domingo, 20 de janeiro de 2013

CAMARGUE (UK) - Howl of the Pack (7'', Clubland, 1983)


If you want a bloody rare NWOBHM single, I'll give you one! Camargue's "Howl of the Pack" 7'' is a very elusive piece of vinyl these days, seldom appearing for sale and easily reaching three-figure numbers in every auction. And it was very obscure at the time if came out, too! Released in 1983 by the tiny Clubland label, it's the only known recording from this Lincolnshire bunch known to be functional since the very early 80s, although they never made any perceivable impact in the British Metal scene of those days.

"Howl of the Pack" is undeniably the most interesting thing here for Metal addicts. Carried along by a powerful performance from singer Charlie Bradley, this is a heavy, mid-paced number with a simple-yet-catchy rhythm and a memorable chorus. It has more than a feeling from the 70s, that's for sure, reminding me of bands such as Quartz and Paralex in that sense. I'm somewhat surprise to see how this song is in considerable low regard amongst NWOBHM aficionados, as it's actually a very good stab at heavy music - and it has a nice guitar solo too. Unfortunately, things went into a downward spiral with "Someone Just Like You", the flipside of this 7'' single - an extremely soppy ballad with a nearly oppressive wall of keyboard layers, a song completely at odds with the forceful A-side. I suppose the musicians wanted to show how versatile they could be, showcasing two different sides of their songwriting skills, which was all very understandable - but presenting such a mediocre and feather-weight song after a strong metallic tune such as "Howl of the Pack" surely didn't make Camargue's fate any favours whatsoever.

It's unfortunate (although not really surprising) that Camargue didn't last the distance, probably disbanding in the mid-80s. Guitarist Phil Lowell kept himself busy through the years, performing as a singer to groups such as Betty Swallox and the Back Street Blues Band. Since 1999 he sings and plays guitar and harmonica for an outfit called Gin House, playing mostly covers in a Rhythm'n'Blues vein. Drummer Ged Lineham lend his sticks to bands such as Monterey, Savage and Tokyo through the years, also helping the mighty Saxon in a few live dates in the late 90s. Nowadays, he is working with a progressive rock guitarist called Den Tietze and also recording some solo stuff. Keyboardist Chris Stubley also recorded with Den Tietze and performed as a session musician in a large number of recordings - the most interesting for us headbangers probably being Saxon's "Lionheart" album. I recently came to know that bassist Kim Todd is also active today, playing with a five-piece group called Autumn Storm. It's heartwarming to know that most musicians involved with Camargue managed to keep things going through the years, isn't it? I'll drink to that!

Charlie Bradley (V), Phil Lovell (G/V), Kim Todd (B), Chris Stubley (K), Ged Lineham (D).

01. Howl of the Pack (Bradley, Lovell) 3:35
02. Someone Just Like You (Lineham, Stubley) 4:21

Special thanks to Strappado Metal Blog 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!

CHARLIE 'UNGRY (UK) - The Chester Road Album (CD, ONR, 2003)

 RATING: ***

Maybe it's because I listened to it quite a lot, but fact is I actually came to create a sensible sympathy for Charlie 'Ungry. Although far from being bashed or rejected, their "The Chester Road Album" compilation CD is not that well regarded among dedicated NWOBHM collectors, being widely considered as one for the completists. It's not that I completely disagree with this notion (let's be honest, their music is far from being archetypal NWOBHM and may be really unappealing for most die-hard metalheads), but I think they were a good band with a respectable repertoire, being able to craft some interesting - sometimes heavy, sometimes very individualistic - songs in their own right. Even though sometimes they lose the plot completely, I must add.

The humble begginings of Charlie 'Ungry date back to 1976, soon after the splits of Yellow Bird (who came as far as to release the "Attack Attack" single in 1974) and Scruff. From Yellow Bird came Jeff Gibbs (B) and Tony Sando (V), also the main songwriters in Charlie 'Ungry, and Scruff contributed with Steve Protheroe (G) and Andy Demetriou (D). They were hugely influenced by bands such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, as they admit themselves in the booklet of this CD - but were also more than happy to embrace elements that would span from glam rock to psychedelic music, incluiding some Beatles-esque feelings here and there. Not a recipe for skull-crushing Heavy Metal, that's for sure, but nothing too objectionable either. Most of the songs were recorded in a single session in 1978, that would remain totally unreleased until early 1980, when they issued three of those songs ("House on Chester Road", "Preacher" and "Who's My Killer") in a self-financed 7'' EP.

The timing was considerably right: although they never really planned to be part of any Heavy Metal renaissance in UK, the NWOBHM boom gave Charlie 'Ungry a new breath of life. The EP sold over 2000 copies and the band was an assiduous club presence in and around London, even opening for John Entwhistle's Rigor Mortis on occasion. Unfortunately, no record label offers were received, and Charlie 'Ungry started to lose heart. Steve Protheroe (G) left the band and went to play on the Dutch rock circuit, being replaced by Tony Nurse. They recorded two more songs in late 1980, purportedly for a 7'' single that never came out. Convinced that they were flogging a dead horse at the time, Charlie 'Ungry broke up in 1981, dropping into oblivion until the ressurgence of NWOBHM collecting scene in the late 90s.

"The Chester Road Album" compiles the full recordings from 1978 and the two songs from 1980, and this CD makes clear for everyone's ears that their association with NWOBHM was much more by chance than design, really. Several songs here have little or nothing to do with Heavy Metal - which is no tragedy at all, as they make quite a pleasant listen nonetheless. From the original 3-track EP, "Who's My Killer" would be the pick of the bunch - a good, heavy song with nice guitar work, although it almost loses direction completely halfway through in a pointless (albeit mercifully brief) interlude that just makes you wonder what the hell they were thinking, honestly. "House on Chester Road" is good too, an energetic rock'n'roll tune with a mellower, catchy chorus, whereas "Preacher" is a melancholical semi-folky song that comes and goes without leaving any lasting impression, to be honest.

A nice thing about this band, in my opinion, is in the lyrics department: instead of the usual girls-booze-and-heavy-metal nonsense of most of their contemporaries, they more than once sing about personal experiences in a thoughtful manner, something that add a different dimension to many of their songs. My personal favorites, apart from the EP cuts, would be the truly excellent "Sometimes I Go Out of My Mind" (with a simple-yet-moving riff, strong chorus and an emotional feeling throughout), "Digby Rising" (a beautiful ballad with a melody that sticks to your mind for days), "Let it Ride" (a bass-driven, inventive rocker here) and, believe me or not, "Where Are You Now Christina" - a very dramatic ballad about a broken heart that has absolutely not a glimpse of Metal in it, but that I found to be really moving and memorable. I know many would fiercely beg to differ but oh well, I hope we can live through this, right?

Sometimes they would surely go a little too far for their own good - "Memories", for example, starts like a pretty average glam-rocker and suddenly metamorphoses into a heavy, dynamic mid section that (although very interesting) is completely at odds with the rest of the song. They should have taken that heavy interlude and used it in a proper Heavy Metal song, if you ask me. On the other hand, "Try it Again" and "To Get Back Home" are predictable rockers that, although far from atrocious, will probably be forgotten immediately after the CD spinning is over. For those of you who expect to hear Heavy music, songs like the aforementioned "Who's My Killer", "Keep the Peace" and "We're Gonna Ride" may be much more your cup of tea. Whatever your taste is, though, "The Chester Road Album" will have something for you - so I would kindly suggest you to give it a few listens if you have the time. It may grow on you, believe me.

Tony Sando (V), Steve Protheroe (G), Jeff Gibbs (B), Andy Demetriou (D).
Also perform: Tony Nurse (G).

01. Who's My Killer 5:43
02. Sometimes I Go Out of My Mind 6:00
03. Try it Again 5:11
04. Where Are You Now Christina 3:53
05. House on Chester Road 4:29
06. To Get Back Home 6:02
07. We're Gonna Ride 4:43
08. Digby Rising 5:31
09. Preacher 3:31
10. Time to Go 3:34
11. Keep the Peace 4:00
12. Memories 4:55
13. Let it Ride 4:49
14. Poor Boy's Blues 4:39

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, 17 de janeiro de 2013

VALKYRIE (UK) - From "Seaside Rock" compilation (2 LP, Airship, 1981) plus Demo #1 (demo, private, 1983)

RATING: ****

The good days of NWOBHM are seemingly inexhaustible when it comes to surprises. Sometimes, you will be confronted with extremely rare stuff from bands that, to be brutally honest, didn't really deserve much more than the oblivion they actually achieved; on other occasions, though, I find myself utterly shocked to just how damn good some obscurities were. This british Valkyrie - a band that had only one song ever pressed and whose known legacy features just four songs - is that kind of Heavy Metal combo who deserved way more than they actually managed to get.

There's not much info on Valkyrie really. They were from West Sussex, most probably from the city of Chichester, and were presumably doing the rounds since the very beggining of the 80's. Their first (and only) vinyl appearance came to be in 1981, via a local band compilation called "Seaside Rock" and released by Airship label. I suppose this early exposure was a bit useless though, as they were not just the only band to be allowed to contribute with a single song (all other groups featured with two tracks each), but also the only genuine Heavy Metal in a double-LP compilation... Undeterred, the lads persevered for quite a while longer (Malc McMillan, in his NWOBHM Encyclopedia, assumes they were active until the mid-80s), although with no further vinyl ever coming out, something that was a complete disgrace if you ask me. It seems that guitarist Graham Hutchason was the only member to take part in both recording sessions known at present, suggesting that the band suffered a complete reshuffle (maybe even reuniting after a split) from 1981 to 1983, when "Demo #1" (was it the first demo really or a mention to some sort of band rebirth?) was released. Efforts are being made to locate some of the lads and, if we suceed, I'm sure we will have plenty more details to report. Fingers crossed!

Undeniably their most known song (which is not to say much, I know, but you know what I mean), "Cradle to the Grave" is quite a nice piece of music - actually, it kicks ass. It opens in epic proportions: centered on a astute guitar tapping, the rhythm section works to create a growing atmosphere, helped by some synthetizers trying to emulate orchestra-like arrangements. It could sound a bit better, but it's quite impressive nonetheless. Then the song launches into a heavy assault with intense riffing and semi-demonic lyrics - and, after a few minutes, you will almost surely find yourself throwing shapes and raising the horns to this great song. The fact that it was issued only in such a nondescript local band compilation was, if truth be told, a complete disgrace - I'm entirely sure that it could (and should) have been the A-side of a killer 7'' single under different circumstances. Yeah, I like it THAT much! ^^

The other three songs I know from Valkyrie are from a demo from 1983, and they give us a better picture of how capable the band was. Although none of the songs displayed are as strong and memorable as "Cradle to the Grave", they surely deliver some good Heavy Metal here, in a forceful, energetic style which reminds me of Hollow Ground, Mythra and stuff like that. My favorite song would be "Warlords" (a strong number with a somewhat epic feel, despite being a fast-paced attack not too far from what we would later know as Power/Speed Metal), even though "Streetfighter" (not really surprising, but undeniably effective and with nice guitar solos) and "I Know Your Name" (a more hard-rocking song with nice riffing throughout) are also very enjoyable pieces of music. Not a single fault at all, and the instrumentation are very competent too, with singer Marc Hume showcasing a youthful and raunchy voice that fits like a glove to the material here featured.

Excellent stuff really, and it's a shame that there's no prospect of a CD release in the foreseeable future, as far as I know. I mean, there's gotta be more stuff hidden out there - and Valkyrie surely deserves to be available in official format, the sooner the better. I had very elusive info about Mark Robothan (drummer at the "Cradle to the Grave" sessions) being later involved with a band called Thieves Kitchen, but that's it. If someone has any info to further enlighten us, I would wholeheartedly beg you to get in touch, as I REALLY would like to know more about Valkyrie and their excellent music.

On "Seaside Rock": Graham Hutchason (G), Mark Robothan (D), Marshall Penn, Michael Wylam, Tom Broughton
On "Demo #1": Marc Hume (V), Graham Hutchason (G), Percy (G), Craig Alexander (B), Graham Linn (D)

Cradle to the Grave (Hutchason, Penn, Wylam) 5:37

01. Streetfighter 3:15
02. Warlords 5:05
03. I Know Your Name 4:06

Extra mega-special thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for band photos and formation info!

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, 13 de janeiro de 2013

SCARAB (UK) - Rolling Like Thunder (2 CD, High Roller, 2011)


Since the first listen quite a while ago, I always held a mostly positive, but slightly mixed feeling about Scarab's "Poltergeist" single from 1984. Both songs were good, but I had the distinct feeling that "Poltergeist" was a little bit too confusing for its own good, full of different parts without a perceivable direction, while "Hell on Wheels" was a more concise, a tad heavier - and a lot more enjoyable - number. Anyway, it was a very interesting and promising 7'' single, and it was natural to wonder what their other songs would sound like. A knowledge that now we all can achieve, thanks to the mighty High Roller Records, who released the abrangent "Rolling Like Thunder" double-CD compilation in late 2011.

Scarab first came to be in mid 1981, when Paul Britton (G) and Steve Riley (D) were joined by Andy Lewis (V) and Gary Crowe (B). They recorded a few songs, made some plans to release their "Hell Hotel" song as a single in 1982, but this earlier formation was disbanded before any vinyl was pressed, with Lewis and Crowe making their leave. Nigel Shaw (ex-Strontium Dog) joined in as bassist, and Paul Britton took all singing duties to himself, calling Dave Parrish to support him as a second guitarist. With this formation, Scarab recorded most of its studio material (incluiding the now well-regarded "Poltergeist" single, released on Britton's own Pharaoh label) and made a lot of shows around the Midlands, consolidating a strong and dynamic brand of Metal which reminds me of bands such as Angel Witch, Ricochet and Overdrive - all very commendable comparisions, indeed. Towards the end of their existence, Paul Brookes (D) replaced Steve Riley, and the band recorded a couple more songs before ceasing all ativities in early 1986.

CD one starts with "Don't Stare" and "All Night Long" - both good songs, but nothing to really set pulses racing, to be honest. These songs are from their first studio adventure, in late 1981, still with Andy Lewis at the mike stand, so it's perfectly excusable that they just weren't ready to deliver the goods just yet. Things improve greatly with "For Whom Does the Bell Toll" and "Horsemen of the Apocalypse", both being complex, grandiose songs with fair ammounts of energy and creativity. The latter, incidentally, shows the same signs of structural confusion that I heard on "Poltergeist", although it's not enough to cause any fatal injuries. "Stop the Rock" is in a much more rock an' rollin' mood (yeah, you guessed it), and it's actually a very enjoyable song (despite the annoying vocal arrangements towards the end), whereas "Acid Trap", though not a bad song at all, fails to leave any lasting impression (well, in me at least). The first version of "Hell On Wheels" already shows what a nice piece of songwriting this song is, and it worths a careful listen for the slightly different lyrics and song structure. "Let Us Pray" attempts to be a somber, climatic epic ballad, but it turns out to be quite boring and uneventful - which is a different case entirely when it comes to "Rolling Like Thunder", a heavy-driven effort which can  induce a fair dose of headbanging, although the slow-tempo mid section is slightly out of place here. To finish proceedings, "Into the Labyrinth" - a slow, twisting heavy tale which achieves what "Let Us Pray" tries to no avail: it's actually quite a sinister song, believe me! These last two songs were the only studio offerings with Paul Brookes on drums, and it's fair to say that he does a commendable job.

Opening disk two, the two more well-known songs from Scarab: "Poltergeist" and "Hell on Wheels", from their 1984 single, of course. I haven't heard both songs for a while, but my opinion stays pretty much the same: the A-side is undoubtedly a good song, but slightly lacks direction, while the latter is a cracking effort with great riffing and an awesome chorus. After that, we are gifted with four live recordings made in Birmingham, UK sometime in 1985. The sound quality is decent, and they seem to have been a strong proposition on stage. It was a later stage in their career, and it's clear for all to hear that they were more than ready for greater things at the time - as all four songs are truly excellent efforts, played with great confidence and enthusiasm. "Prisoners" is also recorded live, but at another gig from 1985, at the Tamworth Art Center. The quality is perceivably poorer and (although the song itself shows genuine potential) the listening experience turns out to be quite disappointing, mostly because of the dreadful singalong moment - something that may work out fine when you're at the actual live experience, but always sound unconvincing when in an album (it never convinces ME, you know). Considering the crowd noises, it seems that maybe a dozen chaps had a great time that night, but I would really had prefered to hear a proper studio recording of such a promising song, you know. The last two songs are "Hell Hotel" and "Dead On My Feet", recorded in 1982 for that never-released single. It would have been a nice collectable, that's for sure - as both songs, although not as mature and well-crafted as later efforts would be, are intense heavy-rockers more than suitable for a good headbang, and Andy Lewis' singing is very acceptable too.

All things considered, Scarab was a good band with some interesting songs under their belts, so it's somewhat unfortunate that they couldn't resist the half of the 80's, a period when trends changed in British music and that came to be the kiss of death for so many bands. Paul Britton kept himself considerably busy, though, recording an album's worth of material under the name Trappazat around the turn of the 90's and joining bands such as Jameson Raid and Solstice. Today, he is supposedly working on a solo album. The legacy of Scarab may not be the most groundbreaking stuff even pressed on CD, but it's good old Heavy Metal from the days they did it best, and there's far enough good music here to justify your investment in a copy.

Paul Britton (V/G), Dave Parrish (G), Nigel Shaw (B), Steve Riley (D). Also perform: Andy Lewis (V), Gary Crowe (B), Paul Brookes (D).

All songs by Paul Britton, except * by Paul Britton / Dave Parrish

01. Don't Stare 5:25
02. All Night Long 4:25
03. For Whom Does the Bell Toll * 6:39
04. Horsemen of the Apocalypse 7:58
05. Stop the Rock 5:33
06. Acid Trap 5:43
07. Hell On Wheels (vrs. 1) * 5:39
08. Let Us Pray * 6:58
09. Rolling Like Thunder 5:37
10. Into the Labyrinth 8:31

01. Poltergeist 5:44
02. Hell On Wheels (vrs. 2) * 4:32
03. Fighting for the Right (live) * 3:54
04. Vampyre (live) * 5:14
05. Hell Hotel (live) (vrs. 1) 4:15
06. Rock Don't Live Here Anymore (live) * 5:00
07. Prisoners (live) * 8:03
08. Hell Hotel (vrs. 2) 5:07
09. Dead On My Feet 4:54

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!