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Old 09-29-2011, 10:34 AM   #311 (permalink)
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One of the worm's favourite tunes from Simple Minds, it's of course a rearrangement of the old traditional song “She moved through the fair”, (see All About Eve's debut album for a haunting version, by the way) but they released it, and had great success with it as “Belfast child”.
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Old 09-29-2011, 10:57 AM   #312 (permalink)
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Let's take a look at some more tracks that start albums off well. Always important, I feel, to grab the listener's attention from the first moments.

That's certainly true of the first of today's selections! I know I've touched on it before, but really, is there a more powerful opening track on any album? Title track to Meat Loaf's mega-successful “Bat out of Hell”.


You truly never know what you're going to get with Tom Waits, but without question the oddest, and I guess in that sense the most effective opener to one of his albums has to be “Blue valentine”, with his brilliantly croaked rendition of “Somewhere”, from “West Side Story”. Is this man class or what?


A powerful opener to Journey's “Frontiers”, this is “Separate ways (worlds apart)”.


A great song that opens a great album, the title track to “Spanish train” by Chris de Burgh.


And to finish up, the opening track from what was, essentially, the last really great Genesis album, “And then there were three”, this is “Down and out”.
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Old 09-29-2011, 11:41 AM   #313 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Thursday, September 29 2011
We've done a big feature on Bon Jovi previously, but today's RTOTD comes from his solo work, indeed his first real solo album, the previous being more a soundtrack to the movie “Young guns II”. This is from “Destination anywhere”, to date his only solo album, but I doubt it's likely to stay that way!

Learning how to fall --- Jon Bon Jovi --- from "Destination anywhere" on Mercury



“Learning how to fall” is a jaunty little half-ballad, kind of bittersweet with typical Bon Jovi lyric. There are some great tracks on this album; this doesn't quite measure up, but it's not the worst of them either.
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Old 09-30-2011, 07:58 AM   #314 (permalink)
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Pyramid --- The Alan Parsons Project --- 1978 (Arista)


One of my favourite Alan Parsons Project albums, “Pyramid” is only their third album and is a concept based on --- anyone? --- yeah, pyramids. There's a lot of spacey instrumental work on it, some really good songs and two excellent ballads. It's also got a really cool sleeve, designed by those supremos of cover art, Hipgnosis. Like most APP albums, the man himself does not take part, other than produce the album and write or co-write all the songs.

It opens with a suitably enigmatic and weird instrumental, called “Voyager”, which basically consists of a guitar intro, then some spacey keyboards and a guitar section joined by bass and light percussion, which ends up forming the intro to “What goes up”, the first song proper on the album. With vocals by David Paton, it's a mid-paced, slightly jazzy number with great bass (also from Paton, as he's the bass player), which asks the question “If all things must fall/ Why build a miracle at all? / If all things must pass/ Even a miracle won't last.” The song seems to pay tribute to the millennia that the Pyramids have lasted, but notes that what goes up, must (eventually) come down.

This then fades into the first of two great ballads on the album. “The eagle will rise again” is one of the Alan Parsons Project's great ballads. With lovely string arrangements and evocative guitar from Ian Bairnson, the vocal this time taken by Colin Blunstone, who you may recognise as the voice on APP's big hit “Old and wise”. The Alan Parsons Project are rather unique in that they use a lot of different vocalists on every album, and this is no exception.

Great backing vocals on this song, with some great lyrics: ”Many words are spoken/ When there's nothing to say/ They fall upon the ears of those/ Who don't know the way/ To read between the lines...” Bairnson's guitar melody is the main lynchpin of the track though, underpinning the whole song with its simple phrasing.

Things get a little rocky then for “One more river”, this time sung by Lenny Zakatek. It's jarring, unless you know the APP well, to keep hearing different voices on every song, but you soon get used to it. “One more river” is a fast, bouncy rock song with great guitars and some nice synth adding flavour, and something that sounds like horns. Nice lazy guitar solo in there, and a great sax solo. “Can't take it with you” is one of my favourite tracks on the album, with its tale of the man who is dead but wants to remain on Earth, and is trying to convince Charon, the Boatman of the Dead, to let him stay.

”I sympathise completely” Charon tells the dead man ”But there's nothing I can do/ I am just obeying orders/ I'm a simple soul like you.” The song is carried on a bouncy, rocky beat with great “whistling” keyboard and cracking guitar. With Dean Ford this time on vocal duty, Charon smiles ”Well you really are persuasive/ But I've heard it all before.” The song alternates between boppy rocker and somewhat slower, almost bluesy sections. About a minute to the end there's a great guitar solo very reminiscent of Dave Gilmour --- he's not guesting on this, is he? Just like I could have sworn it was Gerry Rafferty on backing vocals at the end, but neither are credited, so I guess not.

Another weird track follows this, an instrumental called “In the lap of the gods”, starting off with tolling bells in the distance, and an Egyptian kind of melody, then the synths get heavy and the drums come in, creating what has since become pretty much the signature Alan Parsons Project theme. Something like a sitar or dulcimer is used then, with choral vocals. Due credit must be given here to the two keyboard wizards, Duncan Mackay and the other founder member of the APP, Eric Woolfson, who do a great job here of creating and building up the atmosphere and tone of the piece.

A very dramatic and epic piece, almost film theme quality, “In the lap of the gods” is followed by the zaniest and most fun track on the album, “Pyramania”, where Jack Harris on vocals tries to explain his fascination, some might say obsession with pyramids. ”I've been told/ Someone in the know can be sure/ That his luck will be as good as gold/ Money in the bank/ And you don't even pay for it/ If you fold a dollar in the shape/ Of the pyramid that's printed on the back!” The music is boppy and suitably upbeat and breezy, then we're into the best instrumental on the album, “Hyper-gamma spaces”, with a driving beat reminiscent of Pink Floyd's “On the run” (well, Alan Parsons did work on “Dark side of the moon”!), great breathless keyboards and a sweet little guitar solo, with choral vocals or synth, I don't know which, probably the latter, to take us to the closer.

“Shadow of a lonely man” is the tragic tale of a man who has found fame, but lost his identity. It's played in a very epic, sweeping way with excellent emotional vocals from John Miles as he cries ”Look at me now/ A shadow of the man I used to be/ Look through my eyes/ And through the years of loneliness you'll see/ To the times in my life when I could not bear/ To lose a simple game.” It's opened on simple piano but gets very orchestral, turning into a real production piece with strings and full orchestral arrangement.

As the song nears its end, the singer remarks wryly ”But the sound of the crowd/ When they come to see me now/ Is not the same/ And the jest of it all/ Is I can't recall my name.” It's a powerful indictment of fame taking over your life, and losing sight of your goals, and in the end losing your happiness for the sake of being famous. It's a lovely ballad, if bitter, and it closes the album extremely well.

If you've never heard an Alan Parsons Project album before (shame on you!) the multiple vocalists may take a little getting used to, but it's a tribute to this album, and to the APP, that it sounds as good now, over thirty years after it was recorded, as it did back then. Quality is timeless, they say, and this album certainly proves that axiom.

TRACKLISTING

1. Voyager
2. What goes up
3. The eagle will rise again
4. One more river
5. Can't take it with you
6. In the lap of the gods
7. Pyramania
8. Hyper-gamma spaces
9. Shadow of a lonely man

Suggested further listening: “Eve”, “Eye in the sky”, “Ammonia Avenue”, “Vulture culture”, “Gaudi”, “Stereotomy”, “The turn of a friendly card”, “Try anything once”, “On air”.
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:04 AM   #315 (permalink)
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Hair metal ahoy! A nice bouncy track for a Friday, as the worm reminds us of the only real superhit Europe had, the infectiously catchy “The final countdown”! All together now... da-da-DA-DA-dadadadadada-dadaDADA...!
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:16 AM   #316 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Friday, September 30 2011
Bringing September to a rainy (at least, here) close, it's Savatage from the album that started them on a new musical direction and indirectly led to the formation of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, 1995's “Dead winter dead”.

Dead winter dead --- Savatage --- from "Dead winter dead" on Atlantic


A concept album, “Dead winter dead” centres around the relationship between a Serb boy and a Muslim girl, and uses as its backdrop the Bosnian war. This is the title track, a hard rocker but with already some of the progressive elements evident that would come through in their next album, the already-reviewed “The wake of Magellan”, and of course later in the work of the TSO.
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:14 PM   #317 (permalink)
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As we begin a new month, I'm launching a “major new series”, as the TV ads would no doubt describe it, were this on TV, looking at the singular phenomenon of the rejuvenation of heavy metal that took place in the late seventies and early eighties in the UK, which became known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, or NWOBHM.

Although the phrase “heavy metal” has been around for a very long time, and its first usage in reference to music goes back to Steppenwolf's 1968 classic “Born to be wild”, the first heavy metal bands rarely referred to themselves as such, preferring the term “hard rock” or even “heavy rock”. It wasn't really until the end of the 1970s that the term began to get more common usage, and started to become linked with certain types of rock bands.

During the late 60s and 70s, the heavy metal scene, such as it was, was pretty much dominated by “the big three”: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, who would later split to become Rainbow. You also had the likes of of course Hendrix, Blue Oyster Cult, Cream, Kiss and some others, but in general few if any of these bands considered themselves heavy metal. Long established, they ruled the roost and there was little room for newcomers, with the heavy rock/metal scene growing increasingly jaded as these bands, by now seen by some as dinosaurs, lumbering behemoths out of step with the changing trends in modern music, churned out album after album and filled stadiums and sports arenas, becoming, in the eyes of some, further and further removed from their fans, increasingly disconnected from what was happening at grassroots level.

What was happening, was happening in the UK, mostly in London, at a small nightclub called “The Soundhouse”, where aspiring bands were taking the stage every night and beginning to make a name for themselves. Tired of the by now overblown and in some cases pompous albums being released by the old masters, the new young guns were trying it themselves, and finding not only that they liked it, but that others did too.

The New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) had been born.

This revolution in rock music would create, in the same way punk had a few years previous, some great bands, some okay bands and some truly awful bands, but it would shake up the heavy metal/heavy rock scene in a way it had never experienced before, and lead to a renaissance of the genre. As in any revolution, there were winners and there were losers; some bands thrived and grew in popularity, and indeed a few became nationally and then internationally famous, and are still around today. Others were not so lucky. They either had their day, enjoyed it while they could and then disbanded, either to go on to new things or to return to their day jobs, or in some cases just failed utterly to get off the ground.

In this series, I will be taking a look at some of the major, and minor, movers in this unprecedented turnaround in the fortunes of heavy metal and rock in general. I'm going to try to concentrate on three bands per segment, and the whole series I hope to run to ten parts in all. So crank up your air guitar, turn your amp to ten, and let's get rockin'! Or something...

Part the First, in which a band has many deaths and rebirths, another goes all American and a third is cruelly cut down before it has a chance at life...


The first band I want to concentrate on, in this first part of the series, is in fact the oldest of the NWOBHM bands, actually predating the movement by a number of years. Praying Mantis were formed in 1974 by two brothers, Chris and Tino Troy, but it wasn't until new metal began to be taken seriously, with the onset of the NWOBHM, that the brothers were able to get their music recorded, and their profile began to prosper.

Carried along on the wave of enthusiasm and euphoria engendered by the NWOBHM, Praying Mantis, fleshed out by Andy Burgess (guitars), Benjy Reid (drums) and Mike Freeland (vocals) went on to support the band who would become the stars of the movement, and the biggest heavy metal band in the world, even today: Iron Maiden. This raised their profile considerably, and also won them their first recording contract with the Arista label, on which they put out their debut --- and acknowledged as their best --- album, “Time tells no lies”.

Although Mantis have released, up to this year, a total of eight albums, with a thirty-year-anniversary retrospective out this year, I'm constrained to review only two of their recordings here. The reasons for this are twofold: one, obviously, I don't have unlimited time not only to listen to, but review their entire catalogue, as this is not just an article on Praying Mantis, but on a selection of the bands that made the NWOBHM what it was. Secondly, as I like to use the sleeve as an image for each album review, this, coupled with the other images I'm using, restricts me as there are a maximum of ten allowed per post, and I don't really want to have to break this up into more than one part: as a series, it's already scheduled to be in ten parts!
Note: checks character count. Damn! No good: almost 10000 characters over! WILL have to split this into two parts! Or perhaps even three! Curse everything!

So hopefully I'll be able to give you a flavour and overall impression of a band I personally know nothing about in this short and restricted review. Of course, if your interest is piqued in this, or any of the other bands I'll be tackling, you're perfectly free to go get their other albums and listen to your heart's content. But brevity is not a thing that comes easily to me, so I'm doing my best not to overextend the articles here. Hey, I can try!

Time tells no lies --- Praying Mantis --- 1981 (Arista)



The album opens up with “Cheated”, a track I feel reflects the style of recently-reviewed Stampede (although since their album didn't come out until two years later, I should say Stampede use influences from Praying Mantis!), and with some nice Thin Lizzyesque touches in the guitar work. For a debut it's very polished, really more in the AOR camp than heavy metal, with a very Yes or Asia-like sleeve created by Rodney Matthews, whose art was very popular at that time, particularly among metal and prog acts.

Next up is a cover version of the Kinks' classic “All day and all of the night”. Gets things rocking all right, but I've never been a fan of this song. Still, they do a good heavy version of it. “Running for tomorrow” returns to the AOR influences with a hefty slice of Yes-style prog rock in there too, while “Rich city kids” goes right back to rock basics, and must have engendered much headbanging when played on stage!

Things get serious though with the arrival of “Lovers to the grave”, and it's a whole new ball game! A tense, powerful ballad, the song reeks of Gilmour-style guitars and Waters vocals, so much so that you might (might!) be tempted to believe it WAS a Pink Floyd song. Very mature, very technically perfect, a true tour-de-force, and you suddenly realise this band has arrived! And then, in true Southern Rock fashion, the song speeds up as Tino shows just what he can do on guitar --- oh yes, this is a band who were destined to go big places and last a long time.

The song does, however, quite disappointingly end abruptly, and we're into “Panic in the streets”, a straight-ahead rocker, little tinges of nascent punk leaking in. Some great guitar solos on this album! Also a lot of exclamation marks in this review: sorry, that's just how I am... “Beads of ebony” starts off heavy, but soon becomes a very tuneful slice of AOR. One thing these guys have got right from the start is vocal harmonies: they're pitch perfect. “Flirting with suicide” is another fast rocker, again recalling Stampede (sorry, other way round!) and the rocking continues unabated for “Children of the earth”, an early eco-song from a metal band! Absolutely love the harmonies these guys put out! This song speeds up and slows down like a forgetful pensioner behind the wheel...

“Thirty pieces of silver” is another great rocker with a heart and a deep message, and the album ends with two live versions, “Flirting with suicide” and “Panic in the streets”. I probably could have lived without their inclusion, but then this is a debut album, and with the addition of these two tracks you get twelve altogether, so good value for the hard-pressed and often poor metal fan at the time!

As a debut, I have to say this stands head and shoulders above anything I've heard from this era. Even Iron Maiden's debut, good though it was, was a lot less polished and varied in styles than “Time tells no lies”. A great start, without question.

TRACKLISTING

1. Cheated
2. All day and all of the night
3. Running for tomorrow
4. Rich city kids
5. Lovers to the grave
6. Panic in the streets
7. Beads of ebony
8. Flirting with suicide
9. Children of the earth
10. Thirty pieces of silver
11. Flirting with suicide (live)
12. Panic in the streets (live)

As far as output during the era of the NWOBHM goes, that's it for Praying Mantis. They almost achieved glory in 1980, when they intended to cover Russ Ballard's “I surrender”, but unfortunately Rainbow had the same idea, and with their clout and muscle Blackmore's gang were able to have their way, releasing the single which charted and made them a household name. Mantis were left to lick their wounds, and dream of what might have been. Although they did release an EP --- under, for some reason, the name Stratus! --- in 1984 entitled “Throwing shapes”, they broke up soon after and only reformed in 1990 on the back of renewed interest in an anniversary album of NWOBHM artistes, and their constant and loyal following they had built up in, of all places, Japan. This led to the release of what was technically then their second album, 1991's “Predator in disguise”.

Predator in disguise --- Praying Mantis --- 1991 (Under One Flag)



Information from hereon in is hard to get and sketchy when it is available, even from the Mantis' own website, but it would appear that Dennis Stratton, best known before this for his guitar work on Maiden's debut self-titled album, came back to the band, having been with them before they recorded the debut but left prior to that happening. There's a mention also of one Steve Carroll having left, but I can't see where he fits in. Wikipedia can only take you so far...

Anyway, this is as I say their second album, and the sound is a lot different to the debut, with more of an emphasis on keys and less on the powerful and evocative guitar solos of Tino Troy. In many ways, Praying Mantis seem to be moving even closer to the AOR likes of Asia and Yes, and away from other, “harder” NWOBHM bands like Raven, Fist and Iron Maiden.

The album kicks off with “Can't see the angels”, which is really quite Americanised, more in the vein of bands like Journey and REO, but a good track, well written and very tightly played. It certainly carries on their fascination with American forms, and it's very commercial. The hilariously embarrassing “She's hot” is pure Kiss, possibly picked up during Stratton's time supporting them on tour with Iron Maiden. You can hear the difference his vocals make on this album. I preferred Troy's, personally --- Stratton just sounds too West Coast, even though he is English.

“Can't wait forever” lifts the album in the same way “Lovers to the grave” did on the debut: a powerful, crunching, emotional puncher that just stands apart from the rest of the album, so far. I am amazed that “This time girl” didn't break them worldwide, as it's a fantastic slice of stadium rock, totally airplay-worthy, the guys channeling Journey at their most radio-friendly. I wonder, in fact, if the idea was to target America, as the sleeve does feature Lady Liberty herself? Guess it didn't work, but hey, the Japanese loved them!

“Time slipping away” is a faster rocker, more metal than previous tracks, but I still would put Praying Mantis firmly in the AOR/soft rock side of things. Okay, they don't have any annoyingly sugary ballads (yet!), but their music does seem like it would appeal more to fans of Styx, Journey, Asia or Boston than Metallica, Maiden or Motorhead. The overuse of keyboards probably contributes a lot to this, but it's no criticism of them: there were some very dodgy bands came out of the NWOBHM, and it's clear that Tino Troy can still rip off a hell of a guitar solo, as he does here. And what was that I said about ballads? Here comes one now, though in fairness “Listen to what your heart says” retains the soul of a rock song --- no digital piano or saxophone solos here, and not a choir in sight. Sounds a little Gary Moore, to me, specially the solo. No higher praise...

The AOR style continues for “Still want you”, with some really good keyboard arpeggios, then “The horn” is the closest Praying Mantis come to out-and-out heavy metal; an instrumental, very reminscent of Iron Maiden indeed, leading into “Battle royale”, an odd title for what turns out to be a power ballad, and they manage to squeeze a lot into a song that runs for less than four minutes. Another great guitar solo, and why was this song not on the radio, twenty-four hours a day? Answer me that!

Penultimate track “Only you” is a rollicking rocker which puts me in mind of Bon Jovi circa “Keep the faith” (sorry for all the comparisons, but Mantis' music does invite them), and the album closes on “Borderline”, probably one of the weaker tracks unfortunately, with the vocals fuzzy and down in the mix, don't ask me why. An album that started so well ends as a bit of a damp squib.

TRACKLISTING

1. Can't see the angels
2. She's hot
3. Can't wait forever
4. This time girl
5. Time slipping away
6. Listen to what your heart says
7. Still want you
8. The horn
9. Battle royale
10. Only you
11. Borderline

I don't know if Praying Mantis ever lost that very American feel to their music. If they didn't, I'm sure it was no detriment to them, as the Japanese love that kind of American rock. So hopefully they're doing okay, and as they are, as previously mentioned, releasing a new album this year (well, an anniversary compilation) they are obviously still alive and kicking. As our first peek into the often dark and shady world of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they're certainly not the heaviest nor the roughest, but as Rik Mayall once gleefully stated, “They could bash out a tune or two!”
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Old 09-30-2011, 05:17 PM   #318 (permalink)
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Next up, it's the band that had the most “deaths” and “rebirths” of any in the NWOBHM, perhaps appropriately, given its supernatural name. Formed in 1977 under the name Lucifer, the band went through some lineup changes, eventually ending up with founder members Kevin Heybourne (guitar and vocals) and Rob Downing (guitar), joined by Dave Hogg (drums) and Kevin Riddles (bass). They also changed their name to Angel Witch, under which name they recorded a single, their first, and this was included on the metal compilation album of the day, “Metal for Muthas”. The single, “Baphomet”, brought them some success and a recording deal with EMI, but this quickly soured and the label dropped them on foot of extremely disappointing chart performance (their single “Sweet danger” lasted just one solitary week in the charts).

In 1980 they were signed to Bronze records, and released their debut self-titled album, which was well-received and critically acclaimed. But internal problems within Angel Witch surfaced, and the band quickly fell apart, leading to the breakup and the first “death”. It wasn't till 1982 that they got back together again, although the lineup had changed considerably by now: Riddles and Hogg were gone, replaced by Jerry Cunningham and Ricky Bruce, Rob Downing having left prior even to the recording of the debut album. However the band did not gell and nothing happened on the recording front, leaving Angel Witch to suffer their second “death”, and the following year, their second “rebirth”.

With a lineup now consisting of Peter Gordellier (bass), Dave Tattum (vocals), and with Dave Hogg back behind the drumkit, Kevin Heybourne led the third incarnation of the band, who then recorded their second album, 1985's “Screamin' and bleedin'”, but once again the lineup failed and Hogg was again fired, replaced by Spencer Hollman, and in 1986 they released what was a much more melodic and AOR-styled album, “Frontal assault”. After the album was recorded, though, Tattum was sacked and Angel Witch performed as a trio, until the mid-nineties, when Heybourne decided to try to make it in the States.

None of the other band members were willing or able to uproot themselves and make the trip, so Heybourne went on his own and recruited new musicians to form a new Angel Witch, and brought about the third death and third rebirth of the band. In 1998 they released the appropriately titled “Resurrection”, but soon after Heybourne was arrested on issues of immigration violation in the US and deported, which brought about the fourth death of the band.

Back in the UK in 2000, Kevin Heybourne assembled yet another lineup, giving the band their fourth (and to date, final) rebirth. They don't seem to have an official website, but their MySpace page makes a reference to a Japan tour of 2009, so it's assumed they're still around, in one form or another.

So what about their body of work? Well, where else would we start but with the debut album?

Angel Witch --- Angel Witch --- 1980 (Bronze)


Now this is more the kind of thing you expect from a band around that era! Fast, heavy and hard, with squealing guitars, somewhat hesitant it has to be said vocals, sort of amateur sounding, all of which describe the opening and title track. Not a keyboard in sight. Of course, the lack of keys does make the sound seem a little less polished, but it's a good opener. Not great, but good. The song features some sort of shouted group vocals, which no doubt were taken up by audiences when the band played live, and the track fades out on a pretty good guitar solo, to bring in “Atlantis”, another fast headshaker, the vocals on this a little clearer and better defined. Kind of punk elements to this one --- fast, furious, powerful, but with some good backing vocals.

Founder and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Heybourne takes songwriting duties for every song on this album, which is quite a feat, and none of them are epics. “White witch”, up next, is one of only two tracks just under five minutes, and one of five that are over four minutes. It's a bit of a cruncher, which speeds up and slows down as it goes on, a good rocker, solid. Shades of Iron Maiden in there. The rocking continues with “Confused”, but I have to admit, I'm not seeing much in the way of variation on this album, so far. I guess that's acceptable and understandable on a debut, but I would like to hear something different: we're now four tracks in, and most have sounded to me very similar. There's no doubting Heybourne's guitar prowess, though perhaps his songwriting skill needed to be honed a little at this early stage?

“Sorceress” starts things off in a slightly different way, with a spacy Iron Maiden intro to a Black Sabbath-inspired cruncher --- you can almost hear the doomy church bells tolling in the distance. But at least it's a step away from the heads-down rockers they've presented so far. To their artistic credit, it becomes something of a Southern Rock-fest towards the end, finishing well. It's followed by another slowburner, “Gorgon”, which suddenly explodes into guitar mayhem! Probably one of the best tracks on the album, so far.

More Maidenesque rocking in “Sweet danger” --- this was the single that EMI hated so much, that fell out of the charts after one week. It's not hard to see why: it really hasn't got anything special or unique going for it; good guitar solo, but even on their debut Iron Maiden were already doing this so much better. “Free man” starts off much more promisingly, with again a very Maiden-like guitar line, and reveals itself in fact as their first ballad. Doesn't stop Heybourne from piling on the heavy guitar, though!

Back to the hard rockin' for penultimate track, “Angel of death”, which sadly promises more than it delivers, but that's more than made up for with the closer, the sublime “Devil's tower”, with its lovely slide guitar intro which then punches you in the face and rocks all over the place. It's an instrumental, nothing more or less than a showcase for the considerable guitar talent of Mr. Heybourne, and a really cool way to close the album.

TRACKLISTING

1. Angel Witch
2. Atlantis
3. White witch
4. Confused
5. Sorceress
6. Gorgon
7. Sweet danger
8. Free man
9. Angel of death
10. Devil's tower

As detailed above, Angel Witch went through two “deaths” and two “rebirths” after this album, resulting along the way in their second release, “Screamin' & bleedin'”, however it's their third effort I want to concentrate on, as it is noted for being far more melodic and AOR than the previous two. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't that impressed with the debut (haven't listened to the second one), and wonder how this band figured so prominently in the NWOBHM movement, so perhaps their third album will shed some light on this, show me something that has heretofore been obscured about Angel Witch.

Frontal assault --- Angel Witch --- 1986 (Killerwatt)



With a title like that, you should expect a hard and heavy, loud and fast, no-compromises metal album. Is that what we get? Let's see. Certainly the opener, and title track, is a heavy guitar-driven rocker, and the addition of David Tattum on vocals has given the band more of a voice: he seems, to be fair, a much better singer than Heybourne (maybe that's why he was fired after this album!). The rocking continues on “Dream world”, one of only three tracks on the album not penned exclusively by Heybourne. I can see the reason why this is considered more commercial, and more melodic than the debut: the songs are much more fleshed out, the playing tighter and with Tattum on vocals, Heybourne can concentrate on spitting out those solos he's become known for.

The music may have more melody, but there's no compromising on the heavy side of things! Angel Witch know how to rock, and rock they do --- this is no Journey album! “Rendezvous with the blade” is another hard rocker, galloping along to meet “Religion (born again)”, borrowing from the Dio songbook for a real slow-paced cruncher, the vocals on this seeming somehow distant, echoey, as if Tattum is singing in a tunnel. Weird. Speeds up near the end as it gets going with a good guitar solo; perhaps should have happened sooner in the song?

“Straight from Hell” opens with what sounds like keyboards, though none are credited on the album, a slow, atmospheric beginning which soon smashes into another hard rocker. Disappointing, in a way. More of the same, when it looked like they were trying something different. “She don't lie” is a little more towards the AOR end of the spectrum, while “Take to the wing” is another unremarkable rocker, but “Something wrong” opens on lovely piano (there have to be keyboards on this album, guess they're just not credited) and becomes a semi-ballad, with guitar crashing in, in a way I wish they didn't always feel they have to do: sometimes piano with just a little acoustic guitar can work wonders. This kind of loses its way halfway in though. Pity.

Closer “Underpants” --- sorry, “Undergods”! --- is no surprise, more of the same, which isn't bad but isn't original either. I see a certain progression in melody here, but “Frontal assault” is not that hugely different to “Angel Witch”, and there have been six years in between the albums, not to mention all the lineup changes. I would have expected a much more polished band at this stage, with a clear idea as to which direction they are heading in. I don't get that from this album, and maybe that's why Angel Witch went through so many incarnations.

TRACKLISTING

1. Frontal assault
2. Dream world
3. Rendezvous with the blade
4. Religion (born again)
5. Straight from Hell
6. She don't lie
7. Take to the wing
8. Something wrong
9. Undergods

I would not have placed Angel Witch at the top of the NWOBHM tree, but I guess they had some sort of appeal. Personally, I found their basic brand of heavy metal very derivative, as I have mentioned in the reviews, and frankly, a band that can't keep its lineup together for more than a year at a time has some major problems! The fact that Heybourne emigrated to the US to try to bring the music of Angel Witch to the Land of the Free must have meant that he knew he was getting, and would get, nowhere here on this side of the pond. I don't know what the “American” Angel Witch were like, but if they were anything like the UK version, then I really feel there would have been, at that time, hundreds of metal bands over there doing this far better than this somewhat ill-fated bunch of Brits.



The last outfit I want to look at in this first part of the series is a band you probably have never heard of. They released no albums, had no hits and essentially faded away as the NWOBHM gained momentum, why is never clear. Information on Trespass is hard to find, not least due to the common use of the word, and of course the Genesis album of the same name, but it seems that they first recorded in 1979, and were broken up shortly after 1982. During that time they put out two singles, had two of their songs included on the rated metal compilation album “Metal for muthas, volume 2” --- which is where I heard their music, and never again --- but completely failed to make it. On the strength of their music I fail to see why, and I believe it's one of the great injustices of the NWOBHM time that a band like Angel Witch, above, who to me were vastly inferior in every way to Trespass, went on to record albums and gain something of a following, while Trespass faded into the mists of metal history.

Formed in 1979 by Mark and Paul Sutcliffe (Mark played guitar and sang, his brother drummed), with Dave Crawte on guitar and Richard Penny on bass, Trespass were never a viable band, all holding down day jobs. They never got any of the plum support gigs other bands did, and so were never exposed to a wider audience, and though they were promised an album deal it seems to have fallen through, though they did record a session for Tommy Vance's Friday Rock radio show, which saw them included on another compilation album, “Metal explosion”.

The two songs I heard from them were “One of these days”, which was their first single, and the vastly, vastly superior “Stormchild”, which seems to get ignored. Even when the compilation album “NWOBHM revisited” was put together, the former track was included as Trespass' only contribution, why I don't know: perhaps on the basis of it being their first single and therefore their most recognisable song.

At any rate, unlike the other two bands reviewed above, there are sadly no albums from Trespass to study or comment on, and it's only thanks to YouTube that we have any material at all for this section from them, but I feel it such an injustice that Trespass did not make it that I wanted to make sure they were included in this article, so below are the two songs from them which I know, plus two others I have not heard up to now. You make up your own mind if they should have been more successful than they were.




And that's it for our first look at some of the bands from the movement that shook up heavy metal in about the same way punk did to rock music, but with, I think, more a lasting impression left behind. If it hadn't been for some of these bands, and many others like them --- some of whom made it, some who did not --- many of the bigger UK and indeed US bands may not today have existed, never mind been successful and famous. Metallica famously attribute much of their raison d'etre to a reaction to the new sound that was coming from England's shores in the 1980s, and no doubt they are not the only ones who owe a huge debt to the trailblazers of the NewWave of British Heavy Metal.

Next time, I'll be looking at Cloven Hoof, Raven and (gasp!) Venom, who coined and indeed created not only the term, but the idea and theme known today as Black Metal. Leave your crucifixes at home...
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Old 10-01-2011, 07:49 AM   #319 (permalink)
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The tables have been turned on the worm! Last night he heard this on some telly programme, and hasn't been able to get it out of his head all day, so now he's passing it on to you guys. It's Moby, and that great song, “Natural blues”.
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Old 10-01-2011, 08:04 AM   #320 (permalink)
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Random Track of the Day
Saturday, October 1 2011
A new month, and we move into the third month of Random Track of the Day. Shall we ease in slowly? Gently? Something nice and laid-back, relaxing on this pissy rainy weekend? Nah! Let's have some POWER METAL, why don't we? Cain's Dinasty (that's how it's spelled, though I expect they mean “dynasty”) are a metal band from Spain, only together since 2006, but on the strength of what I hear here they will be a major force in the power metal pantheon! This is from their second album, “Madmen, witches and vampires” (strangely appropriate for the month of Halloween!) and it's a headshaking rocker called “Breaking the bloodlines”.

Breaking the bloodlines --- Cain's Dinasty --- from "Madmen, witches and vampires" on Redrivet
Moderator cut: image removed

Don't worry: you won't have to know any Spanish. These guys sing in English, and the vocalist has one powerful set of pipes! Real heads-down, attack-and-destroy metal from a band I must check out further!
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