segunda-feira, 31 de dezembro de 2012

VIRTUE (UK) - We Stand to Fight (7'' Other Records, 1985) plus Fool's Gold (Demo, Hatchet, 1987)

RATING: ****

Now THAT is a band that should reform! As all of you NWOBHM addicts know far too well, Virtue's sole 7'' is a near-classic of the genre, a record that nearly all collectors seem to have in high regard - and very understandably so, I must gladly add. Both "We Stand to Fight" and "High Treason" are extremely enjoyable, well-crafted compositions in a heroic Power Metal style, bringing to my mind comparisons with (equally awesome) bands such as Iron Maiden, Elixir and early Tokyo Blade. Both songs are excellent neck-trauma-inducing preciosities, but I tend to like "We Stand to Fight" better, with their impressive twin-guitar riffing, powerful chorus and epic ending. All the lads play very well, and Mr. Tudor Sheldon was a hell of a singer with a bright future ahead of him. The picture sleeve is very nice too, and you will be doing a great move by adding this beauty to your Heavy Metal collection. I mean it!

Oh well, after such passionate accolades, I better give you all good people some historic insight, right? Brothers Tudor (V) and Matt Sheldon (G) were playing music since 1981 at least, but it wasn't until 1984 that the first incarnation of Virtue was operative, the lads being assessed by Adrian Metcalfe (G), Brian Reader (B) and Ian Lewington (D). They came as far as to release a demo in the same year, called "Virtue-Defenders". But, according to Malc McMillan's stunning NWOBHM Encyclopedia, this early offering didn't make into any wider circulation - mostly because of the members themselves, who felt the low-budget recording and ramshackle production would be detrimental to their cause. Almost immediately, the band was dissolved - just to be resurrected the following year, with Tudor and Matt recruiting Boz Beast (G), Darren Prothero (B) and Simon Walters (D) to help their cause. After some small club appearances and with a revised repertoire, Virtue would release its sole vinyl souvenir in 1985 - helped by a very enterprising individual who, after hearing the songs, decided to assemble a full label (Other Records, that is) just so he could take full responsibility for pressing and distributing the whole thing. Someone who knew what good music was as soon as he listened to it, if you ask me.

Their 7'' single was a respectable success, enough to secure a second pressing, and a lot of copies were mailed to record companies, generating interest from none other than EMI, who were (and still is) the home of Iron Maiden at the time. Unfortunately, the major label decided not to offer Virtue a contract (and just imagine how different things would have been if they did!), and the group went back to the independent releases, recording three songs for an EP to be issued in Hatchet Records at early 1987. Unluckly, it was never properly released on vinyl, appearing only in tape format as a demo called "Fool's Gold".

This new batch of compositions show Virtue not only to maintain their musical edge, but also to expand it in places. The title-track is impressive, its grandiose opening leading to a fast-guitar assault that makes the headbanging almost mandatory. It's a widespread notion that they were toying with Thrash Metal at the time - but although some perceivable hints (especially within the excellent "Seek and Destroy"), I guess they were still more Power Metal (and a very powerful one, indeed) than anything else. The instrumentation is top-notch, with great singing from Tudor Sheldon and a really impressive guitar display, "Hideaway" being specially outstanding in that aspect. It's a HUGE shame that such good songs didn't made it into vinyl, as the planned EP would have been kick-ass  and would surely consolidate Virtue as one of the most serious contenders in british's Metal scene at the time.

Unfortunately, "Fool's Gold" was Virtue's swansong, rather than the major liftoff it should have been. Around 1988, the band was no more, with only Matt Sheldon staying in the music business at first, lending his services to minor acts such as Transmit This and Roundhouse. In the early 90's, he was joined by his mate Boz Beast (now Boz Bozlee) in Shock Tactics, later renamed as The Shock and that went as far as to release two CDs ("Against the World" and "Pinultimate") towards the end of the decade. They were even joined by bassist Bob Duffy, who enjoyed a brief spell with Virtue itself at the very end of the band's existence. I think it's also worth noting that The Shock's singer Martin Barclay came to be involved with TV show "Stars in Your Eyes", trying to emulate Jon Bon Jovi (I kid you not, my friends) and subsequently had huge complications with the Law regarding illegal pornography, spending some time behind bars.  Nowadays, though, The Shock is hibernant, with Matt Sheldon keeping a very low profile when it comes to music. Time for us to make some real pressure and convince him to bring the mighty Virtue back to life, isn't it? Man, what a killer CD/LP it would be! Maybe the good guys at High Roller Records will be able to persuade him? Fingers crossed!

Tudor Sheldon (V), Matt Sheldon (G),  Boz Beast (G), Darren Prothero (B), Simon Walters (D)
All songs by Matt Sheldon / Tudor Sheldon

1) We Stand to Fight 4:55
2) High Treason 5:56

1) Fool's Gold 5:19
2) Hideaway 3:38
3) Seek and Destroy 4:18






These and many more memorabilia can be found at Virtue's Facebook Fanpage

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

domingo, 16 de dezembro de 2012

TRACER (UK) - Chanelled Agression (EP, Mousehole Records, 1983)

RATING: **


The Channel Islands are probably a very depressing place, judging on the NWOBHM legacy they launched upon the big bad world. The more well-known - and musically very enjoyable - Legend are a prime example of contemplative (sometimes even gloomy) Metal, although they were more than happy to deliver some fast-paced music on numerous occasions. On the other hand, Tracer (based on the isle of Jersey, as far as I know) seemed to have been a much more doom-oriented proposition. To be honest, their "Chanelled Agression" independent EP from 1983 (and yes, both words were mispelled by the band) is not filled with Sabbath-like riffs or very largo tempos, but their morose, mournful approach on music is more than evident. The reverse of the picture sleeve is very explicit, showing the lads in a not-really-happy-at-all posing, subtitled by the ominous statement "There's no end in sight, no winners in this fight". Their lives must have been such a drag back then, uh?

After a somber, climatic intro, "Don't Bless the Warrior" launchs into a reasonably heavy assault, albeit with a very simple structure - not helped by the very poor production, as sometimes is nearly impossible to really understand what's going on. The lyrics are very depressive, as in the following song "Memories Always Kill" - a extremely melancholic semi-ballad apparently written when the lads were in a very miserable frame of mind.

Unfortunately, I'm working with a mp3 capture of the EP that misses the last song, "Neon Town", so I won't be helpful to enlighten any of you good people on what this specific song is all about.  The last song I listened to was "Pain, Pain", another very simple song - almost ramshackle in places, to be honest - with a more upbeat rhythm but equally dreary lyrics, incluiding a sorrowful chorus that really drags the message along in a not-remotely-subtle terms.

All things considered, "Chanelled Agression" shows some hints of promise, but everything is much too raw (and, to be honest, sometimes even immature) to really set any pulses racing. Singer Ron Laity seems to have had some genuine potential, though, and I can't help but wonder how would his voice develop through the years, given the chance. It seems that the very obscure (in more ways than one) Tracer managed to release a demo in 1984 or 1985, with five new songs (namely "Nightstalker", "City Lights", "Blinded By a Lie", "Shoot Out the Lights" and "In the Heat of the Night") which Malc McMillan describes in his NWOBHM Encyclopedia as slightly more upbeat than its EP predecessor. Considering that it would be life-threatening to be less upbeat than their vinyl release, I guess it was all for the best.

After a few personel changes, ignited by the departure of drummer Nigel Amy in 1985, Tracer seemingly lost the will to continue, possibly coming to terms with the fact that they would probably never reach any kind of success in mainland England with such a depressive kind of music. That's actually too bad, as I would like to have seen them soldiering on for a little longer - maybe they could have had a better chance alongside bands such as Cathedral, Anathema and Paradise Lost, who knows? Not that they ever sounded like them (actually, not at all) but at least their gloomy efforts wouldn't be too out of place. Unfortunately, apart from bassist Mark Daghorn - that joined melodic bands such as The Avenue and Various Areas at the turn of the decade - all other musicians seem to have left the music scene behind them for good, leaving this (very rare) 7'' as the sole memento of their fleeting career.

Ron Laity (V), Aubrey Williams (G), Mark Daghorn (B), Nigel Amy (D).

01. Don't Bless the Warrior 4:13
02. Memories Always Kill 5:23
03. Pain Pain 3:45
05. Neon Town ?:??


Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!


quarta-feira, 28 de novembro de 2012

SHADER (UK) - Bad News Blues (7'', Piston Broke, 1981)

RATING: **

This hard-working band from London were doing the rounds since the second half of the 70s, playing a musical style that came to be associated with NWOBHM in later years, though it was actually not much of the sort. The music contained in this slice of vinyl (the only officially released by the group) are much more in a blues/rock vein with generous concessions to boogie, a music style not too far from what good people from England use to call Biker Rock. They released this 7'' (never housed in a picture sleeve) in 1981, when they already had four or five years of experience in the neverending road of small-club circuit - and that's too bad that, after such dedication, they couldn't release something more confident or individualistic.

Don't get me wrong: "Bad News Blues" and "Banging Like a Shit House Door", the two songs on display, are not the kind of thing that will make you feel like giving up on music or anything like that. I have heard FAR worse, at least. It's all pretty good-hearted and inoffensive, with simple riffing and some reasonable attempts for sing-along choruses - though they turn out to be forgotten soon after the listening is over, which is to say that they were not exactly successful on being singed along, but oh well. The really bad thing here is that the production is irritatingly poor, even committing some unacceptable mistakes such as failing to fully synchronize the twin-guitar melodies on "Bad News Blues". Once I realized the guitars were not playing together at all, this knowledge annoyed me so much that it ruined the whole listening experience. Not that anything else sounds good in it, but this bad mixing really highlights the precariousness of the whole production.

"Banging Like a Shit House Door", unfortunately, doesn't make things any better - as it is an unspectacular song with an equally ramshackle production, and it even showcases an inexplicable drum solo to make things even more awkward. The drumming starts, drags along for quite a while without any tangible reason until the chorus reappears - and just when you think it's finally over, God knows why, the drum solo is back again, albeit mercifully brief. Well, it's something I will surely remember when the name Shader comes to my mind, so it's mission accomplished in a sense, I suppose. Good try, lads, and please don't hate me, but this single just didn't stood well the test of time, sorry. Maybe you could have done better under different circumstances, who knows? Curiously, a third song called "The Pimp" would be included on this release,but it was dropped at the last minute, apparently because of the groove constraints of the 7'' format.

Shader were seemingly over less than a year after this private single was released, which is not to say that these struggling musicians just gave up on playing rock. Three of the lads (namely bassist Terry Goillau, guitarist Richard Wright and drummer Paul Bentley) acted as a back-up band for a female singer called Reavell Forman, a musical adventure that delivered a single release (called "High Energy Flow" and named as Reavell Forman and the Lads) and performed a handful of shows before disappearing in the mid-80s. Later, these three nice chaps went to form another band called Romeo Error, which never came to release any material of their own, I suppose, which is a bit of a shame. Shader's singer George Whitter, on the other hand, formed a whole new venture called Bad Blood, later renamed as Bloodshot Eyes and that went as far as to release a full album called "On My Knees" - which, quite bizarrely, included many songs taken directly from Shader demos. Never heard the album in my life (and I would like to, so if you can help me, get in touch!), but it was the swansong of Mr. Whitter's musical career, or so it seems, as his name is not linked to any other releases I came to know about.

George Whitter (V), Richard Wright (G), Colin Ramsden (G), Terry Goillau (B), Paul Bentley (D).

01. Bad News Blues 4:25
02. Banging Like a Shit House Door 6:03




Many other interesting memorabilia from Shader and related bands can be found at their Facebook Page

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

domingo, 28 de outubro de 2012

RITUAL (BEL) - Ritual (EP, Black Ritual Recs., 1986)



RATING: ***

These belgian doom-metallers were doing the rounds for most of the 80s, recording the four songs of this EP as early as 1982. Originally released as a demo, the songs would appear on vinyl only in 1986, when a friend of the band (namely Nicolas Parent) took to himself the responsibility to press 500 copies of that recording and release it as an independent EP. They were reasonably popular in the Belgian metal scene, with a loyal following and a lot of shows going on, but didn't gather any serious label interest - and this 7" was like a final bet for the band, hoping that it would open some important doors in the business. I must be honest, though, and say that it took me a while to understand that the central figure of the picture sleeve was actually a candle-woman - that would be a pretty crappy superpower to have, but oh well, nevermind.

Many (if not most) copies from Ritual's sole EP were originally unsold, being stocked at bassist Raymond Roobaert's parents house for many years. When Raymond (also known as Doc Sinius) unfortunately died in 1997 due to a liver disease, all unplayed copies went missing - allegedly, an unknown individual just took the boxes away with him, without the knowledge of Raymond's parents. There's a strong possibility that the copies appearing for sale from time to time are remnants from this theft - something that adds a bit of moral dilemma to any buyers of this elusive slice of vinyl.

When it comes to music, Ritual delivers an interesting kind of Heavy/Doom with macabre lyrics and a somber feeling throughout, even though the tempos are more presto than adagio, if you know what I mean. The vocals are dramatic and intense, with a lot of growls and high-pitched screams - not in the same league of a King Diamond, sure, but it's still a job well done in this case. The basslines are really good too, and the guitar deliver some good hooks and leads, although it feels a bit too simplistic sometimes. All four songs are good, but I think that the only really memorable song would be "Spaced Out", which is actually an impressive stab at doomy music. Oh well, it's all personal opinion, you know - give it a try, because it surely deserves it.

Ritual finally gave up in 1987, a decision motivated by both lack of finances and label disinterest. Unfortunately, two of the musicians here featured are no longer alive - Doc Sinius, aka Raymond Roobaert, died in 1997 as told before and drummer Eric De Boeck couldn't resist leukemia and passed away in 1999. Ritual actually came to record a new demo as far as 2000, with remaining musicians Alain Vanderberghe and Didier Retelet being suported by Xavier D (B) and Eddy De Logi (D) - both long-time associates of Ritual, acting as roadies in the (not so) dim and (not that) distant past. Despite being another interesting effort with good songs on display, it seems to have been a swansong rather than a resurrection, as Ritual didn't release any further material and their MySpace page is inactive since 2009. Still, singer Vanderberghe kept himself very busy, lending his lungs to a number of bands (Attractive Burial, Incubus, Storm, Hitchiker, The Guild and Dream Machine, to name a few) and keeps a MysPace page with songs from most of his ventures. In Dream Machine, he was joined by guitarist Didier Retelet (or H.H. Del Rio, if you prefer).


Adrian Vanderberghe (V), Didier Retelet (aka H.H. Del Rio, G), Raymond Roobaert (aka Doc Sinius, B), Eric De Boeck (D).

All songs by Didier Retelet

01. Paternoster 2:13
02. Spaced Out 4:46
03. Last Night for the Demons 2:55
04. Prediction 2:24




Extra thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for picture scans!

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

segunda-feira, 1 de outubro de 2012

DREQUON (UK) - from DTA Records compilation (EP, DTA Records, 1983)

RATING: ***

And now we go to the band I owe a name to! Well, not THAT much, actually, but Drequon was always a questionmark for me since I first read about them on Malc McMillan's mammoth NWOBHM Encyclopedia. Their only known recording is "Goddess of the Night", a song included on an utterly obscure 7" compilation EP on DTA Records, released on 1983 without a name, a picture sleeve or anything else. The EP also presents the bands Applicators, Midnight Ramblers and Freetime - none of it being palatable for dedicated headbangers, or so it seems. Anyway, it was long years of imagining what Drequon's music would sound like - and the name Drequon actually sounds so good to me that I decided to use it as a soubriquet in some Metal-related forums and now here on this blog.

Well, I still didn't have the chance to listen to the full compilation - something that I would really like to, so if you happen to have the full thing, please get in touch. But luck was on my side when I located, a few weeks ago, a good mp3 file with the elusive track from the mysterious Drequon - and it wasn't without trepidation that I pressed the Play button, expecting everything from a masterpiece to utter musical disaster.

And it turns out that "Goddess of the Night" is a perfectly good song, actually. The feeling is obscure, even a tiny bit somber, although we are far from Pagan Altar territory here. The opening guitar/bass lead is interesting and we can hear some very nice riffing too, specially towards the end. The vocal lines are very simple, but adequate, though I honestly think that the lyrics are immature, semi-mythological nonsense with no real merit whatsoever. But oh well, they were probably a bunch of adolescents doing their best to write some good Heavy Metal songs, so let's not be too harsh on them, as they would almost surely do better if given the chance to evolve as songwriters. All things considered, "Goddess of the Night" is a competent and promising song full of good ideas, and it's inevitable to wonder what other goodies they would be able to deliver if they received a little more attention and encouragement.

Of their earlier or later recordings (if there were any), none is known at present. In fact, they seemingly came and went in a very short period of time, leaving only this ultrarare vinyl memento to remind us of their existence. Is there anything else out there? I would REALLY like to know. If you have any clues, please get in touch! :)

Musicians unknown


Goddess of the Night (Jarvis, Wheeler) 3:15

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

sábado, 29 de setembro de 2012

HAMMER (UK) - Contract with Hell (LP, Ebony, 1985)

RATING: ****

After releasing the adequate-but-not-memorable "Early Warning" LP in 1984, english band Holland found themselves in the verge of a potential legal battle, as a Canadian band using the same monicker threatened to sue them in the grounds of copyright infringement. Instead of launching into a fight to keep their original guise, and knowing that Ebony would release their second album no matter what, the musicians involved decided to simply adopt a new name, Hammer - a change that led to a more forceful imagery, a more metal-looking logo and a few (and welcome) musical changes as well.

In fact, "Contract With Hell" was first meant to be Holland's second album, but it actually came to achieve an undeniable spell of personality. The musicians were all the same (although vocalist Marty Wilkinson, a.k.a. "The Dog" or "Doggy", assumed keyboard duties as well) and it's not like they became a different band altogether - but they were seemingly aware that this enforced name change was also a chance to take their music to a new direction, more akin to the true-Metal feel of near all releases from Ebony. And they sound a hell of a lot more confident (and a whole lot better) than before, believe me.

The opening song, "Caution to the Wind", sums this all up perfectly. Carried along in a very forceful manner (it even reminds me a few Melodic Power Metal bands from Germany), this song has it all: nice keyboard intro, heavy guitars, captivating song structure, uplifting lyrics, impressive vocal performance and a simple-yet-memorable chorus. Awesome.

Nearly all the songs are very good, although it's clear that they were wrote in different periods of time, resulting in a not-really-cohesive (yet very pleasant) mixture. "Hard Hitting Woman", for instance, is a older cut demoed by Holland in 1982, and I wouldn't really be surprised to know that "Try It" and "Hey You" were earlier efforts too, since they sound (as well pointed out by Malc MacMillan in his NWOBHM Encyclopedia) very similar to what these musicians did on "Early Warning" and the keyboards are less apparent here, doing little more than humble embellishments. That said, there's nothing essentially wrong with these compositions, all of them being good enough to please the headbangers.

"Satellite" is not that far from Holland too - but the keyboards are much more proeminent, taking a major part in the instrumentation. I love this song, personally speaking - but I guess that, apart from aforementioned "Caution to the Wind", the finest moments of this LP would be the memorable title track, the intense and poignant "Prayer of A Soldier" and the epic, atmospheric ending with "Across the Line" - all outstanding pieces of impressive songwriting and musicianship. More than enough quality to raise "Contract With Hell" to a very high level in my personal Metalomether - one of my personal favorites when it comes to British Metal releases after 1984, I must add.

It's a shame that Hammer wouldn't last the distance. Guitarist Kenny Nicholson and vocalist/keyboardist Marty Wilkinson had inconciliable differences on what Hammer music should be on later recordings - the axeman wanted it to be considerably heavier, as the singer though that it would be a wiser move to take a much more melodic, lightweight direction. In the end, Nicholson decided to leave Hammer behind, forming a new venture called Fast Kutz.

The remaining musicians recruited Arthur Fixter and demoed severe new compositions in an increasingly softer vein - something that Ebony seemed not to receive very well. They wanted Hammer to release a new album (and they wouldn't allow a change to yet another guise, something that was tentatively hinted at some point), but they wanted the band to sound as heavy as before, something that the musicians were not even considering anymore.

This indefinition led to the final demise of Hammer, - which was really unfortunate, but maybe it was all for the best, as I'm afraid they didn't have their earlier spirit anymore. Perhaps if Kenny and Doggy could find an agreement and stayed together for a little longer we would have more Hammer albuns to talk about. Incidentally, both joined forces many years after in a covers band called Outrageous Wallpaper - though neither of them are doing the rounds there anymore. Guitarist Bob Henman also went to the pub circuit, playing with small-crowd-pleasing cover bands, though I have no news on him for quite a while now.

Marty "The Dog" Wilkinson (V/K), Kenny Nicholson (G), Bob Henman (G), Graeme Hutchinson (B), Marty Day (D).

01. Caution to the Wind 4:27
02. Try It 3:52
03. Hey You 3:54
04. Contract with Hell 4:15
05. Hard Hitting Woman 3:36
06. Satellite 3:17
07. Prayer of A Soldier 3:19
08. Across the Line 8:00

Very special thanks to Strappado Metal Blog and user Mik for label scans!

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

sábado, 22 de setembro de 2012

CRYS (UK, Wales) - Tymor Yr Heliwr (Sain, LP, 1982)

RATING: ****

After releasing "Rhyfelwr" in 1981, Welsh-language Crys became minor celebrities in their native country. Their debut LP may not have been the most impressive of releases, but it surely had a great impact on Welsh-singing market. Crys even received a Best Album of the Year award in Sgrech, a music industry event for Welsh-language artists. It was not a huge scene, for sure, but Crys was the name on everyone's lips, and the expectations for a follow-up release were understandably high. And they delivered the goods in great fashion, no doubt about that.

"Tymor Yr Heliwr" (translates as "Hunting Season", if I'm not mistaken) is Crys' best album, and (in my book, at least) the finest LP ever to be issued by a Welsh-language hard rocking band. Maybe it would be different if Y Diawled had issued a full lenght album, but it never came to be, unfortunately. Actually, I can't really remember any other Heavy Metal band singing in Welsh in the 80s and getting as far as to record an album... But oh well, even with this near absolute lack of competition, Crys managed to record a very good album with plenty of good songs on display, so let's not be too sardonic on them.

The evolution from "Rhyfelwr" is unmistakeable. If Crys' debut was a mostly-average record with some nice songs in it, "Tymor Yr Heliwr" is the exact opposite: most of the numbers are actually pretty good. The band plays better, the vocals are more effective, the production is very adequate and the whole effort transpires a more mature and professional approach. Compared to its predecessor, this album sounds more upbeat and full of confidence.

The A side is nearly faultless; apart from "Yfed Y Nos" (which is a good-enough song, but predictable and not really impressive), all the other cuts are actually very enjoyable. It opens with a energetic rocker called "Pendoncwyr", a very popular song that became something of a denomination for the die-hard fans of the band (and don't be so cynical, there were a few back in the day, believe me). "Barod Am Roc" was also a minor hit, even receiving pride of place on a Sain compilation, which was named after the song. It's one of my personal favorites: simple-but-catchy chorus, nice guitar leads, all pretty basic but delivered with great enthusiasm. Good stuff to put a smile on your face, believe me. There's also "Rociwch Ymlaen", the "we-are-a-Welsh-singing-band-and-very-proud-of-it" song that went far enough to receive a videoclip (and you can watch it at the end of this review). But the best song, in my opinion, would be "Cwrdd a Gofid", a heavier, more serious number with an extremely competent guitar work throughout. Good, good stuff, lads.

The flipside is notably different. Actually, the predictable and slightly monotone "Merched Gwyllt a Gwin" is at odds with the other songs on the B side, where Crys appears in a more thoughtful, even a bit adventurous frame of mind. "Mae Fy Nghalon Yn Rhydd" is a melancholic ballad that start not a million miles away from Bleak House's "Rainbow Warrior", with subtle piano interventions and interesting guitar interludes, and later evolves into a heavy, intense ending. Impressive. There's also "Y Fedwen" (a brief, acoustic interlude) and the well-crafted "Gwlith Y Bore", which starts with an atmospheric, half-spoken intro and delves into a heavy rocker with nice guitar leads and a undeniable - and welcome - 70s feeling throughout. A fitting closing to a very accomplished album, more than worthy of attention from dedicated NWOBHM enthusiasts.

It comes as no surprise to know that "Tymor Yr Heliwr" was also awarded as album of the year in the Sgrech event, and Crys even appeared at Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio One, an honor no other Welsh language rock band ever achieved. On this ocasion, Crys performed two songs in Welsh ("Pendoncwyr" and "Merched Gwyllt a Gwin"), and english versions to two of their songs: "Rociwch Ymlaen" (metamorphosed into "Rockin' Along") and "It's About Time" (supposedly an earlier version of "Amser Yn Nawr", that later appeared on "Roc Cafe" album, although I'm not entirely sure of it). Maybe they thought that this appearance was the chance to reach a broader audience, and hence chose to sing a few numbers in english - but it seems to have been an ill-fated move, as the band didn't made any impact outside Wales and spent over a decade in near-complete oblivion. It's easy to say it now that history took its course, but the fact is that an english-singing Crys would have to face huge competition, something that they were not ready (or maybe not even willing) to endure. When guitarist Alun Morgan (now deceased, unfortunately) decided to move to Canada, Crys went on a hiatus - and I'm sure it took a lot more than originally expected to get out of it.

Liam Forde (V/RG), Alun Morgan (LG), Scott Forde (B), Nicky Samuel (D).

01. Pendoncwyr 3:22
02. Yfed Y Nos (Drinking in the Night) 2:48
03. Barod Am Roc (Ready to Rock) 3:31
04. Cwrdd A Gofid (Welcome the Distress) 4:13
05. Rociwch Ymlaen (Rocking Along) 4:28
06. Mae Fy Nghalon Yn Rhydd (My Heart is Free) 6:03
07. Y Fedwen (The Birch) 1:43
08. Merched Gwyllt a Gwin (Wild Women and Wine) 4:19
09. Gwlith Y Bore (Morning Dew) 5:56

CRYS - Rociwch Ymlaen (video): http://youtu.be/fPxh6pLuUoA (embed disabled by user request)

CRYS - Pendoncwyr (live BBC Radio One, 1983)


Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

quinta-feira, 20 de setembro de 2012

JEDDAH (UK) - Eleanor Rigby (7", Death Records, 1983)

RATING: ****

The wonderful world of NWOBHM is very fertile in surprises. Some, admitedly, are not exactly exciting - as some groups labelled to be undiscovered masterpieces turn out to be, at least to my humble ears, nothing of the sort. Sometimes, on the other hand, the lack of expectations are rewarded with genuinely outstanding pieces of nearly-unknown music. Jeddah's 7" single from 1983 is a prime example. Released on the private Death Records, this little slice of vinyl presents "Eleanor Rigby" (yes, from The Beatles) and "Ghosts" - both extremely enjoyable pieces of heavy music.

Jeddah was born from the efforts of Dave Cooke (G) and Ron Emms (B), both members of Strategy, a seemingly studio-only venture that released two instrumental songs as a single in 1982. I'm not entirely sure, but it seems to me that Jeddah was a direct offshot from Strategy - possibly assembled together basically to record the two tracks of this single, as a way to test the water and see how their innovative approach to Metal would be received. The 7" was issued without a picture sleeve, but with a insert folder full of supposedly funny and not-very-realistic remarks about the band. It says, for instance, that the band have two drummers, selected from no less than 500 candidates, and both are "too shy" to be photographed, thus not appearing on the insert. The real story seems to be different: Paul Cooke (not sure if he's related to Dave Cooke or even the man himself under a soubriquet) played drums on a number and Ron Emms (or El Sid, the way he was credited as bass player) did it on the other, the band later creating this tale of absurdity to justify the absence of a dedicated sticksman.


Of course, covering The Beatles is not the most original move to be made by any band. There's a lot of reworked Beatles songs on the NWOBHM metaphorical jukebox - Ethel the Frog, for example, recorded this same "Eleanor Rigby" on its eponymous debut album. But I dare to say Jeddah not only did a very fine job, but also one of the best Beatles reworkings I ever heard from a Heavy Metal band. Don't expect anything near the melancholy of the original version; what we have here is a song pulsing with pure energy, carried along by intense riffing, showcasing confident tempo changes and a memorable vocal performance. More than just playing a well-known song with loud guitars, Jeddah completely reinvented it, with impressive results. Really, really god job, lads.

The flipside is just as good, actually - and very imaginative too. "Ghosts (Never Leave You Behind)" sounds to me like an usual mixing of metal and pop rock music - the basslines, yet simple, are very catchy and near danceable, not a million miles away from Bee Gees (honestly), and the guitars serve mostly to add harmonies and textures rather than anything more metallic, apart from the heavy chords at the chorus. The vocals of Dean Salonga are victorious once again, delivered with great skill and enthusiasm. And the "never leave you behind, never leave you" chorus seriously sticks into your mind, believe me. On untalented hands, we would have a disaster scenario going on here - instead, "Ghosts" are a immensely enjoyable piece of music which more than deserves a listen (many, actually).

Unfortunately, this great 7" was the sole claim to stardom from Jeddah, and the band seems to have been a very brief proposition, with no other known recordings at any stage. Guitarist Dave Cooke was the one who kept more busy after Jeddah was history, playing with two equally-innovative acts (namely New England / N.E.U.K. and Adrenaline Kick) in the 90s. Drummer Paul Cooke (or at least someone with the same name) was involved with Vandamne for a while, and Ron Emms went to join forces with ex-Persian Risk/Wrathchild guitaris Phil Vokins in a venture called English Rogues. Gifted singer Dean Salonga seemingly vanished from metal scene, which is unfortunate as I really liked his efforts here. Good to know most of these guys kept themselves busy, though, as their talents are more than apparent on Jeddah's single - a record you would do very well in adding to your collection, if you ever have the chance to do it at a reasonable expense.

Dean Salonga (V), Dave Cooke (G), Quirk (G), El Sid (aka Ron Emms) (B/D), Paul Cooke (D).

01. Eleanor Rigby 4:16
02. Ghosts (Never Leave You Behind) 3:03

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

sábado, 15 de setembro de 2012

MWG (UK, Wales) - Pesda '86 (7", Sain, 1986)

RATING: *

After listening  to this 7" from Welsh-singing band Mwg for the first (and possibly only) time, I can't help but wonder why in hell some hopelessly deluded (or delusional) individuals labelled it as a NWOBHM collectable. I remember first seeing it on Rockdetector (now MusicMight), in a entry filled with a minimal ammount of information - the front cover of this "Pesda '86" single, the year of release (1986, of course) and the tag NWOBHM. Other sources seem to have taken this vague description as legitimate, considering this 7" to be a NWOBHMish-enough record and even incluiding it in some want lists out there. Such an effort, my friends, and it was all in vain - as it isn't even "heavy", let alone a NWOBHM collectable at any sense.

Oh well, we kinda could see it coming, to be honest. Look at the front cover: no archetypal headbangers there, right? To be honest, I never really thought Mwg (translates as "Smoke", by the way) would give me Heavy Metal when I finally had the chance to listen to their single, but I would never expect it to be THAT soft. Actually, both "Pesda '86" (which seems to be a re-recording, considering its title) and "Darn O'r Haul" are inconsistent ballads, covered in such a huge wall of keyboards and harmonised vocals that the whole listening experience was near-torture to my ears. OK, maybe the disappointment made me overreact, but I must be honest and say that (sorry, guys) I didn't like it at all. To be fair, you can listen to a few guitar chords on "Pesda '86", although they are as heavy as cambric paper, the song as a whole being utterly disposable for the average Heavy Metal fan. "Darn O'r Haul" is slighty better than its predecessor - the chorus is OK, I suppose, considering you like ultra-pop, keyboard-oriented ballads from the 80s. It seems to have been a minor hit in Welsh-language charts, incidentally, as it appears on a few best-of compilations from Sain.

It's difficult to determine the musicians who took part on this (to my ears) little waste of vinyl. There's not much info on this group, apart from being from the city of Bethesda and for supposedly have featured at some stage the talents of Huw Smith, the same musician from Maffia Mr. Huws and Llwybr Cyhoeddus, among others. I came to learn in recent years that also drummer Graham Land (who lent a stick to other Welsh-language obscurities such as Omega, Rhiannon Tomos A'r Band and Rohan) took a part in Mwg in the dim and distant past. Still, I have no idea if these guys actually played on this single, and any answers on this subject will have to wait for further clarification. Maybe someone out there actually have a copy of this 7", assuming its picture sleeve actually presents some enlightening info about the band?

As a final piece in the (still very incomplete) puzzle named Mwg, there's a video on YouTube showing the lads in a live performance of a song called "Dreifio". It's not Heavy Metal in the strict sense of the word, but it's indeed a heavy rocker which would justify the (still misleading) NWOBHM tag I found on Rockdetector so many years ago. Too bad their vinyl legacy is so boring - and, considering this final number, entirely unrepresentative.

Musicians unknown

01. Pesda '86 3:58
02. Darn O'r Haul 3:48

MWG - Dreifio (live): http://youtu.be/2XSSylRbZQM (embed disabled by user's request)

Special thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for MP3 files

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

quarta-feira, 12 de setembro de 2012

TRYDAN (UK, Wales) - Mods a Rocers (7", Sain, 1980)


RATING: *

Not much (well, nearly nothing) is known about this Welsh-singing band, whose sole vinyl offering to the world seems to have been this 3-track single from 1980. One of the most obscure bands from the Sain catalogue, Trydan was a kind of uncommon formation, featuring three singers and six members in total, three of then being gentlemen and three ladies. Four of the musicians share the same surnames, possibly being members of the same - and kinda large - family. After some research, I couldn't find these musicians involved with any later (or earlier) bands, so it's reasonable to believe that Trydan (which translates as "Electricity", by the way) was their one and only collective claim to fame - well, musically at least.

For the most dedicated Heavy Metal fans, "Mods a Rocers" will undoubtly be the main (in fact, only) focus of attention, this being easily the most hard-rocking number on display. Seemingly portraying a Quadrophenia-like gang fight, this song opens with a typical police siren wail and soon evolves into a pretty straightforward semi-NWOBHM tune, with basic riffing and a fairly catchy (yet very basic) chorus. Not a memorable song, really, but it does considerably better than “Di-waith, Di-‘fynedd” and “Mr. Urdd”, which comprises the B-side of this vinyl obscurity. The first one is a mellower number with a extremely simple (almost ramshackle, to be honest) song structure and kinda messy vocal arrangements. I understand that the singing ladies were meant to harmonise and enhance the lead singing from mr. Meic Jones, but I guess it just didn't work out as planned, sorry. The bass lines are not bad at all, though. On the other hand, "Mr. Urdd" is a bit of a throwaway track - it has a pleasant piano line, i'll concede, but nearly nothing else. It takes one-and-a-half minutes to disappear in complete oblivion, never to be heard again.

It seems to me that Trydan were little more than a bunch of really young fellas, who decided to join forces and have a bit of fun playing some hastily assembled songs for the sheer joy of it. As Welsh-language music (and mostly heavy music) was always in a shortage of new bands, Sain were kind enough to give them a chance - something that, to be point-blank honest, they simply didn't deserve just yet. Maybe with a few (or many) more months to put their minds into writing and polishing some good songs, they could have done way better. The way it actually came to be, though, Trydan's sole single are little more than a borderline-heavy curiosity, that would be condemned to forever rest in bargain bins if not for a few NWOBHM completists, who shown interest in buying this nonspetacular single. I believe to my soul that every piece of vinyl deserves a place to call home - so, if you ever see this 7" (housed in a pretty basic cover, the generic art that Sain used for its less spetacular single releases) at a cheap price, give it a chance, would you? You won't listen to it much often, but oh well, it's a pretty rare one anyway.

As a trivia, another Trydan appeared from the same area in recent times, with a musical style near to modern bands such as Creed and The Darkness. Still, the today's Trydan presents musicians around the 15-year mark, so don't make any confusion with their (long gone) NWOBHM namesakes.

Meic Jones (V,G), Linda Williams (V), Sharon Jones (V), Carol Jones (G), Dafydd Elis (B), Garym Jones (D). Guest musician: Edwin (Piano).

01. Mods a Rocers 2:59
02. Di-waith, Di-‘fynedd 2:59
03. Mr. Urdd 1:30


Special thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for MP3 files

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

segunda-feira, 10 de setembro de 2012

CRYS (UK, Wales) - Rhyfelwr (LP, Sain, 1981)

 RATING: ***

The success achieved by Crys in the welsh-language rock scene after the release of "Lan Yn Y Gogledd" single may have not been exactly predictable, but it was no huge surprise either, as there was not that much competition to beat in the first place. Embraced by a very larger label this time (namely Sain, surely the largest welsh-language music record company ever), they surely had the necessary support to fulfill their early promises and deliver the goods in a full album. Well, 1981's "Rhyfelwr" may not be the pinnacle of Crys' career (the follow-up "Tymor Yr Helwyr" is markedly better, in my humble opinion) but it still represents a good stab at hard / heavy music, being surely a groundbreaking release for the whole welsh-singing scene.

To understand the impact and the relevance of Crys, is important to keep in mind that Welsh-language music has not only a small potential market (less than 700.000 people speak it in the first place) but also a sort of social relevance, as it is a useful resource to keep alive a enduring culture surrounded by english-speaking omnipresence. Not many kids are that excited to learn Welsh as a second language in school, for instance, and many adults may not be bothered to hand the tradition on to their kids. So, Rock N Roll in Welsh (much fresher than the "old" folk music) is a way to keep the young guys and girls interested, and even proud of their inheritance - something that seminal bands as Edward H Dafis understood very well, and a banner that Crys was more than happy to held high along the way.

"Roc A Rol" is the opening number on this album, and it pretty much gives away the kind of music you will listen here. A mid-paced rocker with a very simple main riff and a catchy (but very basic) chorus, it has some interesting features (as the good solo section) but fails to leave a lasting impression, being perfectly forgettable as soon as it's over. Not bad at all; just not that good. A description that could be applied to several other songs on the album (such as "Nos Sadwrn" and "Dyma'r Band Cymraeg", the latter bearing a not-really-subtle 'resemblance' to Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band") without any dramatic changes. "Cân Lis" is slightly different (and better), as it has a more upbeat riffing throughout, but the vocal lines are pretty much more of the same, unfortunately.

Now to the good stuff. "Mwg" is one of my personal favorites: very nice guitar work here, with some multilayered effects giving the song a very distinct atmosphere. The instrumental "Cnau" is also very enjoyable - not many tempo changes or impressive displays of individual musicianship, but still a confident and inventive piece of music. The best of "Rhyfelwr", though, is the final number: a two-song epic, beggining with the somber ballad "Noson Dawel Lawr" and finishing with the weighty title-track, easily the heaviest song on the whole album. Welsh music is very akin to melancholy, and "Noson Dawel Lawr" captures this kind of feeling to great effect. "Rhyfelwr" comes next, with a bombastic opening and a good mixing of heavy riffing and mellower moments. All in all, a suprisingly well-crafted and adventurous piece of music - which reprises "Noson Dawel Lawr" towards the end, closing proceedings quite nicely.

All things considered, "Rhyfelwr" is a respectable album - not a NWOBHM monster, but a mostly enjoyable listening experience nonetheless. The production is basic, even a bit rough sometimes, but it doesn't really ruin the album in any sense. It's not easy to locate a copy these days, and any CD reissues are highly unlikely - but if you ever see this gothic logo and metal-looking warrior for sale at a reasonable price, give it a try. I guess it more than deserves a chance with any serious NWOBHM collector.

Liam Forde (V/RG), Alun Morgan (LG), Scott Forde (B), Nicky Samuel (D).

01. Roc a Rol (Rock 'n' Roll) 4:13
02. Mwg (Smoke) 4:42
03. Cnau (Nuts) 4:09
04. Cân Lis (Song for Lis) 4:15
05. Dyma'r Band Cymraeg (This is a Welsh Band) 3:46
06. Nos Sadwrn (Saturday Night) 3:45
07. Noson Dawel Lawn (Noise in a Silent Night) 4:42
08. Rhyfelwr (Warrior) 7:45


Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

quinta-feira, 2 de agosto de 2012

THE SHATTERED DREAMS (UK) - Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained (7", Epigram, 1982)


RATING: ***

It's always tempting to describe a certain band's music by comparing it to another band - an expedient that, as easy as it may seem to be, sometimes can be truly misleading. But I must be honest with you people: the more I listen to The Shattered Dreams, the more they sound to my ears like a less furious and more rock-oriented version of Dead Kennedys. The tones of all instruments are similar, and Grant Wright's voice remind me of Jello Briafa a number of times - I can almost see all dedicated punk rock collectors throwing rotten eggs at me, but I can't help myself, sorry. Still, it's not archetypal punk rock / power pop what you'll get here - which is a good thing I guess. It's never bad to have a slightly unique approach to music, you know.

This seem to be the only vinyl offering of this british hopefuls, and there's not much info available about them apart from the bare details of band formation and songwriting credits. I first came to read about them while looking for some references on obscure NWOBHM bands - and a japanese website had a 30-sec audio clip of "Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained", which really sparked my imagination. Sure, it's not a HM band by any stretch, but it's not a bad band either, and the mp3 files I finally located after long search are more than enough to prove that.

From the 3 songs on display, "Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained" is the best one by far. Actually, it's a truly good song in its own right, with a driving rhythm and a good chorus enhanced by nice basslines and a reasonably well-crafted guitar solo. In fact (and even though it's not a complex effort by any means), it's a very accomplished song, something even a bit surprising if you have in mind just how obscure this band is.

The other 2 songs of this EP are not in the same league, but we are miles away from any sort of musical disaster, fortunately. "Feel it From Here" is a typical punk rocker, but it turns out to be a very unspetacular piece of music. It's mercifully brief, fortunately, in a way that everything ends before it gets really annoying. The remaining song, "War", is markedly better - not as good as the opening number, but a pretty nice song nonetheless. It starts with a bell-ringing intro and soon turns into a heavy rocker with an interesting main riff and good ideas on the rhythm department. Actually, it's the closer we'll get to "heavy" territory in this slice of vinyl - no metal at all, of course, but you know what I mean.

All things considered, this "3-A Tracks" EP turns out victorious. It's unlikely that it will be ever-present in your sound system, but I reckon you will look to its awkward front cover and feel like listening to it every now and then.

Grant Wright (V), Matthew Moore (G), David Ezekiel (B), Kevin Davis (D/V).

01. Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained (Moore) 3:50
02. Feel it From Here (Davis) 2:14
03. War (Moore) 3:40




Special thanks to Killed By Death Records for scans and labels

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

quarta-feira, 1 de agosto de 2012

CRYS (UK, Wales) - Lan Yn Y Gogledd (7" single, Click, 1980)


RATING: **

I must admit that Welsh-language rock music have a strange and intense effect on me. Not that they are specially heavy (they're not) or that their songs are incredible pieces of stunning musicianship (most of the time they aren't), but I still think they have some sort of different and fascinating atmosphere to their music - like a taste of a bygone age, perhaps. Sing in welsh is more than an aesthetical option - it's a compromise. Welsh music is, as a whole, a way to keep alive not only a minority language always threatened by anglophony, but also the cultural richness it holds - even if loud guitars and pounding rhythm sections are far from epitomise the contemplative nature of welsh culture.

From all the heavy-rocking propositions that adopted Welsh as their language of choice (not a countless number, mind you), Crys was possibly the most successful of all. This band from Neath released some full albuns on the Sain label (a reference of Welsh-language music even today) and even get to receive a modicum of praise at the english-speaking UK, with a "Friday Rock Show" session to call their own - something that no other Welsh-tongue heavy band ever managed to achieve at any time. A respectable history that lives to this day - and as I wait for the mail order to deliver my copy of "Sgrech" compilation CD, I reckon that it would be a good idea to give you all my thoughts on their earlier career, starting out with this rare 7" released in 1980 by the minuscule Click label.

Actually, it transpires that singing in welsh wasn't the first choice for the lads - they started doing the rounds in 1976 as a band called Salic Law and performing in English. Things would change at the end of the decade, when they supported a band called Trobwll. One of the musicians from Trobwll, Richard Morris owned a recording facility called Stiwdio's Bwthyn, and two other then members of the band - Gary Melville and Geraint Williams - would secure a deal to the youngsters if they could record a few songs in Welsh. The resulting single would be their first appearance under the Crys guise - which translates literally as "Shirt" by the way. Not the most Metal monicker of all time, but oh well. Curiously, this 7" was the only Crys release to feature guest keyboardist Verden Allen, who also recorded with artists such as David Bowie, Mott the Hoople and Jimmy Cliff.

"Lan Yn Y Gogledd" is not the most spetacular song you'll ever hear, that's for sure - it evolves around a pretty basic riff and unmemorable vocal lines, with some not-really-impressive keyboard arrangements to embellish the whole thing (I guess that was what they had in mind, anyway). They were unexperienced hopefuls and still had a lot to learn, of course - but this early glimpse of their collective talents wasn't as promising as we would expect, to be honest. Which is a whole different case when it comes to "Cadw Symud", the flipside of this 7" single. This song is markedly better than its predecessor, with a reasonably good twin-guitar opening leading to a more upbeat number with a simple-and-catchy chorus. Even the keyboard intrusions, albeit still very rudimentary, seem more into place in this song, helping it to sound even better. If "Lan Yn Y Gogledd" seems too weak to tell us of better things to come, "Cawd Symud" come to rescue, showing that Crys could give us some pretty good music when they put theirs minds on it. And it eventually was the case on later records, fortunately.

Liam Forde (V/RG), Alun Morgan (LG), Scott Forde (B), Nicky Samuel (D). Guest musician: Verden Allen (K).

01. Lan Yn Y Gogledd (The Northern Shores) 3:00
02. Cadw Symud (Keep on Moving) 3:39

Extra special thanks to Strappado's Metal Blog and user Keir for mp3 files and scans!

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

terça-feira, 10 de julho de 2012

JUNO'S CLAW (UK) - Barbara (7" single, MPA Records, 1979)


RATING: **

OK, I know that we all love obscurities, and it's always nice to have the chance to listen to some unknown music from nearly-forgotten bands of the past. But It's my opinion that many people tend to overreact when confronted with some of this ultra rare collectables, overlooking their weaknesses and applying the "undiscovered masterpiece" tag to groups that, to be honest, are nothing of the sort. As you may all have guessed by now, that's exactly what I think of Juno's Claw and their sole 7" from 1979. Three songs that received some good praise on "NWOBHM Encyclopedia" and are hailed by many as part of a pre-NWOBHM monster - and I'm sorry, but I completely fail to see why.

"Barbara" is the A-side and, to be honest, is the weakest of the pack. Not that it is a complete disaster, admitedly, but the song has a rudimentary construction (which evolves around a boogie-like and not really interesting riff) and a truly annoying chorus, repeating "barbara, barbara, barbara" until you just can't take anymore. Not a good piece of music, sorry. Things get more interesting on the flipside, though, as "The Master" and "Big City" are definitely better songs. "The Master" has a good riffing and a heavy, epic feeling with a pretty technical display of musicianship, being the most interesting number by far."Big City", on the other hand, is a more restrained piece of music with some good ideas, even though the song as a whole seem to be getting nowhere at all - and then, it actually ends.

Believe me, I get no pleasure at all in saying that this record is not what I would expect from it. In the end, is not that Juno's Claw's sole single should be incinerated or anything like that, but it's just too damn clear why these hopefuls never got anywhere with their music. It's not bad - it's just that it's not that good either. I wouldn't say you should stay away from it, though - give it a listen and maybe you will like it more than I did. It has at least one perfectly good piece of music ("The Master") and it's enough to justify your efforts. But I must be honest and say that, in my humble opinion, this 7" does not fit to the "undiscovered NWOBHM masterpiece" file at any sense - it's more on the "one good song and that's it" category, I suppose.

UPDATE (november 07th, 2013): after long search, and with the invaluable help from a person who actually knew some of the guys (thanks a million, buddy), I'm happy to confirm some concrete info on Juno's Claw. The band was from Lancaster (UK) and most (if not all) of their outings happened in that geographical area. The line-up who recorded the single is now listed below. Unfortunately, Juno's Claw folded in 1980 or early 1981, when guitarist Ian Beck left due to family and work commitments. John Garner and Martin Nelson later joined Stigma, a project who never laid down any vinyl of their own, but had an important role in the development of Frenzy (I hope to clear all this up in due course). Drummer John Bibby apparently is no longer alive, so may God rest his soul. Still trying to locate some of the original musicians (and I hope they can forgive my lack of taste when it comes to their music, as it's nothing personal really!), so maybe we will have even more enlightening info in the near future. Fingers crossed!

John Garner (V/G), Ian Beck (G), Martin Nelson (B), John Bibby (D).

01. Barbara 3:25
02. The Master 2:53
03. Big City 3:21

Thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for scans and downloading link!Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

domingo, 8 de julho de 2012

PHYNE THANQUZ (UK, Scotland) - Into the Sun (7" single, ERC Records, 1982)

RATING: ***


This 7" single was some sort of NWOBHM mystery for many years. Everything people knew about Phyne Thanquz, apart from the bare details of the picture sleeve, was that they were from Edinburgh, Scotland. Nothing else. Even the release date was unknown; some people assumed it was from 1983, some speculating that it should be from an earlier date, even late 70's in some cases. The two-tracker had no band members listed, and the writing credits cited only a certain "Dr. Death", making things even more enigmatic.

It took some good years of research until NWOBHM aficionados could know a little bit more about Phyne Thanquz and its sole vinyl release. Today, it's a near consensus that it came out in 1982, and band members included vocalist/guitarist Stu Menalos ("Dr. Death", if you please), drummer Bryan Dods and keyboardist Amanda Hodge. There's still some blanks to be filled, but the mist of sheer mystery around "Into The Sun" single is not that thick anymore - also because it became reasonably easy to download it, so everyone interested can listen to the record and make their own minds about it.

"Into the Sun" and "Curse of the Gods", the two songs on display, fit well enough into the NWOBHM boundaries, but are not an out-and-out Heavy Metal assault by any stretch, so don't be too excited with the fantastically metal-looking (and stupendously immature) picture sleeve. Their music has more than a pinch of 70's acid rock, and they probably weren't even trying to join NWOBHM bandwagon at all. The Keyboards are very proeminent, and the song structures are simple and direct, sometimes making me feel like I'm listening to a Heavy Metal version of The Damned - which is not a bad thing at all in my book, believe me. The production is very raw, and I get the distinct feeling that Phyne Thanquz's music would be much more favoured with a bigger recording budget. Both songs are good enough, my favorite being "Curse of the Gods" (a slightly heavier and guitar-oriented number), even though "Into The Sun" is pretty decent too.

It seems the band kept things going until 1985 at the very latest, playing a lot of gigs around Scotland - even with their own stage pyrotechniques, which I guess was very impressive  (and fortunately never set any small club on fire, as far as we know!). After Phyne Thanquz was history, some of the band members formed another venture called Dog, which released at least one demo at the mid-80s before vanishing into oblivion. Phyne Thanquz's sole vinyl release remains a very sought-after collectable these days, and deserves a bit of peer-to-peering from anyone who enjoys listening to a good old curio from time to time.

Stu Mentalos (Dr. Death) (V/G), Bryan Dods (D), Amanda Hodge (K). Other musicians unknown.

01. Into the Sun (Dr. Death) 3:09
02. Curse Of the Gods (Dr. Death) 3:43



Special thanks to DIL32's Blog for label scans and additional info!

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

SQUASHED PYRANNAH (UK) - Heartstop (7" single, Rapp Records, 1982)


RATING: ***

Since it was reviewed in Malc McMillan's legendary NWOBHM Encyclopedia in the early 2000's, Somerset's Squashed Pyrannah was regarded by collectors and completists as a band to search for. It was bloody damn hard to find, though, leaving most people with no choice but to look at its awkward cover art and wonder how this five-piece group would actually sound like. Thankfully, Strappado's Metal blog managed to contact one of the original members (namely guitarist Martin Treasure) and the chap was nice enough to digitalise his personal copies and allow people to download it, giving us all the chance to lend a hear to Squashed Pyrannah's attempt to take the world by storm.

It's not like they could have changed the world with their music, but this 7" from 1982 is a pleasant enough listening experience nonetheless. "Heartstop" is a nice hard/heavy song with more than a hint to the 70's biker rock, especially when it comes to its singalong chorus. Good twin-guitar work here too. "Dr. Jeckyl", on the other hand, is a less upbeat number: despite beggining promisingly enough, it soon evolves to a more restrained affair, carried along for an ever-present chorus. Everything is pretty basic, either in song structure and musicianship, but it seems that these guys knew the band's limits and were fairly down-to-earth on their aspirations, which is always something to respect.

As a bonus, comes "Don't you Know", taken from a very rare compilation called "Class of'83" from - you guessed it - 1983. It's the less interesting of their songs, in my opinion, and it even sounds like an earlier offering, as it shows virtually no progression from their single offering. Not a bad song in any sense, though, and it fits well enough into Squashed Pyrannah's small but respectable legacy.

It comes as no surprise to know that they didn't last the distance, being pretty much gone at the half of the 80's. There was way too much Heavy Metal bands in England at the time and, let's face it, Squashed Pyrannah weren't strong enough contenders to survive such a fight. Still, they left a small-but-respectable vinyl legacy, and it surely deserves a listen. Thanks for the mp3s, Mr. Treasure, we really appreciated it! =)

Kev Carroll (V), Martin Treasure (G/V), Steve Wadley (G/V), John Box (B), Dave Parfitt (D).

01. Heartstop 3:29
02. Dr. Jeckyll 5:23
03. Don't You Know (bonus) 4:23

Thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for scans and additional info!Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

sábado, 7 de julho de 2012

KRYPTON (ROM) - Făra Teamă (LP, Electrecord, 1990)


RATING: ****

After an acceptable enough debut with "30 Minute", Krypton (this time spelled with the 'Y' that would become ever-present from now on) had to endure a lot of internal turbulence, resulting in an almost complete reshuffling of the band. The most drastic absence would undoubtely be Eugen Mihăescu (G), band leader and songwriter, that moved to Germany to study Music at the University of Köln - and to make a lucky escape from Romania's Dictatorship, of course. Surprisingly, Krypton managed to survive this massive loss, with bassist Dragos Docan assuming the reins and nearly reinventing the band as a whole. The group decided to adopt especially designed stage clothes (something unique in Romania at the time) and to play a different kind of music, more attuned with the heavier stuff played at the other side of the Iron Curtain. From all this, came "Făra Teamă" - not only my favorite album from all Romanian Metal, but also one of the most important LPs ever released in that country.

It was a time of changes in Romania, and "Făra Teamă" was totally engulfed by the essence of those days. Written a short while before the destitution of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the lyrics were to be submitted to censorship's approval - something that never happened, fortunately, as revolution took the streets right on time. The recording sessions began shortly after the end of the communist regime, and the firegun held by drummer Razvan Lupu at the front cover was lent by one of the soldiers who were guarding the streets at those troubled days.

"Făra Teamă" was the first rock album released in Romania after Ceausescu was gone, an impressive enough feat to secure a very special place in Romania's history. But Krypton's second LP deserves a listen not just because its historic background. Actually, it is a goddamn bloody good album - something that the weak production and not-remotely-interesting artwork may try to hide, but for no use, fortunately. The opening song, "Nemuritori", tell no lies about what's to come, building upon a simple yet creative song structure to deliver a extremely listenable slice of hard / heavy music with a memorable chorus. Really impressive. The following songs are more or less the same thing (thank God), adding some subtle classical influences to make things even more interesting. In fact, songs like "Sint Doar un Nor" e "Capriciu 4" are not that distant from what Helloween would do with Andi Deris in later years - surely with not the same level of musicianship or confidence, but still reaching very respectable results.

The band sounds really tight. Even though his bass was mixed a bit too high, Dragos Docan shows how good a musician and songwriter he was, writing nearly all the songs on his own. Razvan Lupu is a strong drummer, and Manuel Savu and Valentin Stoian deliver competent and creative performances as well. Last but not least, Gabriel "Gurita" Nicolau gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up for towering the lacklustre vocals of "30 Minute" and delivering a very impressive performance throughout this album. He is still considered one of the finest singers Romania ever had and, listening to this LP, is very easy to understand why.

All eight songs are pretty good. OK, "Am Crezut in Ochii Tai" (the inevitable ballad) may not be as great as the other songs, but its four-and-a-half minutes are perfectly endurable and listenable, not ruining the listening experience in any sense. Apart from the aforementioned "Nemuritori", my favorites would be "Cheama-ma" (a very catchy hard rocker which was a huge sucess in Romania at the time), "Incearca Sa Crezi" (nice chorus), "Inima de Fata" and, most of all, the outstanding title track, maybe the best song I ever heard from a romanian Metal band (althought Hardton's "Ce Va Fi" is also fucking great). I remember how excited I was when I found an active link to download it, and I wasn't disappointed in any sense, as I still listen to it from time to time and it always sound good and fresh. What a find, my friends. Give yourselves a present and find it, too - satisfaction guaranteed, believe me.

Gabriel “Gurita” Nicolau (V), Manuel Savu (G), Dragos Docan (B/V), Razvan Lupu (D), Valentin Stoian (K)

01. Nemuritori (Immortals) (Docan) 4:03
02. Incearca Sa Crezi (Try to Think) (Docan) 3:25
03. Sint Doar Um Nor (I'm Only a Cloud) (Docan) 4:15
04. Cheama-ma (Call Me) (Docan) 4:57
05. Capriciu 4 (Docan) 3:48
06. Am Crezut In Ochii Tai (I Think About Your Eyes) (Docan) 4:47
07. Inima de Fată (Heart of a Girl) (Savu / Docan) 3:07
08. Făra Teamă (No Fear) (Docan) 4:11

Krypton - Făra Teamă (comeback gig 2012):




Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at drequon@gmail.com and let me know!