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Old 01-11-2015, 02:47 PM   #545 (permalink)
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And now it's time for

As Unknown Soldier reviewed the final decade in the seventies, it seems appropriate to reproduce his synopsis of it. And here it is.
Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post

The end of the decade as far as the heavy rock scene went, was quite simply best put as ‘The Eve of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ which would burst onto the scene the following year and change the parameters of the heavy metal genre in sound, image, power and overall aggression. The end of an era had already come for the likes of Led Zeppelin who finally folded with the death of John Bonham after a couple of below-par albums, Deep Purple had already been no more for a couple of years and Black Sabbath who after losing Ozzy in 1978, and then replacing him with Dave Walker, then reclaimed Ozzy and produced their dullest album to date! Other bands weren’t faring much better either, such as early pioneers like Budgie and the Blue Oyster Cult two bands that would never quite find the same fire again as their earlier output. Also bands like UFO who were primed to take over from the big three, had failed to take the huge popularity mantle that they should’ve done. Luckily though a crop of bands carried the torch forward to the bitter end and these were not only good bands, but they were all selling by the bucketload as well and these included AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Scorpions and the mighty metal flagbearing Judas Priest. Stateside things didn’t get much bigger than Aerosmith or Kiss and newbies Van Halen were making this a trilogy of US giants by the end of the decade, with lesser lights such as bands like Riot busily furrowing away. 1979 as a whole was probably on a par with the previous 1978 in terms of overall quality in regards to the top end of my list and again like 1978 it suffers from some quality holes at its bottom end, thus making it neither a great year or bad year overall. There are no huge surprises at the top of the list with the likes of AC/DC, Scorpions and Thin Lizzy all placing highly, with other albums of note being the Van Halen sophomore, Rainbow going more commercially AOR and Motorhead finally bursting onto the UK scene. 1979 was a year where I have a lot of memories which range from the huge amount of quality new-wave, post-punk and Ska albums that were around in the UK at this time and these albums were very much balanced by some of the zanier acts and AOR standards that were fully established in the USA, and these contrasts certainly made the year a rich and diverse listen overall for the music listener. With this being the final year of the decade, it is the final year review that I plan to do in the current format, as from 1980 onwards I plan to revamp things a bit due to the greater expansion of the scene overall.
Number ten for 1979 turned out to be Aerosmith's “Night in the ruts” while Rainbow took the number 9 position with “Down to Earth". Then at number 8 we had ... a Japanese rock band? Um. “The New Wave of Japanese Metal” as US described it, gave birth to a band called Nokemono, and their effort “From the black world” was just pipped by Gillan's “Mister Universe” at 7, with “Van Halen II” at 6. Lizzy's “Black rose” was at 5 with Motorhead coming in at 4 with “Overkill” (think this may be the first time they made it onto his list?) leaving the top three to, in order, another Motorhead album, this time “Bomber” (which was also his pick for AOTY), AC/DC's “Highway to Hell” and at number one, The Scorpions with “Love drive”.

Kiss were in the section you should “Also check this out” with “Dynasty”, while albums not to make the cut this year came from Riot, Trust and Helix among others. The Live Album section then had Judas Priest's “Unleashed in the East” and UFO's “Strangers in the night” while “Hard, Heavy and a Classic” came from Triumph, with “Just a game”. On the other hand, Blackfoot took the “Hard, heavy and Worth a Mention” slot with “Strikes”. As we reached the end of the seventies then US decided to change the format, and rather than trying to explain it, sure I'll let him do it:
Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post
Format Change

In order to make the journal more focused and also to incorporate the ever increasing amount of quality albums that arrived from 1980 onwards. I’ve now decided to streamline the existing ‘Top 10’ reviews by doing away with the middle ‘album’ section and in its place creating a larger 'verdict' section (as I talk about most of the songs in this verdict section anyway) Also I’ll be doing away with the “Also check this out….” “Albums that missed the cut…..” and the “Live Album” sections as well and now incorporating them in a new list from 11-20. So from now on there will be a ‘Top 20’ list for each year, of which all the albums 20-11 will be in a mini-review format and albums 10-1 will be larger expanded reviews similar to before. There will also be one final new section based on my contentious album pick of the year (still working on a name) which as the name suggests, I’ll be picking an album that I don’t see eye to eye with when it comes to reviewers or even with just plain public opinion (so it could either be good or bad) or even an album that is just plain terrible and should never have been released! Finally I may end each year with some additional footnotes or comments as well. All in all the yearly reviews should be tighter and with a greater overall focus as well.
And so, on to 1980, where he had a big writeup, which is only right, given all the changes 1980 saw in heavy metal. Here it is:

Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post

1980 was one mother of a year and without doubt possibly the most important in the history of heavy metal. It was quite simply a watershed of a year and the quality of overall releases was simply astounding especially by newish artists. Hard rock and heavy metal had constantly given us quality bands over the previous decade, but far too many of these bands had fallen by the wayside, largely due to the fact that their record labels had had no idea on how to market them. American labels had been without doubt the worst culprits here and had killed a number of talented acts stateside, a situation which would knock the American scene back several years behind its UK rival. So to fully understand the impact that heavy metal had back in 1980, an overview of the music scene in general is worth looking at. The UK scene was dominated by punk bands that had evolved into post-punk and new-wave acts. Schoolkids were into the growing Ska movement and the in-crowd were listening to the bands that would make up the New Romantic grouping of bands, as bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and even newer acts like UFO and Budgie etc were now old hat. Stateside the word ‘safe’ was the watchword, as established artists or new artists that had an established sound were still the dominant forces, as long as they played a cultured mid-tempo rock sound and even giants such as Aerosmith, Kiss and the Blue Oyster Cult were now playing ball, despite all being past their best at this stage. In fact a number of offbeat American acts had to score first in the UK, before making a breakthrough back in the US, so where did this leave hard rock and heavy metal? Firstly all credit to Judas Priest, AC/DC and the Scorpions three artists that all kept the flag flying and were at the height of their powers and without them I’m not sure we would have had this explosion in 1980. Secondly certain other bands especially in the UK such as Motorhead and Thin Lizzy, were deemed as being cool and provided a strong link to the punk fanbase. In the case of Motorhead the punk link was fairly obvious, but in Thin Lizzy’s case the poetic and iconic Phil Lynott was the key, which meant that hard rock and heavy metal had a viable link to what was fashionable circa 1979-1980. Thirdly 1980 would also further the box-labelling of bands even more, as from now on most bands that would’ve been classified as hard rock would now get a heavy metal label! So with all this in mind, the UK was a hotbed for some kind of heavy metal explosion but I’m sure nobody quite expected it to be as big and have the impact that it would over the ensuing years. Also apart from the new heavy metal explosion in the UK, major established artists such as Judas Priest, AC/DC and Black Sabbath had no trouble making this year’s elite top 10 list, a fact that was amazing considering that AC/DC had just lost the iconic Bon Scott and Black Sabbath had pulled themselves from the bowels of despair with the arrival of Dio. Finally all was not lost stateside, as Van Halen were selling by the million and showed us that glamour metal was the way forward there, which in turn would see the USA undergoing their own metal revolution in just a few years. But the revolution of 1980 was really just about one country and one movement and that is explained below......

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (from now on referred to by its official abbreviation NWOBHM which of course saves me writing it out everytime) was the first movement to fully encompass all the existing hard rock and heavy metal genres and in many ways it was the second wave of influential Bristish bands, to follow on from the pioneering giants of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, along with all the other numerous and influential bands that popped up throughout the 1970s. In fact as said above, without the likes of Judas Priest, Motorhead and AC/DC (who were British based of course) it probably wouldn’t have been possible. The NWOBHM is often compared to the earlier punk movement of 1976-1977 and apart from certain similaries such as Paul D’Anno’s singing style and some metal bands adopting a punk–infected garage style. The two styles actually shared very little musically, but what they both did have hugely in common was the ability to attract outsiders, put out an an aggressive sound and most importantly the “do-it-yourself ethos” that both movements adopted, as opposed to the established order of the day. Both movements also had an emphasis on singles and EP’s largely due to budget restrictions that both movements initially faced. The NWOBHM itself would largely be about new bands re-establishing the roots of the bands, music and styles that they loved and had inspired them in the first place to form a band. Black Sabbath often get huge amounts of credit for being a big influence on the NWOBHM largely due to being satan-derived traditionalists and of course laying down every riff and tempo essential to metal, but in my opinion they were probably no more influential on the NWOBHM than the other ten or so other bands that often get mentioned as big influences as well. In fact I’d say Led Zeppelin were probably the single biggest influence on the NWOBHM and Black Sabbath’s turn would actually come later with the birth of the darker extreme metal genres just around the corner. So apart from these two monoliths, bands like Deep Purple, Nazareth, Budgie, Uriah Heep, UFO (where I remember some time ago Joe Elliot of Def Leppard on video saying just how influential they were on him and Def Leppard) AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Scorpions and Motohead, but probably the most relevant of them all circa 1979-1980 was the flashy and visual metal style of Judas Priest the purest metal link between Black Sabbath and the NWOBHM. Apart from these expected bands just mentioned, a large number of progressive rock artists were also influential on the scene, as were those from the glam rock scene of the early to mid 1970s as well and every band seemed to have their more favoured angles as well, while others were just grouped as NWOBHM. In fact an avid listener could listen to say around 20 or so NWOBHM albums from 1980 and 1981 and hear most of the above influences across these albums, on some its hughly noticeable whilst on others not really at all and needs to be detected. It should also be noted that depite the expected aggression, loudness and speed of some of the bands in the NWOBHM the movement itself was often extremely melodic as well. Certain bands would show us despite their heaviness that they could be melodic as well hence harking back to the likes of UFO and Thin Lizzy for example, so sure the bands were heavy for their time, but melody certainly prevailed for those that were able to master it. Most bands though adopted a tougher overall sound and uptempo songs, along with soaring vocals and of course the maintanence of guitar solos kept their level of reverence as a metal band. Equally important to all of this, were the subject matter of the songs, which often revolved around fantasy and mythology themes along with darker horror and satanical themes for some bands. The fantasy aspect etc though, wasn’t exactly new as Rainbow had already fully established fantasy themes in metal a few years earlier to an amazing level, but now these themes would be more prominent than ever before. Album covers would also form the dominant image of the movement and could well make or break a band commercially and this was one of the areas where a band like Iron Maiden went to the top of the class from day one. Like punk before it, most bands adopted a universal image that of course had already been ushered in by the likes of Motorhead, Thin Lizzy and to its extreme level with Judas Priest, and from this moment on denim and leather would forever be linked with a tough metal sound and image. Finally the NWOBHM didn’t just appear in 1980 (well it almost did) and as I’ve already noted earlier in this journal, a number of bands as far afield as both France and Japan had already adopted a grassroots approach to metal that actually sounded akin to the British bands. These bands along with a number of other new British artists of the NWOBHM persuasion in 1979 such as Samson and Saxon, had released patchy debuts but were still albums that came strictly under the NWOBHM banner. So through either design or chance nearly all new band debuts would come out in 1980 (others missed out largely because they never had the finances for a debut that year) So from 1980 onwards, metal would now attain a new level of excellence that had been previously unsurpassed and now gave us a hotbed of creative fertility probably unrivalled in the annals of metal.
So the top ten was now a top 20, and he kicked off 1980 with Manilla Road's “Invasion” followed by “Metal rendezvous” by Krokus and then Scorpions were back at 18 with “Animal magnetism”. Witchfynde were at 17 with “Give 'em hell” while Samson's “Head on” took the number 16 spot, with White Spirit's self-titled debut at 15 and Van Halen's “Women and children first” at 14. 13 saw Triumph with “Progressions of power” while the number 12 slot went to Quartz with “Stand up and fight”. The bottom half of his top twenty was completed with Def Leppard's “On through the night”, then we moved into the top ten with Michael Schenker Group's self-titled at ten, two Saxon albums in quick succession, “Wheels of steel” at 9 and “Strong arm of the law” at 8, Angel Witch's s/t at 7 with Motorhead's classic “Ace of spades” at number 6. And so on to the top five.

Judas Priest were back with a stone-cold classic at 5 with “British Steel”, and another classic at 4 came from Black Sabbath with “Heaven and Hell”, and from then in it was pretty much classics all the way, with Maiden's debut at 3, AC/DC's “Back in black” at 2 and the top slot taken by ... Diamond Head? Um, yeah. “Lightning to the nations” took precedence over both AC/DC and Iron Maiden, it would seem. Hmm.

So after all that it was time to dissect another dubious album as we went “Down on the slab” with Ozzy's “Blizzard of Ozz”, perhaps a downbeat way to end 1980, but 1981 was up next!

Which brings to a close another update. Remember to wear your winter woollies, and if you're somewhere where the sun is shining, I officially hate you and hope that something slightly unpleasant happens to you, like an onion falling on your head.

Till next week,
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
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