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Old 01-03-2014, 02:18 PM   #461 (permalink)
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20. Manilla Road Invasion 1980 (Roadster Records)
Heavy Metal

The rats are in the cellar and the dog’s got the mange!

Album
Once upon a time a in a dark dingy basement in Witchita (well it sounds like it could’ve been) a three-piece band led by guitarist and vocalist Mark ‘the shark’ Shelton were recording a home-made debut that sounded so raw, that it could’ve been the grassroots of the grassroots of a new metal dawn in the USA. As by the late 1970s American metal acts like Manilla Road, knew that US record labels either couldn’t or didn’t know how to market raw metal bands like themselves and were therefore inclined to just get on and record the material that they wanted and hope for some recognition. Unlike in the UK there was no musical revolution in 1980 for American metal, so new raw metal bands like Manilla Road had to forge out there own existence and pathway, but gradually with the rise of the first hardcore punk bands, grassroot outfits such as Manilla Road would finally gain the recognition that they had always deserved. Manilla Road though were not your typical speed metal or proto-thrash band that benefitted from a local scene, but instead they were more of a somewhat isolated metal act, that seemed to exist in their basement and they were a band that drew as much from progressive rock and space rock as they did from standard heavy metal. Now when it comes to basement raw, the Manilla Road debut entitled Invasion has always been one of my favourite examples of this type of recording. The opening track the 6 mins plus “The Dream Goes On” is a jittery rocker that draws a strong influence from the classic “Nantucket Sleighride” by Mountain, then comes “Cat and Mouse” a potent ambient rocker with impressive guitar work and one of the best on the album, but the album’s showpiece is surely the closing track the 13 minute space rock inspired “The Empire” which demonstrates the band’s love of Rush era 2112 and the song is pretty epic as well. The album though gets a lot of bad rap, largely due to its turgid sounding efforts like “Far Side of the Sun” and “Street Jammer” which sound like that they never actually got out of the basement! I’ve often seen reviews that state this album as being an absolute turd, whilst others that state the album is nothing short of a masterpiece, the truth as always is somewhere in the middle and certainly nearerer the second option. Manilla Road like Virginia’s Pentagram are one of those cult American metal bands, that fall right in with the early 1970s metal bands such as the Sabbath inspired Bang and the pounding Sir Lord Baltimore, they’re a real connoisseur’s delight!

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 01-04-2014, 02:02 PM   #462 (permalink)
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19. Krokus Metal Rendez-Vous 1980 (Ariola)
Heavy Metal


The geisha girl was just too hot for me.

Album
By the time of their fourth album Krokus were the premier metal act coming out of Switzerland and remained so until the arrival of far more serious bands like Celtic Frost and Coroner etc. Their debut had been a weak and uninspired proggy affair (despite having a quirky and offbeat sound) and by the time of their second album the Kiss inspired To You All there was a marked improvement, but they were quickly down in the dumps again for their next album Painkiller (Judas Priest would release an album of the same name years later) So by 1980 Krokus had shown us, that they were a prime exponent of jumping on the bandwagon when it came to playing what was en-vogue and on their fourth album Metal Rendez-vous they proved that they could do it better than ever before. Metal Rendez-vous is an obvious rendition to AC/DC but in a much lighter and more polished metal manner, there is also a nod to Led Zeppelin on the album and to their fellow German speakers the Scorpions. They had now also recruited a far more potent vocalist in the Maltese Marc Storace, who modelled himself on both Bon Scott and Robert Plant as a vocalist, and at times on the album sounded like Steve Perry, making Marc Storace a very competent and talented vocalist indeed. So with all this in mind how does Metal Rendez-vous as an album fare, considering that all the stops have been pulled out to release a contemporary metal album that would mirror other established artists? Well obviously it’s good otherwise it wouldn’t be on this year’s list, but it’s also a prime example of what could be referred to as cliched metal, in that the majority of the material is consistently strong with no obvious weaknesses and still hits all the requirements of what a metal album should sound like circa 1980 with guitar solos, powerful vocals and a metal swagger. The album’s best tracks are the single “Heatstrokes” which swaggers like vintage Led Zeppelin and Marc Storace sounds akin to Bon Scott here and then there is strong commercial material “Bedside Radio” and “Come On” before culminating in the Led Zeppelin inspired power-ballad “Streamer”. Three of the best tracks though are the super commercial “Tokyo Nights” which has Marc Storace now sounding like Steve Perry and the song is probably the nearest the band ever got to their more illustrious German speakers the Scorpions. Then there is the superb “Fire” and the nifty AC/DC meets Led Zeppelin inspired rocker “Back Seat Rock & Roll”. Metal Rendez-vous was a commercial success for the band and opened up the more lucarative markets of both the UK and the US to them, with their fun sounding clichéd metal.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 01-05-2014, 05:18 AM   #463 (permalink)
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18. Scorpions Animal Magnetism 1980 (Harvest)
Heavy Metal

..and then she said, I've met your type before.


Album

Animal Magnestism is probably the biggest disappointment in the band’s whole discography, as it came after their previous masterpiece Lovedrive and before their return to form on Blackout. This is because by and large Animal Magnetism despite its sexually alluring cover (depending on your taste of course) has a complete middle section of mostly drab and uninspiring material which is chocca with filler, that tries to glimmer now and again with Scorps magic, but overall it’s just plain bland material well below the capabilities of the band. But what saves Animal Magnetism though as an album, is quite simply its killer opening of three tracks and its stunning duo to close out the album, five songs that are capable of matching the best out there. Michael Schenker’s short return to the band had also come to an end and he was now off recording his first solo album (higher up on this year’s list of course) and Mattias Jabs was now permanently installed as the band’s guitarist along with the pivotal Rudolf Schenker. The album starts off its great trilogy with “Make it Real” with its distinctly Scorps riff before Ralf Meine’s trademark nasal whine starts proceedings.”Don’t Make No Promises (That Your Body Can’t Keep)” is a catchy, fast and a prime example of pop metal at its best. Then comes the best track on the whole album and that is the sombre hard rocking “Hold Me” which signals the end of its quality material for now. Then the album hits its lethargic middle section starting with the plodding “Twentieth Century Man” and the band put out their dullest ballad ever in “Lady Starlight”. “Falling in Love” is the glimmer in the middle and it was the sole contribution of drummer Hermann Rarebell and perhaps he should’ve written more tracks on this album! before the poor run finishes with the obvious filler of “Only a Man”. The final two tracks “The Zoo” and its title track “Animal Magnetism” are amongst the highlights of the album. The former song a recognised classic and the latter song an almost doomy heavy metal classic. A bonus track that appears on some versions of the album is the excellent pop inspired “Hey You” sung by Rudolf Schenker, which should’ve appeared on the main album, even though it would’ve been an anamoly for the album as a whole. Overall Animal Magnetism is largely a failed attempt to merge pop and metal circa 1980, an area that the Scorpions would be very adept at doing, but not on this album they weren’t.



...and would you believe that this is the Scorpions
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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 01-06-2014, 07:19 AM   #464 (permalink)
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17. Witchfynde Give ‘Em Hell 1980 (Lemon)
Heavy Metal

A black witch’s brew that actually kept Satan away!


Album

The first of at least a dozen NWOBHM or NWOBHM related albums to feature on this year’s list and the album certainly keeps in line with the ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos of the NWOBHM movement. The Witchfynde debut was a great example of a home-made production that actually sounded clear, which is more than its proto-black metal album cover might have suggested and I’m sure Venom were zooming in here! Witchfynde though were far from true metallists and were the perfect example of a band that were grouped under the NWOBHM banner, largely because their Black Sabbath inspired satanic themes and matching stage show, came under the blanket of what partly characterized the NWOBHM. In reality though the band lacked the sonically charged metal of their NWOBHM counterparts and showed a stronger influence from mainstream rock and also progressive rock (much like bargain basement Manilla Road) but the band were able to do enough musically to pass as a metal band and their faux-satanic lyrics further helped their cause as well. The album cover suggested something demonic about the band, but underneath melody was the watchword and this can be heard on the catchy opening duo of “Ready to Roll” and “The Divine Victim” songs which cover similar ground to both the Diamond Head and Angel Witch debuts (both much further up the list) The album’s best known track “Leaving Nadir” and its following “Getting’ Heavy” are tracks that fail to follow the typical pace of your average NWOBHM song. The showpiece track of the album is “Unto the Ages of Ages” and shows the proggy scope of the band, but sadly the album is finally let down by one track the pretty dreadful closer ”Pay Now Love Later”. There’s also an expansive edition of the album released in 2004 which increases the album by around another 15 minutes! Give ‘Em Hell is a good album with some competent playing especially by guitarist Montalo, along with the highly distinctive vocals of Steve Bridges, it’s also a fringe NWOBHM album despite the band’s discernible image and makes an interesting piece in the NWOBHM explosion of 1980. Witchfynde though were sadly a prime example of a new band trying to flood the market circa 1980 with albums, in an attempt to make their own commercial breakthrough and to appease the record label’s desire to milk their new ‘metal cash cow’. As Witchfynde soon released their second album also in 1980 Stagefright, which sadly turned out to be a largely bland and uninspired straight-forward metal album, that displayed none of the charms of their fresher sounding debut despite having the mean "Wake Up Screaming" track.

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 01-09-2014, 04:02 PM   #465 (permalink)
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16. Samson Head On 1980 (Rock Hard)
Heavy Metal

Can you hear the hammerhead in the wind?


Album

Samson were the perfect example of a band who just a year earlier in 1979, would’ve been classified as hard rock due to the obvious blues influences that could be heard on their debut album Survivors. Now just a year later they were being classified as both heavy metal and essential NWOBHM listening, largely due to their recruitment of a certain Bruce Dickinson on vocals. Bruce Dickinson still known as ‘Bruce Bruce’ had appeared on the album cover of Survivors, but didn’t actually appear on the album though, as Paul Samson had been the band’s lead vocalist. As the band’s name would suggest, Samson were the band of guitarist/vocalist Paul Samson as Montrose had been the band of Ronnie Montrose. Whereas Ronnie Montrose had recruited lead vocalists, Paul Samson had initially decided on vocal duties himself and despite Survivors being a decent album, it was never going to get any singing accolades! So with Bruce Dickinson on board and with a vocal range to mirror the likes of Ian Gillan, the band were putting out a diverse sound that was aptly led by Paul Samson’s melodic guitar leads and Bruce Dickinson’s strong vocal array. Musically the band played a mid-level volume brand of metal and they were also capable of piling on the speed across the album as well of which “Take It Like a Man” “Too Close to Rock” and “Take Me to Your Leader” are prime examples of this speed. Another highlight of the album is certainly the drumming of Thunderstick, who like some NWOBHM outfits had a gimmick and in his case it was two, as he would perform wearing a mask (like the album cover) and also perform on-stage in a cage! The Head On album cover is the perfect example of another corny home-made design, again designed to shock the buying public and to get them to query the actual record itself, and like most of these album covers it was largely non-offensive melodic metal fare underneath, that also had a hint of Deep Purple on several of the tracks. Whenever I see the cover, it always reminds me of the classic Manhunt video games! Bruce Dickinson’s vocals on Head On had also transformed the band’s overall scope from a bluesy hard rock act, into that of a melodic if somewhat patchy metal band. Despite the obvious talent on show here and despite having some good albums (especially the following Shock Tactics) Samson never ever quite realized their own ability and also failed to tap the true talent of Bruce Dickinson, even though the future Iron Maiden sound was being forged here. Bruce of course just a few short years later would front Iron Maiden and as they say the rest is history!

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 01-11-2014, 01:23 PM   #466 (permalink)
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15. White Spirit White Spirit 1980 (MCA)
Hard Rock

I gave all I had, the fruits of my season.


Album

The only album ever put out by Hartlepool’s White Spririt (the North East was a real hotbed for the NWOBHM) and an album that was distinctly hard rock and not metal upon its release in 1980. The band though had already put out a debut single a year earlier in “Backs to the Grind” and its b-side “Cheetah” would appear on the vital double New Wave of Heavy Metal ’79 Revisited album, which would be released in 1990 by Lars Ulrich and Geoff Barton and an essential to any completist out there. They also appeared on another vital NWOBHM sampling album called Metal for Muthas which came out in 1980 in two volumes, as well as popping up on various other NWOBHM compilations. White Spirit were a band that took their inspiration directly from bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, and these influences strongly showed on their self-titled 1980 debut. These can be heard on the album opener “Midnight Chaser” which takes its cue from Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and has singer Bruce Ruff sounding somewhat similar to Dio here, also on “Midnight Chaser” the flamboyant keyboard playing of Malcolm Pearson a la Jon Lord can be heard and then in a more controlled manner a la Ken Hensley on “Red Skies” etc. Overall the compositions are consistently strong and diverse throughout on songs like the melodic “Red Skies” the Styx sounding “High Upon High” and the layered “No Reprieve” the pretty outstanding “Way of the Kings” and the 10 minute showpiece track "Fool for the Gods". There is some excellent axe slinging by Janick Gers across the album as well, despite the domination of Malcolm Pearson on keyboards for most of the album. The band were more keyboard driven than guitar driven hence the Deep Purple and Uriah Heep comparisons of the band, making this album a melodic analomy within the NWOBHM period, in fact the album is something of a chameleon that could fit into in number of genres. The band are largely remembered as the launch pad of guitarist Janick Gers who many years later would go onto join Iron Maiden, as well as being the first band of drummer Graeme ‘Crash’ Crallan who would go onto to join fellow NWOBHM band Tank a few years later, sadly vocalist Bruce Ruff would disappear from the music scene not long after this album. The 1997 Japanese reissue of the album features the aforementioned “Backs to the Grind” and “Cheetah” as well as adding a third track in “Suffragettes”.


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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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14. Van Halen Women and Children First 1980 (Warner Bros.)
Heavy Metal

A dark undercurrent of women and heavy metal first!

Album
By the time of their third album Van Halen were certainly due some kind of variation on the flamboyant party feel and pop inspired metal, that had been the highlight of their first two albums. Almost from the word go they had become the premier metal act stateside and were selling by the million there, so in effect they were able to do more or less what they wanted in the recording studio! Their third album Women and Children First would be a sort of departure from the first two albums and see the band go in for a sonically heavier sound and now put out an album that was more designed for a metal audience. Again the album would be produced by Ted Templemen and also contain more studio overdubs than their previous two albums. Also of note is that Women and Children First, would be the first Van Halen effort to totally consist of original material, which now showed the band’s confidence when it came to issuing original cuts and not relying on covers to boost up the overall quality of the product. The dominant factor on Women and Children First are the big pounding riffs of the Eddie Van Halen, that now have a darker vibe than what Van Halen were previously known for and this can be detected from the word go on the almost party-opening pair of the rolling “And the Cradle Will Rock” and the jungle chanting of “Everybody Wants Some!!” both typical VH material. Diversity can be heard on the boogie inspired “Fools” which has that often disjointed Van Halen sound, which could often be found on their albums and this one has a thumping bass added for good measure. Then there is the almost speed metal of “Romeo Delight” which is later followed by the harder edged proto-thrash of “Loss of Control” and finally there is the acoustic surprise of “Could This Be Magic?” an almost unofficial low-key title track for the album. The best overall composition on the album is probably the album closer “In a Simple Rhyme” with the hidden 19 secs of “Growth”. Quality wise Women and Children First sits on the same level as the previous Van Halen II and like Van Halen II its strength is its consistency, rather than the topsy-turvy approach of the classic Van Halen debut! Personally I’ve always seen Women and Children First as a strong metal record but not an outstanding one, but in contrast to my opinion the album is often lauded as a ‘metal classic’ within metal circles by both fans and critics alike and the album also makes Kerrang’s “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time” list. This is an album that's always worth checking out as I’m sure it can divide opinion.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History
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Old 01-13-2014, 11:45 AM   #468 (permalink)
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13. Triumph Progressions of Power 1980 (Attic)
Hard Rock

It's a hard road staying at the top.


Album

Following on from their breakthrough album Just a Game the previous year, Canadian power-trio Triumph released their fourth album the superbly named Progressions of Power just a year later, an album that would continue to fill the niche comfortably between AOR and heavy metal, and with a hint of progressive rock. Throughout the band’s career, its two frontmen guitarist/vocalist Rik Emmett and drummer/vocalist Gil Moore were constantly at loggerheads with one another, a factor which certainly strove each artist to try and outdo the other. On Just a Game the Geddy Lee vocally influenced Rik Emmett had been the clear winner, but here on Progressions of Power Gil Moore gained the upper hand especially with compositions like the pounding and relentless album opener “I Live for the Weekend” which at times sounds like a far heavier Boston. The AOR fuelled single “I Can Survive” and then back into heavy territory for the rousing “Nature’s Child” and the heavy Mike Levine drumming intro of “Tear the Roof Off” where the band remind me of REO Speedwagon once the song gets underway. Rik Emmett though is responsible for some good material with the moody ballad “In the Night” with its so-very 1980s centric sound and the two Foreigner inspired tracks “Woman in Love” and the gutsy album closer “Hard Road”. Personally of the two I’ve always been more of a Rik Emmett fan as his overall sound always resonated better with me and his blazing guitar really highlights the album especially on its heavier tracks like “I Live for the Weekend” “Nature’s Child” and “Hard Road”. I’ve always been a fan of Progressions of Power but the album is largely seen as the lesser album between two better known albums, which are the previous Just a Game and the following Allied Forces. As an album it could equally be slotted in an AOR playlist, but there is just enough heavy stuff on here to qualify it for the thread and when it gets heavy, it certainly gets heavy! Finally Triumph are not really a band for metalheads as such, but more for AOR fans that like their material heavy.

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Metal Wars

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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12. Quartz Stand Up and Fight 1980 (MCA)
Heavy Metal

Groovy coke snortin’ metal


Album

Quartz were already an old band by the time the NWOBHM came around, but in many ways they were NWOBHM before the phrase was even coined. This was largely because their debut album the eponymous Quartz had been released back in 1977 (see my 1977 review) and this was a quality album which was highlighted by its heavier tracks such as “Mainline Raiders” “Street Fighting Lady” “Around and Around” and “Pleasure Seekers” all tracks which would display the qualities associated with the future NWOBHM scene. Problems though with their label, had seen the album pulled before its release back in 1977 and the album was thus held back till 1980 where it was re-released as Deleted for the dawn of the NWOBHM. Sadly and much like the Diamond Head debut, it was finally released in a bland carboard sleeve, which of course spelt disaster from a marketing perspective circa 1980. Quartz though were quick off the mark to release their second album proper Stand Up and Fight also the same year and this at least provided us with an expected album cover. Quartz on Stand Up and Fight put out a consistently cool metal sound and cover mid-metal terrain similar to say Saxon who they shared some similiarites with, but Saxon though would get all the plaudits that Quartz failed to attract. Fundamentally Quartz were a strong and talented band (once championed by Tony Iommi) and in Mike Taylor they had a vocalist that could go toe to toe with any other NWOBHM vocalist out there and as mentioned in the previous Quartz review, guitarist/keyboardist Geoff Nicholls who would eventually go onto join Black Sabbath and was one of the few musicians to play keyboards in a band associated with the NWOBHM. Stand Up and Fight would be the band’s most cohesive set and the album opener and title track “Stand Up and Fight” positively throbs with coolness, as does the infectious “Charlie Snow” and “Revenge”. The heavy switch is firmly on with songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Child” “Questions” and “Wildfire”. The only downside of the album is probably its sole AOR themed track “Can’t Say No to You” which far from being a bad track, simply fails to sit comfortably with the overtly metal atmosphere heard on the rest of the album. The simple fact of the matter is, that Quartz were one of the most talented bands associated with the NWOBHM, but as is often the case they lacked a certain amount of focus in track selection and most of all time wasn’t on their side in the fast moving music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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Pounding Decibels- A Hard and Heavy History

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Old 01-17-2014, 02:50 PM   #470 (permalink)
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Will Maiden's debut be on this years list? Been waiting ever since I discovered this journal to see what you have to say about it.
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