domingo, 15 de dezembro de 2013

RANDY (DNK) - Randy (CD, No Remorse, 2011)

RATING: ****

If I had to describe Randy's "Shadows Are Falling" 7'' in a single word, I guess my choice would be to call it "impressive". It's not only one of the finest Metal singles to be released in the mid 80s, but also possibly the best Metal to come out of Denmark at the time - and surely one of my favorite 7'' singles ever! Both "Shadows Are Falling" and "The Beast" will grab you by the neck and immediately demand you to bang your head relentlessly, no matter what - and believe me, you won't be able to resist it! Understandably, this humble slice of vinyl became a huge Metal collectable as time went on, fetching high prices whenever it crops up for sale. Fortunately, the good people from No Remorse Records managed to secure the rights for a CD reissue of Randy's material - and the eponymous CD that came out of this agreement is probably one of the most astute purchases you could ever make (if you're a Heavy Metal fan obsessed with the 80s, that is).

Randy were originally a power trio based in the city of Randers (hmm, maybe there's an explanation for the band's moniker here) that seemingly first got together as early as 1981. After some good years of rehearsals and gigging, Jørgen Jensen (V/G), Brian Andersen (B/V) and Torben Pape (D/V) felt confident enough to have a record to call their own. Released by the tiny Arp Grammofon (a self-financed pressing, I suppose) in 1986, their sole single sold well enough in Denmark (and in some other countries too, such as Greece), and the response was encouraging enough to persuade the lads for another trip into their local record facility. In the event, they laid down seven songs for a demo, that circulated locally the following year. Some band changes happened roughly at the same time, with Jan Bjerremann Jensen assuming as second guitarist for a while and Søren Ahlgreen replacing the departed Torben Pape on drums. Unfortunately, things cooled off as they often do and Randy remained unsigned for the time being, although they somehow managed to stay together until 1993 or thereabouts.

This humble CD I now gladly hold in my possession presents the two classic tunes from Randy's 7'', augmented by the seven demo recordings and three extra live cuts from 1987 (I would love to know where it was recorded, but the liner notes are almost nonexistent, unfortunately). There's really not much left to be said about "Shadows Are Falling" or "The Beast", but it's heartwarming to find out that the remaining cuts are of similar high standard, all bringing to my mind comparisions with Thin Lizzy (at their most metallic), Iron Maiden (ditto) and NWOBHM underground heroes such as Ricochet and High Treason - and you better believe me, such mentions are high praise in my book. Songs like "Nightmare", "Victim of the Night" and "The Razor's Edge" will surely make you feel like wearing your patched denim jacket and bullet belts and having a lot of fun at your local Metal disco (there should be more of these out there, don't you think?). The only unusual moment would be "C'mon Let's Rock", a hard rocker unlikely to raise many eyebrows but still catchy enough to make the grade. The live recordings are very raw, nearly impossible to fully understand in places - but I'm glad enough they were included, as a song like "On the Highway" really deserves to be heard, despite its recording shortcomings.

There's not much of a chance to have a Randy reunion nowadays, although Torben Pape (now a guitarist) and Søren Ahlgreen played until recently in a Blues Rock band called Blueshot - they felt discouraged after 4 independent releases and announced they would take a long (perhaps permanent) vacation from 2013 onwards, which is very unfortunate if you ask me. I really hope things will get better and the lads will find the will to continue with Blueshot in the not-too-distant future. Metalheads with a special fondness for the 80s approach to Heavy music are well advised to buy a copy of this CD as soon as possible - and thanks a lot to No Remorse for making such great music available with a healthy remastering and at a reasonable price.

Jørgen Jensen (V/G), Brian Andersen (B/V), Torben Pape (D/V). Also performed: Jan Bjerremann Jensen (G), Søren Ahlgreen (D).

01. Shadows Are Falling 3:35
02. The Beast 3:36
03. C'mon Let's Rock 4:07
04. Nightmare 4:05
05. The Razor's Edge 4:36
06. It's Got to Be Love 4:29
07. Victim of the Night 4:01
08. Who's Got the Power 3:29
09. Don't Look Back 2:55
10. Victim of the Night (live) 4:11
11. On the Highway (live) 4:06
12. In the Still of the Night (live) 4:25

These and other photos can be found at Randy's Facebook group

Special thanks to The Corroseum for picture sleeve scans

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

sexta-feira, 13 de dezembro de 2013

WITCHFYNDE (UK) - Studio Discography (1980-2008)

It's been a while since the glorious days of NWOBHM, but Witchfynde still holds a place in Heavy Metal's collective conscience as a band who made underground history. Seen as one of the forerunners of Occult Metal (not to say Black Metal itself), the quartet suffered a lot with unfavorable contracts and mismanaged labels, something that hindered the bands career to a large extent. Still, they managed to conjure a small but respectable vinyl legacy, with six proper studio albums released to this day. Witchfynde's music was not that malevolent and eerie most of the time (and their obsession with the occult resulted in a considerable ammount of media ridicule, it must be said), but they still succeeded in creating a somber and near-legendary image to themselves, so it's fair to say the band is a necessary reference to anyone willing to explore the darker corners of the Metal universe.

The roots of this dark entity come from as early as 1973, when drummer Gra Scoresby and Montalo first got together, in a liaison strong for no less than 40 years now. After the usual difficulties to build a stable line-up, Steve Bridges (V) and Andro Coulton (B) would join the ranks in a permanent basis, and the band spent most of the 70s gigging relentlessly and building a strong following in the Derbyshire (UK) area. It was some long years of waiting for something to happen - until the beast known as NWOBHM started to take shape at the tail end of the decade, giving Witchfynde a whole new chance to shine (or to darken, for that matter).

GIVE 'EM HELL (LP, Rondelet, 1980) ****

01. Ready to Roll 02. The Divine Victim 03. Leaving Nadir 04. Gettin' Heavy 05. Give 'em Hell 06. Unto the Ages of the Ages 07. Pay Now - Love Later

The first fruit of Witchfynde's studio activities would be a 7'' single from 1979, pairing "Give 'em Hell" (the song, that is) with "Getting Heavy". The effort, released by Rondelet Records (that had no experience with Metal acts prior to this point, being much more a Punk Rock label than anything else), shifted in pretty impressive quantities at the time, enough to require further pressings - and to encourage the label to allow Withcfynde to lay down enough music for a full LP. It seems that Steve Bridges (V), Montalo (G), Andro Coulton (B) and Gra Scoresby (D) decided to fully adopt a satanic imagery more or less around this time, making a strong effort to represent themselves as an Occult Metal proposition (I suppose the smiling Baphomet visage at the front cover wouldn't pass unnoticed at your local record shop, you know). "Give 'em Hell" the album may not be as scornful and malevolent as you might expect, but it surely does sound eerie like a record mastered at the very dephts of hell (well, maybe not that much, but you get the idea). The production and mixing are raw, but it actually works in favour of the album instead of being detrimental to its merits, giving a sort of "underground" feeling which adds to the overall atmosphere. Musically speaking, it's not pure blood Black Metal at all - it's more like a hybrid of 70's Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and similar influences ("Ready to Roll", for instance, always sounded to me like Thin Lizzy on a solar eclipse or something), with an undeniable penchant for gloomy ambiences and a few pinches of Psychedelic Rock here and there. And let's be fair: everything work to great effect here, specially in tracks such as "Unto the Ages of the Ages" and "Leaving Nadir", two excellent displays of Occult Metal with astute tempo changes and a haunting atmosphere to keep you awake at night (well, no that much as well, but I'm sure you got my point here too). While a song like "Pay Now - Love Later" is not exactly an homage to Lucifer, for instance, the twisting guitar licks and strong rhythm section are enough to connect it with the more devilish tunes in here. It's pure NWOBHM, but with a bittersweet taste of evilness which is all its own, even if the contents are not that evil in the first place. And oh well, as nearly all branches of Metal derive from something done in the glorious NWOBHM, I guess Black Metal may indeed have a thing or two to do with Witchfynde - and this album would surely be the one to blame (praise?) in such a case. Enjoy it with the lights out, but be sure to lock all doors and windows first, as who knows what kind of naughty creatures it can conjure!

STAGEFRIGHT (LP, Rondelet, 1980) ***

01. Stagefright 02. Doing the Right Thing 03. Would Not Be Seen Dead in Heaven 04. Wake Up Screaming 05. Big Deal 06. Moon Magic 07. In the Stars 08. Trick or Treat 09. Madeleine

The first album of Witchfynde was something of a minor national success in the UK, and soon the quartet was widely regarded as a band to watch. There was reportedly a few inquiries from major labels, but none of it came to fruition, as Rondelet wouldn't even discuss relieving the band from their contract obligations. There was also a change in personnel, with Andro Coulton being given his freedom (the bassist apparently suffering from a lack of commitment, as a few lines in "Big Deal" seem to suggest) and Peter Surgey invited in as a replacement. Despite all that was going on, Witchfynde managed to deliver a second LP in less than a year - and quite an experimental one, to be fair, as "Stagefright" is a markedly different album from its predecessor. The atmosphere surrounding Witchfynde's music was still intact, but a lot of different influences were invited in, with tracks leaning towards hard rock ("Would Not Be Seen Dead in Heaven"), indie rock ("In the Stars") and even pop music (the aforementioned "Big Deal"), all sure to cause a bit of shock in the still-developing fanbase. But Witchfynde was keen to show that it was a case of expanding boundaries rather than any serious wimp-out, as the fantastic title-track (perhaps the strongest song of the entire band's repertoire, with a memorable vocal performance from Steve Bridges), "Trick or Treat" and the excellent "Wake Up Screaming" were more than capable to demonstrate. It's a very varied affair, slightly uneven in places, but I give Witchfynde credit for trying something different in such a small period of time - and mostly with successful results, which is to say something about their songwriting abilities. It's not an easy album to digest (some songs, as the closing ballad "Madeleine", are actually too difficult to swallow), but it gets rewarding with repeated listens, showing that Witchfynde could actually be a serious contender for bigger things if given a modicum of encouragement and orientation. That wasn't to be the case, unfortunately, as soon Rondelet would face serious financial problems - and the once tangible major label siege was no longer there, forcing Witchfynde to sign with the small Expulsion label to give continuity to their career.

CLOAK & DAGGER (LP, Expulsion, 1983) ***

01. The Devil's Playground 02. Crystal Gazing 03. I'd Rather Go Wild 04. Somewhere to Hide 05. Cloak and Dagger 06. Cry Wolf 07. Start Counting 08. Living For Memories 09. Rock & Roll 10. Stay Away 11. Fra Diabolo

After two releases in quick succession, Witchfynde's program of LP releases went to an unexpected (but understandable, given the circumstances) hiatus. Rondelet was in very bad shape and decided to pull out all financial backing for Witchfynde, something that would put the lads into a difficult position when it comes to promote themselves. The only vinyl appearance of Withcfynde would be the track "Belfast", a BBC session highlight included in 1981's "The Friday Rock Show" compilation. It was the first recording with new singer Chalky White - Steve Bridges had some personal issues that couldn't wait for him anymore and packed his bags in early 1981, something that was quite unfortunate if you ask me. After a long period of uncertainty, Witchfynde finally cut their contract ties with Rondelet and signed with the Expulsion label - something of a best-for-everyone situation, as Rondelet owed some serious money to Expulsion and Witchfynde switched labels as a sort of debt payment. In the interim, Chalky White gave up his first name choice (a rather hopeless one, let's face it) and assumed the more Metal-soundind epithet of Luther Beltz. "Cloak and Dagger" finally came out in 1983, and turned out to be a much more direct and less varied affair than its predecessors. Sure, there is still a sense of diversity, but Witchfynde seems determined to keep things raw and simple here, a stratagem that works nicely for some songs but not for others. While tunes such as "I'd Rather Go Wild", "Cry Wolf" (very nice chorus here), "Crystal Gazing" and the title-track surely hit the nail right at the head, other compositions like "Somewhere to Hide", "Stay Away" and "Rock & Roll" (original title, that) sound weak and uninspired in comparision. And Luther Beltz, although a undeniably gifted singer, fatally leads Witchfynde to more usual HM territories, as his voice (a very Rob Halford-ish mix of rough singing and high-pitched screams) bears little resemblance to Steve Bridge's not very technical, but surely unique approach to Metal. They kinda try to move on from their psychedelic influences and adopt a more usual Metal personality - nothing to be ashamed of, that's for sure, but I feel that they lost a bit of their unique approach by choosing this road. Still, it's a nice album for the default NWOBHM fan, and that's why it gets 3 stars in the end of the day. The record production could have been a little better, though.

LORDS OF SIN (LP, Mausoleum, 1984) **

01. The Lord of Sin 02. Stab in the Back 03. Heartbeat 04. Scarlet Lady 05. Blue Devils 06. Hall of Mirrors 07. Wall of Death 08. Conspiracy 09. Red Garters Bonus EP "Anthems": 01. Cloak and Dagger 02. I'd Rather Go Wild 03. Moon Magic 04. Give 'em Hell

After having to endure difficult situations with both Rondelet and Expulsion (their second label went bankrupt soon after "Cloak and Dagger" was released), Witchfynde were more than happy to sign the dotted line for Mausoleum, a well-stablished label with a lot of interesting Metal already under its wing. There was a change in the formation, with bassist Peter Surgey being substituted by Alan Edwards (ex-Panza Division, named on the liner notes as Edd Wolfe for no fathomable reason) in the recording of "Lords of Sin" - but it seemed to be more of an adjustement than anything more serious, so it's fair to say there was good prospects for Witchfynde this fourth time around. It's a bit surprising, therefore, to learn that "Lords of Sin" failed to make any impression in record sales - something that even the bonus EP with 4 live recordings was unable to salvage - although a strict analysis of the musical contents herein may offer good explanatory evidence in this particular case. I guess Withcfynde wanted to assume a more mature personality here, striving to create a polished (yet somber) atmosphere to the album - something that seems to work in some numbers (like "Hall of Mirrors", "Stab in the Back" and "Conspiracy") but fails to cause a good impression most of the time. Sometimes (in "Heartbeat" and the almost-title-track, for instance) things just seem to drag on for far too long, while some of the more upbeat numbers ("Wall of Death" and "Scarlet Lady") are not bad, even a bit enjoyable if you're in the right frame of mind, but are nothing above the line of HM mediocrity to be point-blank honest. Luther Beltz singing is considerably more restrained here, and it works well most of the time, even though I would be more than ready to argue about the adequacy of his voice to some of the cuts here featured. I know the man have a lot of fans (and understandably so), but I always had the feeling the best was yet to come for him, which is a bit odd a feeling, you know. All things considered, "Lords of Sin" is not an album to ashame the dedicated fans (most of them will actually take a fair bit of enjoyment out of it), but it's fair to say that Witchfynde's situation was worrying by this stage - something that came to materialize in relatively short notice, as Mausoleum plunged into financial turmoil (bit of a deja-vu here) and yet another change of the bass-playing department (ex-Race Against Time's Alan Short stepped in for a little while) wasn't enough to keep Witchfynde on the road as needed, something fundamental to boost sales of a rapidly-flopping record. Soon the lads would no longer be blessed by the Powers that Be, and Witchfynde endured a long hiatus - they allegedly never officially split, but it will be over 15 years gone until this NWOBHM monster would come back to haunt us (I mean it in a good way, of course). Maybe it was a necessary time to breathe, although it surely took quite a while longer than first expected.

THE WITCHING HOUR (CD, Neat, 2001) ***

01.The Other Side 02. Stab in the Back 03. You'll Never See it Coming 04. Leaving Nadir 05. Hall of Mirrors 06. In Your Dreams 07. Give 'em Hell 08. Conspiracy 09. Wake Up Screaming

After a bit of sabbatical (well, a very long one indeed, but I guess they needed a break anyway), Montalo (G) and Gra Scoresby (D) decided to give Witchfynde another chance to shine, a decision that was surely encouraged by the consistent underground adulation the band received through the years. Peter Surgey (B) agreed to rejoin the band, but there was a bit of acrimony going on in the vocal department, as not only Luther Beltz would not agree to rejoin his old mates, but also decided to spawn his own Wytchfynde, with a minor change in spelling just to keep those dreaded lawsuits away. Unwilling to let Luther Beltz have fun on his own, the Montalo-Surgey-Scoresby nucleus recruited singer Harry Harrison (ex-Night Vision) and signed the dotted line with Neat. It was a curious situation indeed: after a decade and a half with no signs of life from Witchfynde, now we had two different band incarnations operating at the same time... Luther Beltz's Wytchfynde released a CD called "The Awakening" in 2001 (I didn't like it that much when I first heard it, but it's been a while ago so I promise to review it in the near future), while the more recognizable version of Witchfynde came out with "The Witching Hour" the same year. It was a case of revisiting their previous repertoire rather than a full-scale return to studio recordings, as most of the songs here featured are re-recordings from old classics (not a single song from "Cloak and Dagger", surprisingly) with a few new numbers to make things more interesting. I always felt a bit uncomfortable with new versions from old songs (let's face it, you seldom hear something to scare the hell out of the originals, no matter how competent the reworkings are), but I guess "The Witching Hour" serves its purpose as a good way to reintroduce Witchfynde into the Metal market. The new numbers are actually quite good (opening track "The Other Side" is particularly strong) and settle comfortably alongside old ditties such as "Leaving Nadir", "Stab in the Back", "Wake Up Screaming" and "Conspiracy", all laid down on tape with commendable levels of proficiency and enthusiasm. Harry Harrison has a strong, deeper voice which (in my humble but honest opinion) fits well enough into Witchfynde's material, so I guess there's nothing to be worried about when it comes to vocal performance here. They were still owing us an all-new CD in the not-too-distant futute, but "The Witching Hour" is a decent comeback and I'm sure all Wichfynde fans welcomed it with open arms.

PLAY IT TO DEATH (CD, Neat, 2008) ***

01. Play it to Death 02. Holy Ground 03. Elements 04. Sticks and Stones 05. The Darkest Places 06. Life's a Killer 07. Three Wise Monkeys 08. Shame the Devil 09. Love Like Sin 10. Paint it Black

After another somewhat long hiatus (I don't know, maybe they weren't in a hurry after all), Witchfynde managed to release a CD full of originals, the first such release in no less than 24 years. It was a long time to wait, that's for sure, and the expectations were understandably very high. Fortunately, "Play it to Death" is good enough to meet the required standards - although I would not say it's a flawless album after all. Harry Harrison's voice, that works well enough on "The Witching Hour" CD, doesn't come out that unscathed this time around - I don't know how to explain, but it seems to me he's just trying too hard to sound somber and give the songs a darker edge, something that gets quite annoying in tunes such as "Holy Ground" and the title track. I don't like the opening song that much by the way - not only the singing leaves to be desired, but the composition seems loosely put together, despite some good ideas on the instrumental side of things. When good man Hank just go there and sing it, his results are way more enjoyable - he does a great job out of Rolling Stone's "Paint it Black" (one of the two covers here, the other being Robin Trower's "Shame the Devil"), and "Sticks and Stones" (one of the finest moments of the entire CD), just to name a few. Despite the shortcomings, Witchfynde was in a creative period and "Play it to Death" shows it in no uncertain terms, as many of the songs here featured are actually great pieces of songwriting, such as "The Darkest Places", "Three Wise Monkeys" and the excellent, grandiose semi-ballad "Love Like Sin" (good performance from Harry Harrison here too). Montalo shows just how inventive he is, with lots of interesting riffs and harmonies. I love the way Pete Surgey's bass sounds in this recording: heavy, intense, full of energy and presence. And drummer Gra Scoresby always knew how to do his job, so his confident and strong performance won't surprise any NWOBHM enthusiasts. All things considered, "Play it to Death" is an album sure to get periodic spins at your sound system if you're already into Witchfynde - maybe newcomers to Heavy Metal won't bother to give it a chance, but I'm sure these musicians will be more than happy on doing their thing regardless of anything else, which is very respectable if you ask me. It's about time for another album anyway, I guess - and I'm sure many fans are even more expectant now that Luther Beltz settled his differences with the other guys and returned to the mike stand, following Harry Harrison's departure for ill health and personal issues. Things have been quiet in the Witchfynde front recently - Gra Scoresby was submitted to a couple surgeries in 2012, which kept the band in a understandable low profile for a while. Still, they are pretty much a going concern, and a collection CD with raw recordings from 1975 saw the light of day in 2013 (a CD we're sure to review as soon as we get our hands on it). Long live Witchfynde, and blessed be! (you didn't thought you would get away without it, did you?)

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

domingo, 8 de dezembro de 2013

ROUGH JUSTICE (UK-Scotland) - Black Knight (7'' single, Croft Records, 1979)


If you are not a Great Britain resident (and most of us aren't, you know), you will be excused for not having a clue on where the Outer Hebrides are. In case you don't know (I know that feel, bro), that's a group of islands at the West Coast of Scotland, also known as the more easily-understandable Western Isles, and the only area of the world where the majority of population (less than 30.000 people, that is) knows how to speak Scottish Gaelic, one of the surviving Celtic languages of yore. Undestandably, the musical legacy of such a remote and sparsely-populated area would never be multitudinous, but there's actually a few bands and artists that came out of the area - there's even an yearly event, the Hebridean Celtic Festival, so I guess there's some respectable artistic activity going on there. For those among you not that much into Folk Music, though, I guess the long-forgotten Rough Justice will be the main focus of interest, as I'm not sure the Outer Hebrides had any other Heavy Metal bands, neither before them or ever since.

Not much from these four brave musicians is known at present, and no one seems to have reliable info on how long they were around or if they ever managed to make any gigs. Quite surprisingly, though, they managed to release a 7'' single way back in 1979 - a self financed affair in a seemingly very small run of a few hundred copies - and there's even more surprising indications thay they got as far as to get a bit of airplay in Radio Scotland, which would be quite an achievement if you ask me. Being from such a remote location, I'm not sure they were really into the then-soaring NWOBHM at the time, being more reasonable to believe that Rough Justice were trying to emulate their 70s Hard/Heavy heroes rather than anything more contemporary. It's also unsurprising that their collective musical abilities were very limited and their songwriting skills won't cause any pleasant surprises on today's listeners - but oh well, just the fact that they got there and did it under such difficult circumstances justifies an extra bit of tolerance in this particular case.

"Black Knight (a Gothic Legend)" is the heavy song on display here - a somewhat intense (albeit not very cohesive) number from an obviously unexperienced bunch, but filled with good intentions and some nice ideas going on here and there (the basslines are very respectable, for instance). There's many rough edges here (some drum rolls end not exaclty when they should, and they really should have considered another take for the guitar solo), but the chorus is good enough and there's a sense of ingenuity throughout which is actually quite funny, working to enhance the listening pleasure rather than spoiling it. Flipside "White Dove", on the other hand, is a ballad unlike to make the listener any favours - the musicianship is poor, the "emotional" ending is annoying and the second guitar is out of tune, no less. I don't have a clue on who produced this, but I guess he really should have noticed that something was not right there! The singer/bassist seemed to have a fair bit of talent, but "White Dove" surely wasn't the best place to showcase it, although the track can have some limited appeal to the most charitable among you.

You surely won't be remotely surprised to know the Outer Hebrides version of Rough Justice didn't really make the rounds for that long - maybe the NWOBHM gave them a fresh breath of life, but it's a safe bet to assume the quartet was no longer active at the mid-80s, probably being disbanded way before that. Still, I kinda enjoyed this 7'' single and it would be awesome to know more about those who made it possible - so if you have any info on them, even the slightest, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to get in touch.

John Wallace (V/B), Fudge Forsyth (G), Richie Carlin (G), Jim Wallace (D).

01. Black Knight (a Gothic legend)
02. White Dove

Million thanks to NWOBHM Knightmare for sound files!

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

segunda-feira, 25 de novembro de 2013

HELL (UK) - Curse & Chapter (CD, Nuclear Blast, 2013)

RATING: ****

It's great to witness everything that is happening to Nottinghamshire's (UK) Hell since they reformed in the later part of the previous decade. They were one of the most original and unique bands in the entire England at the time, and the fact that they never went to release at least one full album of their own was hugely unfair, if you ask me. It took a while to make them justice, but they sure came back with a vengeance, releasing the immensely good "Human Remains" in 2011 - an album that completely changed Hell's status indeed: from an old and near-forgotten curiosity from the basements of NWOBHM, they turned into serious contenders in today's Heavy Metal scene - no nostalgia going on here, believe me! Such was the impact of Hell's comeback that the follow-up to "Human Remains" caused a thinly disguised expectation in the whole HM community - which is not only fair, but also awesome to behold. And none of us will be left down, as "Curse and Chapter" is a champion in its own right, an album sure to raise thousands of horns and set countless necks in motion in no uncertain terms.

The first question you all will ask me is very predictable: is this new CD as good as "Human Remains"? Most reviews I read so far state that "Curse and Chapter" is even better, but I politely beg to differ, as I think "Human Remains" still shows Hell at its best - although by a very close call, you know. But oh well, I used to be a fan when there was only the old demos with Dave Halliday doing the rounds in MP3 format, in a time when any reunion would be deemed impossible, so perhaps there's a bit of romantic bias on my judgement here. And please don't get me wrong here: I already listened in full to "Curse and Chapter" dozens of times and I just can't get enough, as it is indeed a damn good album of the highest calibre. But there's some perceivable differences going on when you compare one album with the other, so please let me explain what I mean.

While "Human Remains" was (quite predictably) 100% made of old songs, "Curse and Chapter" is a 50/50 affair, with an even (and quite understandable) mix of old and new. I'm not implying that the new stuff is not that good, readers take note (that's not the case really, as I'll explain below), but they are a bit different from what Hell use to be - most of all, they are considerably more linear in their construction, lacking that unexpected twists and turns that (for me at last) are a huge part of Hell's musical impact. Songs like "The Age of Nefarious" (a sardonic pun on the "Age of Acquarius", in case you didn't notice), "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "Faith Will Fall" are all great, but they're not really surprising, you know - they'll make any self-respectful headbanger happy, that's for sure, but they won't give you that OMFG-what-the-fuck-they-just-did-this-is-awesome-!!! feeling, if you know what I mean. Compare it with the insane tempo and key changes in "The Disposer Supreme", for instance, and perhaps you'll get my point here.

I wouldn't even say that it's indeed a problem of any kind - perhaps it's just an option, and old songs here included (such as "Land of the Living Dead") are also more direct and less unpredictable, so it's not like there's anything wrong with that. But I think "Human Remains" was a bit more original and unique, and that's why "Curse and Chapter" will get a 4-star rating in the end. You're free to disagree as much as you like, you know.

And let's make it clear once again, in case you're still not sure: "Curse and Chapter" is a damn great album in its own right. The old and new dialogue quite efficiently throughout the CD, making the listening experience an intense, powerful and absorbing ride, just like "Human Remains" before it - Hell being one of the few band that still make long-play records a justified endeavour these days. The new versions for songs like the aforementioned "Land of the Living Dead" and "The Disposer Supreme" (a true Metal nightmare of epic proportions, one of the finest moments in Hell's career so far) are no less than brilliant, and the sense of pure scorn in "Deliver Us from Evil" would surely make Dave Halliday very proud. I was surprised with the inclusion of "Harbinger of Death" (a song from Halliday's previous band Race Against Time that I'm not sure if ever really made part of Hell's early repertoire), but it also works to great effect here - and the partial inclusion of "Intense is the Sense of Doom" at the end of it made me smile, as I always loved this old gem from Hell's back catalogue. Even the reworking of instrumental piece "Deathsquad" is quite enjoyable.

Of the new compositions, the undeniable highlight goes to "Darkhangel" - a grandiose, impressive epic on Aleister Crowley's failed attempt to evoke Pan, one of the most enduring legends of the occult underground (or mainstream, I'm not quite sure). The singing of David Bower is top-notch here: threatening, spellbinding, full of confidence and power. Outstanding. I also like "End Ov Days" - it's one of the most impressive displays from guitarrists Kev Bower and Andy Sneap, and the chorus is really strong, to say the least. "A Vespertine Legacy" is the most complex of the new compositions, and it's a good one, although my least favorite in the entire album - maybe it's because everything else is so awesome, who knows? But bassist Tony Speakman have his chance to shine, and Tim Bowler (a drummer whose talent is never properly acknowledged, if you ask me) also reveal some of his tricks here and there.

Now there's an interesting challenge waiting for Hell in the not-too-distant future, as I guess they will have to write a full set of songs if they ever release a third CD (a very strong possibility, by the look of things). The vaults are almost completely exhausted by now (and I have a distinct feeling they will never record new versions for "Dephts of Despair" or "Judas", you know) and it will put Hell under a whole different pressure, as they will no longer be able to rely on old stuff to keep their musical personality. And do they have anything to fear, you ask me? Sincerely, I don't think so - they are now stronger than ever, with two extremely good albums under their belts, a rapidly-growing fan base and a kick-ass stage show I would really love to behold (maybe someday, who knows?). It's a band of today, not a nostalgia act from the past - and they rule in the world of today like few bands can. I'm sure they will be fine. Long may Hell be upon this Earth - I'm enjoying every bloody minute of it, no regrets.

David Bower (V), Kev Bower (G/K/V), Andy Sneap (G), Tony Speakman (B), Tim Bowler (D).

01. Gehennae Incendis
02. The Age of Nefarious
03. The Disposer Supreme
04. Darkhangel
05. Harbinger of Death
06. End Ov Days
07. Deathsquad
08. Something Wicked This Way Comes
09. Faith Will Fall
10. Land of the Living Dead
11. Deliver Us from Evil
12. A Vespertine Legacy

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

quinta-feira, 24 de outubro de 2013

TUTCH (UK) - The Battle (EP, Gargoyle, 1980)


Being a NWOBHM obsessed demands more than a strong appreciation for all things Heavy Metal: it also requires a certain level of tolerance, a broad-minded approach to music, I would say. Many singles now considered to be NWOBHM collectables have not much to do with Heavy Metal at all, being more well suited to fans of progressive rock, indie music, pub rock, post-punk experimentations and so on. In some other cases, there's a fair percentage of Metal to be heard, but you will also get lots of other genres as well - which is perfectly understandable, as many outfits were trying to find a sound to call their own at the time, and there's nothing wrong about that. Most metalheads among you may find Tutch to be a bit too non-Metal for your tastes - but these British heavy rockers managed to release a 7'' EP (way back in 1980) that may be rewarding if you are open to some pinches of prog, alternative rock and Queen-ish flubdubs in your daily ration of music.

Opening song "The Battle" is quite surprising, to be fair: more than a good song, it's actually a very inventive piece of composition. It shows an unpredictable song structure with many twists and turns, and the lyrics are reasonably good as well - enhanced by a really impressive vocal performance, it must be stated. The keyboards, although a bit unusual, help to create the right atmosphere - there's no doubt you're listening to a war song, as there's a perceivable "The Bridge On River Kwai" feeling throughout, if you know what I mean! It sounds funny, even a bit naive, but also quite serious - maybe we could even say "powerful" here, although I suppose most people wouldn't immediately understand my point in using such a word. In the realm of NWOBHM comparisions, it reminds me of Clientelle, but it's not a direct similarity, "The Battle" being quite an unique composition in its own right. It's not a song for all ears, that's for sure, but the more broad-minded among you are likely to enjoy it a hell of a lot - I even get myself humming the melody of this song from time to time, which is not that easy an achievement, you know. I like it, really.

The other two songs in this 7'' are (predictably) not in the same league: both "You Don't Care" and "Round and Round" are not bad at all, but also fail to live up to the promise of the very interesting A-side. Which is not a tragedy, you know. The first song is a slightly interesting (but a bit too melodramatic) ballad with piano and harmonised vocals and all that. The huge influence of Queen is undeniable, and the singer (whoever he is) does a very good job out of it - no Freddie Mercury here, of course, but it's a respectable performance all the same. Not a memorable song as "The Battle", but it shows that Tutch was surely a band with creativity in mind. Finally, "Round and Round" is the more straightforward song of the pack - despite a strange synthetizer sound all along, it's actually a pretty generic heavy rocker like hundreds of NWOBHM done in the period in question. Not really surprising, but nothing to be ashamed of, that's for sure.

Tutch was a band trying to find their own sound, and they show great signs of promise in the songs here featured. That's actually too bad they didn't last for long, as I think they do a pretty respectable job in their sole 7''. Unfortunately, the Gargoyle label (a somewhat prolific one back in the day) didn't offer them a chance for further releases, and soon Tutch disappeared straight into oblivion - not that they were well-known contenders at any point, mind you. There's no info out there on who took part in Tutch and what they did prior or after this particular release, so if you happen to know anything about them, please don't be shy and get in touch!

Musicians unknown

01. The Battle (Truin/Cole) 4:23
02. You Don't Care (Truin) 4:58
03. Round and Round (Coote) 2:03

Thanks to Heavy Metal Rarities Forum 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 and let me know!

sexta-feira, 11 de outubro de 2013

SPLITCROW (UK) - Rockstorm (LP, Guardian, 1984)


The Guardian label is a name to be fondly treasured by NWOBHM collectors and enthusiasts, as it released a huge number of albums and singles at the height of the movement in question, most of it with a strong link to Heavy Metal. But it's important to make clear that Guardian, although a mostly-Metal label, also released stuff with only a tenuous connection with the genre, and also some stuff which isn't Heavy Metal at all. Splitcrow's sole LP "Rockstorm" is not a complete stranger to Heavy Metal, but I'm sure these guys weren't even trying that hard to jump the NWOBHM bandwagon, being far more at home with a blues rock approach - something that was also very popular amongst rockers in 1984.

The album starts fairly promising, with both "Back Door Blues" and "Nobody's Gonna Stand in My Way" being interesting, intense rockers which reminded me of none other than Bad Company, which is good enough praise in my book. From that point onwards, though, we're pretty much in usual ZZ Top territory here, with mixed results when it comes to quality and intensity. Some songs are still OK, such as "In the Heat of the Night" (strong Spider feelings here), but it's hard to use positive adjectives when refering to "Lookin' Through These Miles", "Stir Crazy" or "Sweet Darlin'", for instance - songs that will only appeal to the most undemanding ZZ Top fans out there. Never really understood what's so great about the long-bearded guys from Texas, but I guess it's only me anyway - they have millions of fans worldwide and I'm sure they deserve it. Still, I reckon most NWOBHM addicts can live a very enjoyable life without devoting too much time and effort on buying a copy of this album, as most material here included will be simply unappealing to their tastes.

I guess it's not a huge surprise for anyone that Splitcrow didn't last the distance, being seemingly disbanded at a very early stage. Still, they were quite a popular band in the North East of UK (at least one of their concerts received a review in Kerrang magazine, for instance), so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they soldiered on for a while longer. Of the musicians involved, I guess that guitarist Johnny Dickinson had the most successful story: after trying again with Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes, The Moonshine Boys and the bizarrely-but-funnily-named Hillbillies from Outer Space, the axeman earned a stable solo career as a folk musician. Unfortunately, he is enduring a very difficult clinical condition which has prevented him from performing for quite a few years now, so we wish him to fully recover his health and get back on music as soon as possible. Rob Davison (V/G) and Nigel Stawart (D) also kept things going with a band called Poorboys (who acts under the name Indian Hill on some of their later recordings) and also as an acoustic duo who still performs to this day. They also took part in the Hillbillies From Outer Space in the past, so perhaps it was pretty much Splitcrow under a different guise.

It's a bit difficult nowadays to see or hear the extraordinary qualities that some people saw in Splitcrow - they were good enough in their style of choice, but I think that a band needs to show more in terms of personality and/or style to really rank as a promise. Oh well, I guess it was the mood of the times - and it's hard to see things with hindsight being in the middle of it, right? As said above, their sole vinyl legacy is not one for those of you who wear bullet belts and patched denim vests while going to the grocery store in your neighbourhood, but maybe you should give it a try if you really love blues rock and you want something different (and slightly more intense) to make your day.

Rob Davison (V/G), Johnny Dickinson (G), Barry Winlow (B), Nigel Stawart (D).

1. Back Door Blues
2. Nobody's Gonna Stand in My Way
3. Another Day, Another Dollar
4. Looking Through These Miles
5. In the Heat of the Night
6. Stir Crazy
7. Bar Room Strut
8. Sweet Darlin'
9. Everybody Needs Somebody to Love
10. Come On 'n' Dance with Me

All songs written by Dickinson / Davison

Thanks to NWOBHM Knightmare for picture sleeve photos

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

terça-feira, 8 de outubro de 2013

TROBWLL (UK, Wales) - Taith (7'' single, Buwch Hapus, 1979)


The amazing realm of Welsh-language rock music is never short on surprises. Most of the bands from the area are so enormously obscure that it becomes a struggle just to learn the bare details about a given release - and some singles are so elusive that it's better not to think too much about it, as the odds are stacked against us when it comes to have a chance to actually listen to it. That all said, sometimes luck is on our side - and it was awesome to finally get these very rare songs from Trobwll, a band that had quite an influence in the early 80s Welsh-language scene - although it seems they didn't really got that far in their own right.

Trobwll ("Vortex") was a going concern since the mid-70s or thereabouts, centered around the figure of Mr. Richard Morris, an enterprising individual who also ran a recording facility of its own (named Stiwdio's Bwthyn) where he produced many influent bands of the area, such as the reasonably successful Ellifant. Curiously, Trobwll's own songs were recorded somewhere else, so perhaps having his own studio was a later investment of him. Trobwll also had a very important role in the development of Crys (extensively reviewed around here), who decided to adopt Welsh (and leave behind their former guise as Salic Law) following a suggestion from Richard Morris and his cohorts. Trobwll seems to have had many different line-ups, with Richard Morris being the only constant member - and it's fair to assume he is the main creative force behind what we hear on this very unusual slice of vinyl - a conceptual 7'' single, no less, released on the funnily-named Buwch Hapus ("Happy Cow") label.

As most bands singing in Welsh at the time, Trobwll operates in a musical style which owes quite a lot to the local folk music, but also tries to mix it with some modern influences - prog rock and 70's Heavy Metal, in this particular case. The song "Taith" ("Journey") runs through both sides of the 7", the first movement ("Rhan 1") being the most interesting part of it by far. It's quite a good song, to be fair - not very heavy, but reasonably dynamic and with some interesting guitar work throughout. The keyboards are intense too, and the song as a whole qualifies as a pleasant listening experience for the most open-minded among you. The second part of "Taith" ("Rhan 2", that is) sounds a bit boring in comparision, as it's an instrumental piece which recycles many musical ideas from the first part without a great sense of cohesion or direction, in my humble opinion. There's a guitar solo trying to connect the whole thing, but I don't think it really works as planned, you know. It's not enough to pale the good impression of Rhan 1, but I guess Trobwll would have done considerably better by choosing to include some other song from their repertoire.

I'm not quite sure of when Trobwll actually ceased to exist, but I suppose they didn't went that far into the 80s, never releasing any other product of their own. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Trobwll was not much more than a side project from Richard Morris, something to vent his creativity in a gap between other music-related activities. This 7'' single became a very sought-after collectable for NWOBHM enthusiasts, but I reckon it's only in the periphery of the genre - the music is surely no skull-crushing Metal assault, being far more attuned with the 70s than anything else, and I guess there wasn't even an active Trobwll going on when the Metal explosion took place. Still, I guess there's a fair bit of talent and musicianship on "Taith" to justify a few respectful listens - I wouldn't pay obscene ammounts of money on it, mind you, but give it a place to call home if you have the chance to do it without bankrupting in the process.

Richard Morris (V/G), Steve Lewis (B), Mel Turner (D), Mark Jones (K).

01. Taith (Rhan 1) (R. Morris / M. Jones / G. Phillips) 4:51
02. Taith (Rhan 2) (R. Morris / M. Jones) 5:35

Million thanks to NWOBHM Knightmare for sound files and picture sleeve scans!

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

domingo, 25 de agosto de 2013

FRENZY (UK) - This is the Last Time (7") plus Blackburn Rovers (7'') plus Without You (7'') (Private, 1981)


When it comes to releasing independent singles, this English version of Frenzy (from Lancashire) surely felt like they had no time to waste. Born out of the ashes of the not-really-Metal-but-still-quite-interesting group called Anniversary (hope to drop a few lines about them in the not-too-distant future), Frenzy was the second attempt of brothers Johnny (G) and  Peter Pawlowski (B) of finding fame and fortune in the cut-throat music business. Wanting to waste as little time as possible, the duo quickly assembled something of a stable line-up and jumped straight into the studio, where they seemingly laid down enough tracks for not only one, but actually three 7'' singles, all released as self-financed efforts at different periods of 1981. Not an usual approach for NWOBHM hopefuls, that's for sure, but we can say it was mildly successful, as two of the three pieces of vinyl ("This is the Last Time", the first to come out, and "Without You", the last one) sold in respectable quantities and are now well-regarded collectables that any of us will be able to locate at a reasonable price. The other one ("Blackburn Rovers", that is) is not in the same league though, and I guess that most of you good people can easily survive without a copy.

If you're looking for easy-to-understand comparisions with more well-known bands from the period in question, perhaps I could stick my head out and whisper Black Rose, as both groups had a similar ear for melody and a resourcefulness to mix some reasonably heavy riffing with memorable, catchy vocal lines. Still, I would say that Frenzy is a tad less metallic and a bit more into good old rock and roll, so it's not like you will find any "Knocked Out" or "Sucker for Your Love" in here, you know. As all three singles from Frenzy were released roughly at the same time, I guess you will forgive me for reviewing it in a single post, right?

Being released sometime in the very early months of 1981, "This is the Last Time" begins with a somewhat weird (and pointless) intro with guitar effects, but soon launches into an interesting and reasonably intense number with strong guitar work (some nice interplay indeed) and a nice, multilayered chorus. It's not skull-crushingly heavy, but it's a very upbeat composition and many of you good people will surely get a few healthy headbanging sessions out of it. Flipside "Gypsy Dancer" is a more commercially-inclined song, with that kind of 'replying' backing vocals that screams "chart-friendly" right in your face.  It doesn't work quite as well as the previous track, but there's nothing too objectionable going on here too - actually, it's a pleasant enough song that you can hear from start to finish without any real grimaces along the way (if you can fully ignore the immensely immature lyrics, that is).

The second instalment of the Frenzy series is a bit of an odd one, to be honest. "Blackburn Rovers" is a very basic rocker that pays tribute to the English football club Blackburn - one of those football-related songs that used to be (and perhaps still are) a whole niche of the market in the UK. Almost all of these recordings, though, may work reasonably well with fans of the club in question but will be virtually unbearable for anyone else on Earth. And "Blackburn Rovers" is no exception: despite Frenzy's best efforts to create a singalong effort with clapping hands, crowd noises and a let's-sing-our-lungs-out-together chorus, it just does not work. And things make even less sense when you consider that flipside "Up the Rovers" is nothing more than a rearranged "Blackburn Rovers" with pitifully few differences from the A side. I can't imagine many Blackburn fans fighting against each other to get hold of a copy of this 7'', and if wasn't for the NWOBHM collecting scene, the few remaining copies of this single would almost surely be condemned to gather dust in bargain bins for the time being. Nothing to keep you awake at night if you don't have it in your collection, believe me.

The last single to be released by Frenzy, "Without You" came out not long after the previous two and goes pretty much in the same vein of the aforementioned "This is the Last Time" single - although slightly more poppy, if truth be told. Nothing to be worried about, though - it's a good mix of energy and accessible melodies, a good enough song to stomp your feet and sing along with the catchy (albeit slightly hackneyed) chorus. Not much changes with "Thanx For Nothing", but it's fair to say that it's a tad more intense, with prominent riffing and a interesting groove thoroughout. I actually like it better than the A side, and the simple-yet-dynamic arrangements can't be faulted at all.

Frenzy didn't really last the distance, though - maybe the three self-financed releases in a row were too much for their finances, or else the response from HM fans (albeit quite positive) and record labels just wasn't enough to encourage any further efforts from the band. There's not much info on stage activities from Frenzy back in the day too, so perhaps it was more of a studio venture waiting for a encouraging feedback to become serious - something that never happened, unfortunately. Efforts are being made to locate those involved with Frenzy and as soon as some enlightening info come out of this, I'm sure to let you good people know!

Larry Lee Leyman (V), Johnny Pawlowski (G), John O'Conner (G), Peter Pawlowski (B), David Nixon (D).

01. This is the Last Time 5:08
02. Gypsy Dancer 4:03

01. Blackburn Rovers 3:55
02. Up the Rovers 3:45

01. Without You 3:12
02. Thanx for Nothing 4:45

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

domingo, 28 de julho de 2013

REDWOOD (UK) - Give the Indian Back His Land (7'', private, 1979)


I guess every Heavy Metal listener who plunges into the fascinating world of really obscure bands and releases will learn the lesson eventually: locating an ultra-rare artifact doesn't mean that your efforts will be rewarded with good music after all. OK, many impossibly obscure records are actually in the same musical league of the most well-regarded bands in the business - sometimes even better, although not as frequently as many of us aficionados would like to admit. But let's face it, once and for all: in numerous occasions, the chase is far better than the catch. Most bands never got anywhere for a reason, you know.

Redwood is a recent discovery in the amazing realm of NWOBHM - and as soon as people knew that such a band actually existed, their sole and extremely rare 7'' became one of the most sought-after singles of the entire Metal Universe. Well, perhaps it's not as elusive as Hellfire Club or Holocaust (not that one), pretty much the as-rare-as-it-gets when it comes to NWOBHM, but it's surely a slice of vinyl that gives the major players in the collecting scene a few sleepless nights. It was supposedly pressed in a microscopic run (a hundred copies at the most optimistic), so it was a safe bet to assume most of us would never have the chance to listen to it. But luck was on our side when a eBay seller offered a copy for sale and was generous enough to rip both tracks in mp3 format, as a bonus for those who wanted to know what was it all about. You know, once it's in the internet, it's potentially eternal - and now not only the lucky (and wealthy) buyer can listen to this esoteric 7'', but also those who were quick enough to download the files before the links expired.

And no, I'm not implying that Redwood's sole (and stupendously rare) single is one to throw into the blast furnace at the earliest opportunity - but don't go for it expecting any sort of undiscovered classic of NWOBHM, as you will be heading for some disappointment. The sound quality is worsened by some difficulties in transferring, as the one responsible for the rip would be the first to admit - still, the production is very poor, and I'm afraid that even the first spin from a mint copy of the vinyl would not give you much return on your money when it comes to sound quality. And the two songs here included are far from memorable too - both "Give the Indian Back His Land" and "Rock of Ages" are unspectacular rockers with some guitar freakouts thrown in to liven things up, being not really atrocious but also very distant of anything too extraordinary.

The vocals are uninspiring and the lyrics are quite imature, but that's not exactly a rarity when it comes to NWOBHM, so I wouldn't care too much about it if the songs could live up to their promise - something I'm not really sure about, to put it in polite terms. OK, I'll concede that "Give the Indian Back His Land" presents a reasonably good intro and a verse-that-becomes-chorus scheme that can be reasonably acceptable if you're in the right frame of mind, but I seriously doubt that "Rock of Ages" will leave fond memories (or any memories, for that matter) in any listener, as it comes and goes without capturing any level of attention.

You don't need to be a genius to assume that Redwood was a very fleeting experience for those involved - and the statement at the sleeve "thank you all for buying this record and making us Rock Stars" sounds even more ironic now than it probably already was back in the day. I assume that Mr. Phil Puckette (V/G) was the leader of the pack (he wrote both songs and I suppose he wouldn't allow anyone to picture an unknown guitarist other than himself in the front cover, you know), and I wouldn't be remotely surprised if Redwood was over soon after the single was pressed, the mainman choosing to pursuit another career in the interim. Being released in the heady days of 1979, perhaps they could have stand a better chance if they managed to stick together a while longer, improving their playing and songwriting skills just in time to join the big NWOBHM explosion. It never happened, as we all know by now, but the mind wanders anyway. Whatever the story behind this release, I would surely love to know more - so, if you ever had any connection with Redwood, even the slightest, please disregard the fact that I didn't like the songs that much (I'm a human being and therefore can commit a few misjudgements, you know) and kindly get in touch ^^

Phil Puckette (V/G), Eric Newman (B), Colin Fort-Divers (D).

01. Give the Indian Back His Land (Puckette) 2:36
02. Rock of Ages (Puckette) 2:12

Many thanks to NWOBHM Knightmare for sound files

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

sábado, 27 de julho de 2013

SNATCH-BACK (UK) - Eastern Lady (7'', CSS Records, 1979)


A mystery band at present, Snatch-Back somehow managed to release a 7'' single at the very inception of NWOBHM (and I'm almost sure it wasn't their intention to join this particular ride after all), but left very little information to enlighten us on who they were or where they came from. In his NWOBHM Encyclopedia, Malc MacMillan suggests they were from Manchester or thereabouts, also hinting to some kind of connection with the short-lived Budgie offshot called Freez, but (as the man himself was the first to admit) the corroboratory evidences were too fragile to give us any degree of certainty. Oh well, I guess the musicians once involved with Snatch-Back are still out there somewhere, so if any of you ever get to know the slightest thing about them, please kindly get in touch, will you?

Musically speaking, the four-piece was heavy enough to fit the NWOBHM archetype well enough, but I would say they were hinting to the early 80s as much as they were rooted in the 70s, something which is perfectly understandable in those transitional times. The A-side of their one and only single, "Eastern Lady", even reminds me of even earlier influences - am I completely insane, or there's actually a few influences of none other than Cream in here? The main riff is definitively 70ish, and the solo section (albeit brief) is a complete giveaway to what type of music the guys had in mind when writing this tune. It's an OK song (even though the chorus are too-simple-for-its-own-good if you ask me), but flipside "Cryin' to the Night" is a sensive improvement - a heavier, more intense number with NWOBHM-trademark riffing and a far more interesting song structure (even the slow mid-section works quite well, believe me or not). Dedicated NWOBHM enthusiasts will surely throw some pleasant shapes to this song - no classic of the genre here, that's for sure, but it does the trick when it comes to make a metalhead happy, believe me.

Unfortunately, the sound production is very poor and the mixing was probably made in a hurry, as the listening experience is quite rough to the ears - the vocals, for instance, are sometimes so loud that your eardrums almost shout back to you, asking why in hell you're submiting it to such a torture after so many years of job well done. It's totally forgivable that most Metal fanatics will choose to live a long and healthy life without ever bothering to download this single - let's face it, buying it is not exactly straight-forward and only the most obsessive NWOBHM completists would consider paying huge sums of money for such an item. But if you're reading this humble post until the end, it surely means that NWOBHM found a cozy place in your heart and soul, not to mention your record collection - so yes, I would say that you won't be commiting any serious mistake by adding Snatch-Back to your collection, either in vinyl or digital format.

Musicians unknown

01. Eastern Lady 2:58
02. Cryin' to the Night 4:16

Many thanks to NWOBHM Knightmare for sound files. Also thanks to Collector's Frenzy 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 and let me know!

sábado, 6 de julho de 2013

STAMPEDE (II) (UK) - A Notch on Your Gun (EP, Punchbowl, 1980)


The seemingly never-ending search on obscure heavy music from a bygone age is often rewarding, although sometimes it gets quite frustrating, you know. When it comes to Stampede's "A Notch on Your Gun" EP from 1980, though, the feeling is kinda mixed - it's not like I was expecting anything out of the ordinary here (and it's surely not a case of a positive surprise in any sense), but I must admit the contents surprised me a little in this particular case. Although every detail in this 7'' transpires the amauterish spirit of the whole venture, there seems to have been some sort of intentionality in it - like they were not just throwing things together, like they actually had a plan, but were just too young and/or unexperienced to put it effectively into practice. I reckon they were only on the periphery of the NWOBHM genre, but still it's worth to drop a few lines about their music for history's sake.

There's not much info around on this particular Stampede (I guess you already know at this point that I'm not refering to the resonably well-known Stampede of "Hurricane Town" and "Official Bootleg"), seemingly based somewhere in the West Midlands (UK) and formed by musicians that, as far as we know, never took part in any other bands of note in later years - and you can rest assured that axeman Chris Barnes never resurfaced as a Death Metal singer in USA! Released by Punchbowl Records (whoever they were), this EP shows the four-piece to be a very unexperienced bunch of musicians, and the kinda ramshackle nature of the three songs featured are more than representative of their lack of songwriting skills. Still, it seems they were actually trying to create a solid Wild West imagery for their band - not only with the (undeniably ugly and poorly-done) artwork, but also on the lyrical contents and even in the music itself, that (at least to my humble and charitable ears) sometimes show more than a glimpse of country music. Am I completely insane? Well, I don't know.

The almost-title-track "Notch On Your Gun" is an attempt to recreate the feeling of a gun-toting Western duel into music, with extremely simple vocal lines and lyrics that doesn't make much sense at all. It's an extremely simple song with an undeniable pub rock feel to it, but still it drags on for quite a while, with a nonsensical instrumental mid-section that threatens to completely fall apart at any moment. Not the most exciting song ever recorded, I'm afraid. To be fair, things improve slightly on the flipside, with both "On My Way" and "The Simple Life" being more accomplished songs than its very poor predecessor. Not that this is a major achievement, mind you, as "On My Way" is a slightly folky, semi-acoustic soft rocker that will almost surely leave no lasting impression on any listener. "The Simple Life", to its credit, is the best song of the whole EP, with a (slightly) heavier riff and a song structure that immediately reminded me (and I fully agree with Malc McMillan's "NWOBHM Encyclopedia" in it) of Panza Division's "The Day Delta 4 Played Mars". Nothing to set the world ablaze, that's for sure, but it at least gives Stampede a modicum of musical revelance. They didn't really suceeded in creating something of a personality, but at least they tried, you know.

No other releases of any kind are known from this particular band, and I wouldn't be surprised if they never went as far as this only recording session, perhaps never even making out of the rehearsing room for any gigs at all. They also seem to have been very young at the time (the "thanks to mum and dad" note on the sleeve is hard to ignore, you know) and I imagine that the whole band was centered around the Evans brothers, Stampede as a whole being disbanded as soon as the lads decided to devote themselves to school and/or get a proper job. Still, this little vinyl curiosity survived the years, becoming a collectable for obsessive NWOBHM completists - something that I guess would come as a shock for the band members, could they be located. Most headbangers will find little joy on "A Notch On Your Gun", to be point-blank honest here - but I'm a good-hearted person and I like to thing that the handful of surviving copies will all find nice NWOBHM collections to call home.

Norman Evans (V/G), Chris Barnes (G), Dave Anderson (B), Brian Evans (V/D).

01. Notch On Your Gun 5:52
02. On My Way 3:20
03. The Simple Life 4:06

Many thanks to NWOBHM Knightmare for sound 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 and let me know!

terça-feira, 4 de junho de 2013

EUPHORIA (UK) - BBC Session, 1981


There's not a great deal of info around when it comes to this mysterious outfit, one of those bands that, seemingly out of nowhere, somehow managed to record a session for BBC Radio One's "Friday Rock Show". The four songs from Euphoria were broadcasted in December 11th 1981, and it's fortunate that Tommy Vance's introduction to the session was preserved on tape, this being the primary source of reliable info when it comes to this elusive band.

Actually, it transpires that Euphoria was the solo effort of a certain Peter Leyden, a guitarist based in Tyneside who recorded a few demos in his own bedroom - pre-empting the boom of home-made recordings of the late 90s in at least a full decade - and, fearless of the consequences, sent the recordings to the famous radio rock show. Quite unexpectedly, Tommy Vance really enjoyed what he heard and asked Euphoria to lay down a session for the Friday Rock Show - something that created a bit of a problem for Peter Leyden, as there was no proper band to assist him in the first place. Everything was put together in a hurry, I suppose, but somehow he managed to recruit Ken Donaldson (B) and Alan Hepplewhite (D) to help him out in the short term, with Leyden himself assuming vocal duties.

Musically speaking, you won't get much of NWOBHM after all, as Euphoria's music is more in an unpretentious melodic rock vein, with pleasant (but quite uncomplicated) guitar arrangements and simple, puerile lyrics. The comparisions with Jimi Hendrix's music done by Tommy Vance in his preambule are not that off-the-mark, as there's definitely a feel of a bygone age - but of course don't expect anything near the guitar attack of good old Jimi, as it surely wasn't even the intention here. It's not that hard to enjoy listening to Euphoria's music, but there's nothing memorable in it too - apart from the simple-but-catchy riff of the first song, I simply can't remember anything else after listening to it, no matter how much I try. As I'm working with mp3 files who ommit the part where Tommy Vance revealed the name of the songs, your guess is as good as mine, although I think that "Looking For You" (the opening track) and "Don't Want To Lose You" (the third song) are safe bets and I would be surprised to be wrong in that. All things considered, though, I wouldn't really recommend it unless to the more open-minded NWOBHM fans, as the only logic connection of this bunch with the genre we all love is that they recorded a session for BBC while the NWOBHM boom was still pretty much going on. It's not bad at all, though - give it a chance and perhaps you might enjoy it a lot more than I did.

I'm almost entirely certain that this session for Friday Rock Show was the swansong of Euphoria, rather than the breakthrough that perhaps they thought it would be. I wouldn't be remotely surprised if they never even took shape as a proper band at all, being together solely for the purposes of this one and only recording session. Whatever the story, Euphoria vanished into oblivion in a matter of weeks after their session was broadcasted, never to be heard from again. I seriously doubt that any of the musicians involved took part in any other bands of note in later years, but i's quite difficult to determine further details on this subject. On the other hand, I was informed that Peter Leyden may actually have died not a long ago, which would no doubt be really unfortunate - but, you know, it will happen to us all eventually, so may God rest his soul. If you happen to know anything else about them (or took any role in their fortunes, even the slightest), I would wholeheartedly invite you to get in touch...

Last update: June 16th, 2013

Peter Leyden (V, G), Ken Donaldson (B), Alan Hepplewhite (D).

Tracklist unknown

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

domingo, 2 de junho de 2013

THE NEXT BAND (UK) - Four By Three (EP, Gannet Records, 1978)


This reasonably obscure EP from 1978 may not fit that well into the NWOBHM timeline, but it more than deserves the tag if we judge it on musical merits alone, and the musicians involved are also of interest for British Metal fanatics, so let's treat it as a NWOBHM release from now on, shall we? The humble origins of The Next Band (quite a bad name for a Heavy Metal band, guys) seemingly trace back to 1977 (the very height of punk rock), with Rocky Newton (V/B), John Lockton (G) and Frank Noon (D) joining forces to form a hard rocking outfit to call their own. The "Four By Three" EP came around a year after the group's inception, recorded at the Fairview Studios in Kingston upon Hull and released in september of that year, according to some sources.

It was a very early release by NWOBHM standards, for sure, but those of us with a fondness for the genre will surely find good reasons to rejoice on this humble 7''. It's not archetypal NWOBHM at all, that's for granted - it sounds more like a quirky variant of the usual 70's Hard/Heavy music, borrowing a bit of the punk rock intensity, but not more than that. Malc McMillan, in his NWOBHM Encyclopedia, compares Next Band with the slightly more well-known Money, and it's a good reference point indeed, although I reckon that this particular bunch is a tad more heavier and intense. It's a curious and historically-relevant release, as it really justifies the notion of a pre-NWOBHM period in British heavy music - and it makes you ponder just how much the NWOBHM boom in the early 80s could actually be something being gestated for quite a while prior to its acknowledged influx.

From the four cuts included, my personal favorite would be "Close Encounters" (yeah, it does start with the inevitable five-note intro from the movie), a direct, heavy rocker with a simple-but-nice chorus and good guitar work in a very adequate NWOBHM vein. The semi-atmospheric mid section could have been chopped off, I would say, but it's brief enough to be overlooked, the final results of the track being enjoyable as a whole. "Never On A Win" is more of a melodic tune with Thin Lizzy-like twin guitar, which atempts to create a sing-along chorus without much of a success, but we're sure far from any disaster scenario here. Quite the reverse actually, as the track works well as a whole and may put a smile on the face of many listeners.

The B side starts with "Red Alert", a run-of-the-mill, mid-tempo rocker that won't set any pulses racing but won't make for a painful listening experience neither, although the semi-acoustic interlude (they seem to have had something of a difficulty with mid sections, you know) is entirely disposable. The final track "Too Many Losers" is quite an improvement, though, being another intense number with guitar work totally attuned with the NWOBHM revolution that was lurking just around the corner. And the (notably heavy) mid section actually works quite well here too! The sound production is adequate (albeit slightly poorly mixed IMO) and the Metalomether alarms reasonably loud on this one, so don't hesitate to add it to your collection if you find it for sale at a payable price. Damn sure I will do so if I ever have the chance!

As I'm sure many of you are aware, drummer Frank Noon would actually assist the later-to-become-huge Def Leppard on their vinyl debut EP in late 1978 - the two bands being close friends and seemingly sharing the idea of putting some self-released vinyl out for the masses to purchase (they even recorded it in the same studio facility, you know). Noon was never an actual member of Def Leppard, though - and, unlike their feline-inspired local rivals, The Next Band was never to reach any nationwide stardom, although they tried to reinvent themselves as Red Alert in 1979, in a bid to suitably join the NWOBHM bandwagon. Red Alert would soon rename themselves as Wildfire (not to be confused with the band of the "Brute Force and Ignorance" and "Summer Lightning" LPs), but didn't manage to last long in this incarnation, being disbanded just a few weeks after their "Run to Ground" 7'' was released in late 1980. Frank Noon and Rocky Newton would join Lionheart, while John Lockton lent his services to Wild Horses, Badlands and also German heavy rockers Victory and Rated X in later years. After Lionheart was no more, Rocky Newton found employment on the McAuley Schenker Group for a number of years, while sticksman Frank Noon kept himself quite busy, lending his services to bands such as Stampede, Dianno, Roadhouse (where he joined forces with ex-Def Leppard's guitarist Pete Willis, incidentally), Waysted and Bernie Tormé, among many others. He is still active to this day (or so it seems), which is heartwarming, I would say.

Rocky Newton (V, B), John Lockton (G), Frank Noon (D).

01. Never On A Win 3:31
02. Close Encounters 3:58
03. Red Alert 3:46
04. Too Many Losers 3:10

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

sexta-feira, 31 de maio de 2013

MASTERSTROKE (UK) - Prisoner of Love (7'', DTS Records, 1982)

RATING: ****

Another one of those immensely obscure releases that became a bit less mysterious in later years, Masterstroke's sole 7'' is actually quite a good record, with two very enjoyable tunes in true NWOBHM fashion. The humble begginings of this elusive entity can be traced back to 1981 in Kent (UK), when the creative nucleus of guitarist Jimmy McFarnell, keyboardist Keith Tomlinson and singer Andy McMurray joined forces to create a Heavy Rock proposition to call their own. In the recording session that would be used for their sole vinyl release, they were assisted by Jim Wheatley (D), Simon Mills (G) and Neil Basford (B), a formation that seems to have been the most stable during the band's existence. The single came out sometime in 1982, released by the tiny DTS Records, and seems to have received a small pressing in the first place, as copies are seldom seen nowadays.

Both songs of the single are very enjoyable, although they're considerably different one from another. "Prisoner of Love" is a melodic tune who would not be out of place in your local rock radio station - if those responsible for the programming had any clue Masterstroke ever existed, that is. It has a easy-going structure and very catchy, sing-along vocal lines - the chorus, in special, is likely to stick into your mind for quite a while - carried along with great finesse by singer Andy McMurray. It's not the most skull-crushingly heavy assault you'll ever listen to in your live, OK, but it sure delivers its promise and can put a smile on the face of most NWOBHM enthusiasts. "Burning Heart", on the other hand, is a more groovy, mid-tempo heavy rocker with prominent guitars and a huge dose of energy that will surely set some feet and neck in motion. Very nice songs indeed, and a band that truly deserved better things. If you good reader EVER happen to have a copy you'd want to sell (or donate, who knows?), don't be shy and please let me know! :)

In spite of the many talents Masterstroke shown to possess in this promising 7'', the band didn't really last the distance. They tried to keep things going with some different musicians (drummer Albert Ulvmoen, for instance, joined the band towards the end of their collective existence), but unfortunately things didn't work out that well and Masterstroke was pretty much disbanded at the tail end of 1984. Of those involved, it seems that singer Andy McMurray was the one to keep himself more busy, assuming the mike stand in a number of bands - namely Shade, Catch 22, Tickled Pink, Soldier Blue and Spice"o"Life - through the years. Recently, he was (and probably still is) doing the rounds in User Friendly, a blues/boogie/rock concern, and it's nice to learn that he is seemingly still active - and that his voice still sound as strong as ever. He was helped in User Friendly by ex-Masterstroke member Neil Basford for a while, and it's great to know that Jimmy McFarnell is also plugging his guitar with User Friendly at the time of writing. Drummer Jim Wheatley was nice enough to get in touch via e-mail (thanks, my friend) and he's also back to music after a long hiatus,  playing a covers set with a blues rock band called The Flood. It's heartwarming to know that a good percentage of Masterstroke's stalwarts are still involved with music, and I wish them the best for now on. I'll surely drink to that!

Last update: July 04th, 2013

Andy McMurray (V), Jimmy McFarnell (G), Simon Mills (G), Neil Basford (B), Keith Tomlinson (K), Jim Wheatley (D).

01. Prisoner of Love 3:48
02. Burning Heart 5:00

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

domingo, 12 de maio de 2013

RACE AGAINST TIME (UK) - Race Against Time (Demo, private, 1980)


It's common knowledge today that Race Against Time was the first known band of Mr. Dave Halliday, later to find fame (well, some) and fortune (none, unfortunately) with Hell, a band that truly embodied the "underground legend" status in years gone by and now, thanks to a kick-ass CD called "Human Remains" (2011), achieved a whole different level of success and adulation. Tragically, Dave Halliday took his own life in 1987, many years before the ground-breaking music he wrote with Hell could reach the album destiny it always truly deserved. All things considered, it's perfectly understandable that Halliday's earlier efforts with Race Against Time are also having something of a mini-revival in later years - not only their sole vinyl legacy, the track "Bedtime" for Logo's "New Electric Warriors" compilation (already reviewed somewhere around here), but also the scarce demo recordings known to exist today.

Race Against Time was a reasonably popular live atraction in the East Midlands (UK), being part of a bands cooperative with fellow groups such as Paralex and Radium, who would arrange gigs together, share gear and rotate headliners to keep things fair. As mentioned above, they made it into "New Electric Warriors", their "Bedtime" effort being one of the heaviest tracks on display, but failed to capitalise on this useful exposure, being pretty much disbanded at the tail end of 1981. Apart from "Bedtime", the only studio legacy of the band is a three-track demo recorded at Cargo Studios, released sometime in 1980 and presenting Mr. Halliday (V/G) with Al Short (B) and Geoff Green (D) as accomplices.

To be fair, Race Against Time's music wasn't a million miles away from what Hell would later become, although it's undeniably a much more run-of-the-mill, straight-forward Metal proposition. Of the songs here featured, I won't hesitate to indicate "The Harbinger of Death" as the most capable of all - unsurprisingly, it's also the song with the closest similarities to Hell. It's an intense number with many brief tempo changes, semi-demonic lyrics and a great chorus, all pieces clicking together for great effect. Dave Halliday's vocal histrionics are also shown in embryonic form here, making a clear point that the theatrical side of Hell was always something he had in mind. All in all, an extremely enjoyable number, no doubt about that.

The demo version of "Bedtime" is nearly identical to the one released on the LP compilation - there's a few subtle differences in singing, but not much else to distinguish one take from the other. It's a very direct song, with a heavy drive and lyrics filled with a debauching view on not-remotely-romantic sex ("I don't want to look inside your head / I want to take you to bed!"). As I once told, I happen to like it a hell of a lot (no pun intended), but I can surely understand that many HM devotees consider it to be a minor song, as there's surely no Metal Revolution going on here. The final song "Bleed You Dry" is a kinda odd one: I assume it is something of a banter on the then-collapsing Punk Rock scene, with scornful lyrics and even a football-anthem section to make sure the irony won't go unnoticed. It's not a song for all tastes, that's for sure - but it's surely a Heavy Metal number, and those of you already familiar with Dave Halliday's particular sense of humour (remember, for instance, Hell's now legendary "Save Us From Those Who Would Save Us") are most likely to enjoy it to the full.

I wouldn't say that Race Against Time's early demise was exactly a misfortune or musical injustice - not only because it was a crucial move to allow Hell to be spawned on earth (pun intended, sorry), but also because I'm not sure they could have gone any further in its original form. For my ears, they sound like a transitional project all along: although I'm sure it wasn't the original plan, they kinda make a bridge from the knockabout roots of NWOBHM to the more ellaborate, theatrical and complex contribution that Hell (and kindred-spirited bands such as Sabbat and - why not? - British Doom metallers such as My Dying Bride and Anathema) would develop in later years. Apart from Dave Halliday (who, as we all know, gave his blood and soul to Hell before commiting suicide in 1987), the only other member of Race Against Time to have a future role on Heavy music was bassist Al Short, who took part in Witchfynde soon after the recording of "Lords of Sin" in 1984, but didn't really had a chance to influence the fortunes of the collapsing outfit, making his personal leave of the music scene soon after the group was disbanded.

Dave Halliday (V,G), Al Short (B), Geoff Green (D).

01. The Harbinger of Death 5:08
02. Bedtime  2:50
03. Bleed You Dry 4:03

Huge 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 and let me know!