terça-feira, 10 de julho de 2012

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


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)


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)


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!

quinta-feira, 5 de julho de 2012

STÖRMCRY (UK) - The Dawn of the Mega-Metal (Demo, Private, 198?)


Sometimes, I'm rendered speechless. OK, it's heartwarming to know how intense and inspiring the NWOBHM days were to many people, but it doesn't mean to say that every recording band of those days were worthy of more that they actually managed to get - sometimes, not even that. Take Störmcry, for example. Three kids from Lewes, East Sussex UK pretending to be Venom, that actually went far enough to record a couple of songs on one of their bedrooms (rebaptized as "Hellhole Studios" for great effect) and to design a hand-drawn artwork for their cassete-only "The Dawn of the Mega-Metal" single. "No overdubs whatsoever!!" and "No Bunny Rabbits!", warn us the front cover - not that anyone could have any doubt about that, you know. It even seems to me that they were trying to create a new subgenre, the Mega Metal - something that make sense when you think that Venom had Black Metal to call their own. Wonders never cease.

I mean, it's not only that it is a stupendously bad release - it's hard to even take it as a release at all. "Stormcry" and "The Charge (Synth Wimpi Massacre)" were probably written at the same date of recording, being so crude and amateurish as you could expect from 15-year old kids (one of them had only 13) making some noise for the sheer hell of it. There's no production, no proficiency, they don't know what to do with their instruments - the recording is actually so poor that you can hardly understand what they meant to do, but still it's noticeable that whatever it is, they weren't doing it right. "The group hope to record a cassette album when finances allow", say the small letter sent along with the release, "and to play some local gigs at the same time". I'm almost entirely sure they didn't do either thing, and I reckon it was all for the best in that case. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure that any of the musicians have no involvement whatsoever with the music scene today - and would be bewildered, if not utterly shocked, to learn that people are actually willing to buy copies of their youthfully irresponsible release, considering it to be a NWOBHM collectable of some sort.

Still, it is not a bad release in a offensive or intolerable way - and that's why I won't give it a black dot, something that would be mandatory if I were judging this cassette on musical merits alone. It became something of an underground legend not only for being really really bad, but also from being funny enough to put a smile on people's faces. It's not like we are laughing at them - it's more like we're laughing WITH THEM, having some prepubescent fun with a bunch of kids that really like Venom and wanted to spend a sunny afternoon pretending they're in a band. I guess it didn't last much more than a few weeks, at the very latest - but now, thanks to good old Lady Luck and a bit of internet sharing, it will last forever. It's almost uplifting, in a way - like a child's dream come true. I hate it, but I really love it. Thank you, guys.

David Vise (V/D), Antony Smith (G), Rupert Taylor (B).

01. Stormcry (Smith, Vise, Taylor) 2:43
02.The Charge (Synth Wimpi Massacre) (Vise, Smith) 1:50

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!

NEVER AMBER (UK, Scotland) - Scene of Surrender (12'' single, Crunchy, 1986)


From Scotland comes Never Amber, a band usually associated with the NWOBHM bandwagon, even though they don't fit that well to the archetype either chronologically (their sole release is from 1986) or stylistically, if truth be told. There's not much info about this band, the name of musicians envolved on this one 12'' single being something of a mystery today - even though we know that "Scene of Surrender" was written by their lead singer Ian Nicoll, and that musicians such as Graeme Thompson, Ron Grant and Norman Walker (playing God knows what instruments) were involved with the band at some point. Released on a tiny Crunchy label (probably financed by band members themselves), "Scene of Surrender" B/W "Renegade is Love" never sold in  noticeable quantities at any time, even though it was recently rediscovered by NWOBHM aficionados and regarded by some as a rare and collectable memento of that days.Looking at the picture sleeve, you'll see they look adequate enough as a Heavy Metal proposition, so I guess it's fair to give them a chance on your mp3-playing device - let's face it, you will hardly want to spend good money on finding a copy of it.

To be honest, "Scene of Surrender" is far from being a good choice for the A-side, as it's a kinda boring (and very very long) ballad without any redeeming features. I don't know, maybe they thought that presenting themselves with a softer song would open doors in radio stations or something like that. Unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to imagine anyone getting all excited about this uninspiring song, so it was probably no use. I must tell you it's unlikely that I'll ever listen to it again, which is a different case completely when it comes to "Renegade is Love", the flipside of this 12''. Although it's not a Never Amber original (it is actually a cover version of Curved Air's "Renegade"), I really think they deserve credit for taking an less-than-impressive soft rock song and turning it into a enjoyable hard-rocking ditty with simple-yet-nice arrangements and a catchy chorus. Good stuff, and enough to justify this one (and, as far as we know, only) vinyl offering of these Scottish hopefuls.

All things considered, Never Amber wasn't the kind of band that would set the world on fire - and I'm not even sure they ever wanted to, to be honest. It seems to me that they were perfectly happy on playing local gigs for small audiences, showcasing a lot of cover versions and rock'n'roll standards on their set, and I wouldn't be surprised if they released a single just to have something to sell on gigs, without any major aspirations to rock and roll stardom. It seems fair enough to me. Hope they had fun while it lasted - I'll drink to that.

Ian Nicoll (V) (other musicians still unknown, any info would be greatly appreciated!)

01. Scene of Surrender (Nicoll) 5:32
02. Renegade is Love (Darryl Wray) 2:56

NEVER AMBER - Renegade is Love

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!