thing, and the arrangement is full of interest.

Things to not like so much; The guitars are submerged and rather honky, the vocals are annoyingly screechy and the lyrics are all cheap, predictable Lord of the Rings references, the bass is dull and has no character, the guitar solo is widdly, and the drums are crap.

Flip the single over, and there's a bit more energy, topped with a Halford-esque scream, and another interesting arrangement. The guitars chug nicely here, and the soloing, of which there is ooodles, is fluent and melodic on the whole, with a great sense of purpose and atmosphere, but the song itself is unmemorable, and the subject matter most peculiar. Ice Cream Theme... really? Could there be some hidden drugs references in there? Surely not!

In summary, I do not find "War of the Ring" to be the "Perfect Anthem" that many others do, but I will concede that it is a highly commendable effort to create something new and exciting - and a path which many metal bands have since explored to better effect, so roots recognition is assured, and recommended particularly to fantasy/doom/creative metal fans as well as the NWoBHM curious.

DEMOLITION Hooker Hater

Demo · 1981 · NWoBHM
Cover art 1.48 | 2 ratings
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One for fans of that classic NWoBHM sound and style.

I'm not a big fan of gruff vocalist John Cadden, and the (Priest) verse riff is horrendously repetitive, but the power and energy is there in truck loads, the band are tight, and you can hear axeman Phil Guy's fingers flying over the fretboard if not with complete ease, at least with competent showmanship.

The flipside, Axeman, is in a very similar vein - what a difference a Halford style screamer would have made to the song. The song, inexplicably lacks a solo. C'mon, guys - it's called Axeman, where's the bloody axeman?

/grin

Average NWoBHM at a vastly above average price - almost $900 for the single, if you can find it - so track down the 2006 CD Wrecking Crew if you're curious as to what that sort of money would buy you.

MITHRANDIR Dreamers of Fortune

Demo · 1982 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Mithrandir were a band forging a path of their own among the Judas Priest tribute bands, Quo heads and AC/DC freaks.

This second demo of theirs is an intriguing follow up to the Magick EP, with the early Budgie influence and a light smattering perhaps of Led Zeppelin the only clues as to the roots of the music.

Dreamers of Fortune is a highly unlikely single A-side choice, a mix of jangly folk and groove rock with nice tempo changes and well crafted arrangement details.

After Tomorrow is more of a heads down rocker - and I still find the rather wispy guitar sound I noted on their debut EP the most curious aspect of their overall sound - this is not muscular "look at me" music, this is sensitively crafed hard rock music for the poetic mind with a keen sense of beauty in simplicity. The guitar solo is a masterpiece of this peculiar, somewhat introverted approach.

In summary, this is not something you'd necessarily get into on first listen, largely because of the budget production and limited rehearsal time - and I like it all the more for that.

It's definitely not something you'd be headbanging like a lunatic to either - but that is, after all, only one side of metal. This is the other, more thoughtful side of metal, right at its birth - with the assistance of Budgie, Zeppelin and Rush.

SWEET Fox On The Run

Single · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 2 ratings
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This band re-written and re-recorded song from Desolation Boulevard is a demonstration of The Sweet's more sophisticated arrangement abilities. It's slick, it's hip (for 1975) and it's not metal. It's a great glam style single, though.

The flipside is where The Sweet were really coming from, though - muscular rock music with strong Queen flavours, and neat twists. In this case, the twist includes a section of improv and some pretty neat shredding, with a funky twist. This jazzy section sounds surprisingly modern and tight.

While there are strong metal leanings - indeed, it's more metal than many NWoBHM releases, there are a huge number of other influences too, which may make this a little unsatisfying for a Metal fan - however, as with most of the self-written Sweet material, you get a lot more than you bargain for on the metal front. Miss Demeanour is definitely worth a spin, and, who knows, Fox on the Run could become a guilty pleasure.

If you can track it down, there's a UK EP release which has Hellraiser, Blockbuster and Ballroom Blitz in addition to the title track - a complete wild, screamalong headbang party on a 45.

SWEET The Sixteens

Single · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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This single from The Sweet features the opening track from their killer album Desolation Boulevard, and a song on the flipside of sheer, awesome, heavy metal power, which was only ever featured on Sweet comilation albums.

The Sixteens is essentially a teen love song with attitude, but the backing music, is complex and often subtle, featuring tempo and stylistic changes from mellow pop acoustic to searing, pounding heavy metal, thick with Marshall gain and screaming vocals that rival Queen or Uriah Heep.

Compare with their first heavy outing from 1973, "Ballroom Blitz", which has been covered by metal bands throughout the 1980s, including The Damned and Motorhead (simultaneously).

Action is one of my favourite Sweet songs - although the first time I heard it, it was performed by NWoBHM wildmen Raven on their debut "Rock Until You Drop" album, segued with Hellraiser, also written by The Sweet.

Action is a rip-roaring, screaming, chugging, snarling monster of a song. Frankly, the only thing Raven could add to it was speed, which they did, of course, and yes, Raven's version does sound better for it!

The Sweet's original still sets my pulse racing at 50 paces, however, and I love the cash register-announced mad change that precedes the wild guitar solo and the seamless segue back into the song.

Awesome stuff - don't be put off by the band name or the make up. This is proper 'eavy metal right at the beginning.

MITHRANDIR Magick

EP · 1982 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Wild Magick?

2 pieces which at best can be described as interesting and one monster killer epic make up this debut EP from Mithrandir, which is generally held in awe by those who know about it. For sure, that must be because of the final piece, "Call of The Wild", because the other two songs aren't anything to go crazy about.

Eyes of Madness suffers in general synchronisation and weak drumming, but the vocals, recalling Burke Shelley or perhaps Geddy Lee, lend an exciting ambience. The guitar tones are intriguing too - not overtly heavy, and decidedly wispy in the guitar solo, recalling 1960s psychedelia. The piece has good overall pathos, despite the execution.

Pretty much can be said for the more uptempo song All The Time Nonstop - the vocals are easily the most impressive aspect, until it ends, at which time you realise that you've been listening to something quite special, in a kind of DIY way. There are more than nods and winks to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton alongside the more standard NWoBHM riffing, and again, the song's structuring makes it feel very short.

Call of The Wild wraps up the EP, and again, I'm reminded heavily of Budgie.

The late 1960/early 1970s vibe is strongest in this piece, which is also the most interesting, with plenty of drama. The big, heavy, doomy riffs are all that remind you that you're listening to something from the early 1980s, and very different to standard NWoBHM fayre. Its epic 6:45 duration assists greatly in this, and the structing borders on Progressive Rock. Interestingly, the band are a good deal tighter and seem more comfortable with this more complex style than the simpler pieces that precede it.

If you're a fan of the more off-the-wall hard rock, especially in the older style, then this is a must for "Call of the Wild" alone, which gains the EP the extra star and a half. Otherwise, collectors only.

GIRL My Number

Single · 1979 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Annie Nightingale once observantly remarked that, inexplicably, the band Girl are all boys.

One of those boys at this time was Phil Collen, who would go on to assist Def Leppard in their skywards catapult to the big time.

The song, My Number, is a sleazy, drawling affair with truck loads of attitude, with far more in common with The Sweet, The Cars or even the New Romantics than the NWoBHM movement.

Nonetheless, that driving bass, and now familiar Def Leppard riff structuring sits well with the sparse arrangement and diamond sharp guitar screaming. I'm not convinced by the synth noise in the chorus, but the rest of the song is catchy, quirky and plain fun, even if there's not too much mileage in the headbang department.

Girl would go on to produce far superior material to this interesting debut, and singer Phil Lewis would later sing for L.A. Guns, New Torpedos, Torme, Filthy Lucre, The Liberators, and many others.

The most inexplicable thing for me is why the B side of this single is the same as the A side - what a rip-off!

HELLANBACH Out To Get You

EP · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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Van Halenbach?

An interesting 4-track demo EP from a band touted as the UK's answer to Van Halen. At least, it's interesting from that point of view - the music's not particularly interesting, unfortunately.

Out To Get You:

High energy, tight, carefully thought-out piece - but ultimately generic and rather shoddily arranged - with a dynamite guitar solo, Motorhead drum beat and dull, flat vocals.

Light Of The World:

Again, plenty of energy, interesting vocal line and meandering bass, not yer standard four to the floor drums, and a blistering guitar solo with some precision shredding - very impressive for 1980, but again, generic and dull, feeling longer than its 2:47 running time.

Let's Get This Show On The Road:

Same Motorhead beat as Out To Get You, hi-octane energy, squealing Van Halen-esque solo - in fact, the entire song makes you think of a kind of poor man's Van Halen. It takes some doing to make a 2:24 song running at this kind of pace feel like it's dragging, but Hellenbach managed it.

Nobody's Fool:

You can tell they're trying - and that's the problem really. NWoBHM should be effortless - second nature stuff, while at the same time showcasing guys pushing their talents (and equipment) to the limit. Here, the talents are pushed eventually, but the ambition to be a second Van Halen gets in the way of any real interest in the music. Easily the weakest song on a demo which shouldn't be dull by all rights, theoretically, but nonetheless is.

That said, it's fascinating as a historical document, and of real interest to those who enjoy technique. The lead guitarist pushes the boat right out in his attempt to emulate Mr Van Halen - and this is only 2 years after said axemeister general unleashed himself on the rock world. The technique is well learned, and convincing. The other musicians do try, but occasionally, rather than as the rule, and the songwriting is too concerned with cloning than doing its own thing and being interesting and relevant.

It's a bit like listening to someone who played like Jimi Hendrix in 1969 - very tasteful and entertaining playing, but you'd rather have the real deal - and, of course, Jimi knew how to put together cool pieces of music over which to excercise his virtuosity.

WARFARE Pure Filth

Album · 1984 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Wailing siren lead guitars and woom-pah doom-pah bass and drum entry followed by gravel-voiced declamations - how else to begin a Warfare album?

Follow up this very effective warning with an explosion and a track called Total Armageddon, and this is surely what the world was waiting for in metal, right?

Hmm. Not quite.

Total Armageddon has a thrashy guitar, but comes across as a kind of cheap Venom copy - the attitude of the debut Noise Filth and Fury demo just isn't there. The lyrics are rapped out in robotic dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum style, completely lacking conviction, the riffs are mechanical, and the overall sound seems less moshy than mushy to me. I'm not convinced by the change of gear into an Iron Maiden style gallop for the wailing Slayer-esque solo either - but I guess this, like most of Venom's material, would have carried more weight in the live domain.

Noise, Filth and Fury starts a bit more convincingly. This time it's like Cronos "singing" with Tank - but the song itself is more anthemic and convincing despite, or maybe because of its completely repetitive nature. This latter isn't a criticism, because it's very conducive to a good headbang.

Things really improve from here with the headlong manic energy of Let The Show Go On. This time, the Venom similarities really don't matter, in this madly thrashing concoction - I'm just glad I'm not driving as I write... The solo really takes off, similiarly to Kirk's in "Whiplash", which this song reminds me of just a bit. By the last chants of the chorus, I'm joining in here with mad excitement. Wooooaarrrghhh!!!!!

Breakout is another slightly cheesey thrasher replete with boom-pish drum beat and some quite inventive riffing - fine stuff!

Some noise follows - always good - to lead into Collision/Rabid Metal - is this an attempt to create a new genre? Wonder why Rabid Metal never caught on... I think the title sets expectations that the tune doesn't really live up to - it's not bad, but nowhere near as thrashy or anthemic as the previous two.

Dance of the Dead seems to herald a time for something a bit more experimental, with what sounds like anvils being beaten, and an appropriate atmosphere is set for such a Dance. This is punctilliously broken down, and we anticipate the thrashing when it kicks in - yup, this is the stuff! The tear down/kick in structuring really works for this piece and makes up for its lack of anthemic catchiness. A really nice bit of progressive metal writing.

The Limit appears to have been reached by the next track, which is a bit of a plodder and not very interesing to me until the guitar solo, at which point it shifts up a couple of gears.

The LP is rounded off by the mysteriously entitled Rose Pedals Fall, which is a thrashing slab of pure noise imbibed with wild and reckless attitude. We like.



The Venom comparisons are unavoidable, and although it's a pity in some ways to hear a clone, there's a fair amount of entertainment to be had in this LP. 0 points for originality, but just the ticket for cheering up a rainy day.

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