segunda-feira, 29 de abril de 2013

GOGMAGOG (UK) - I Will Be There (12'', Food For Thought, 1985)


It's no secret to any dedicated Heavy Metal fan that even the most well-regarded musicians of the genre are vulnerable to some painful mistakes from time to time. I mean, they're human beings after all, right? Unfortunately, some of these regrettable experiences end up being immortalised in vinyl or CD format, becoming either a laughing stock or a ghost from the past to haunt some otherwise serious and extremely respectable artists. Gogmagog's sole EP from 1985 is one of those vinyl disasters: a venture that seemed to be very promising at first, but soon revealed itself as an unmitigated musical tragedy.

I mean, the unsuspecting metalhead can easily get quite excited about it, looking at the band credits. Paul Di'Anno (the already legendary ex-singer of Iron Maiden), Clive Burr (another ex-Maiden stalwart, who also handle the sticks for Samson), Janick Gers (ex-White Spirit and Gillan guitarist), Neil Murray (bass player of Gary Moore and Whitesnake fame) and Pete Willis (who lend his guitar talents to the immensely popular Def Leppard for a number of years). Looks promising, huh? And maybe it could have been a NWOBHM monster in its own right, if these undeniably capable musicians were willing to concentrate their efforts into being a proper band. Something that never was the case, unfortunately.

In fact, Gogmagog is an idea that came from the mind of Jonathan King, a record producer and band manager that went as far as to head Decca Records during the 60s and 70s, being also responsible for discovering highly successful groups such as Genesis, Bay City Rollers and 10cc. Considering that the most accesible branch of NWOBHM could be an interesting niche (and a shortcut for some ready cash, of course), King decided to assemble a Heavy Metal supergroup, enrolling some household names in British heavy music and hoping to get the show on the road with a huge stage production and massive media coverage. As you all can see by now, it never was the case of great musicians choosing to join forces in a new band: Gogmagog was pretty much the result of a series of phone calls, proposed contracts and commercial viabilities.

Some of the musicians invited to the venture refused to took any role in it, namely bassist John Entwistle (ex-The Who and then a solo artist) and drummer Cozy Powell (world-wide famous for his stints with Rainbow and Whitesnake). But Mr. King somehow managed to convince (outwit?) some well-respected players to sign the dotted line. To their credit, it's worth noting that some of the guys were in a slightly difficult situation at the time. Paul Di'Anno was trying to reassess his situation after a very poorly-received solo album; Pete Willis was still to figure out what to do after his departure from Def Leppard; and Clive Burr, after a brief period with french heavy rockers Trust, found no success in his post-Maiden project Stratus, in which he was helped by some ex-members of Praying Mantis. All things considered, it's not unreasonable to infer that these musicians saw in Gogmagog, more than a good money-maker, a genuine chance to put their careers back on track. Soon they would find out just how wrong they were...

Some people have suggested that the 3 tracks featured in the Gogmagog EP were taken from a larger batch of recorded numbers, perhaps sessions for an intended LP that never came out. It's not true, I must reveal: the three songs are (fortunately, I guess) the only ones Gogmagog ever laid on tape, in a very quickly-assembled recording session aimed to convince promoters to finance an UK tour. The songs were written by Jonathan King himself with the help of Russ Ballard - a much in-demand songwriter in the first half of the 80s, who wrote some good NWOBHM songs such as "Tonight" (Tokyo Blade) and "Riding with the Angels" (Samson). The fact that the material wasn't anything to set the world ablaze, though, wouldn't encourage any music entrepeneurs to splash the cash and, in spite of Jonathan King's best efforts (at least I suppose he made his best efforts, you know), not a single show ever took place. The recruited musicians surely figured out in no time how hopeless the whole venture was and jumped off the Gogmagog wagon in a matter of weeks, maybe secretly wishing none of it would ever see the light of day.

Oh well, it was surely a case of wishful thinking, as Mr. King would never lose a chance to make some money out of it. The "I Will Be There" 12'' LP actually came to be released in 1985 via Food For Thought. Although King offers an implausible version of the events surrounding the band and its sole release (click on the image to read for yourself), now the world had the chance to make their own minds about the Gogmagog fiasco. To be fair, I think the title-track is a reasonably good mid-tempo number with some good ideas on display (and Paul Di'Anno does a commendable job here too), so it's not a total disaster when it comes to musical merits. But the other two songs featured ("Living in a Fucking Time Warp", which rips off Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight" in major fashion, and "It's Illegal, It's Immoral, It's Unhealthy, But It's Fun") are not only bad: frankly, both are terrible. The record as a whole has a unmistakeable feeling of fraud, like someone who did not have a single clue on Heavy Metal trying to deceive some unwary listeners - and let's face it, that's pretty much the exact case here. 

As I'm sure you all already figured out by now, Gogmagog's EP is a plain embarassing release (although the artwork is actually not bad at all), one that may only appeal to the most obsessive Iron Maiden completists - and not on musical grounds, readers take note. It comes as no surprise to learn that the five musicians involved weren't exactly proud of the whole debacle - Jannick Gers and Pete Willis mentioned it in not-remotely-fond terms in later interviews, admiting with point-blank honesty that it was little more than a shameless cash-in, whereas Paul Di'Anno simply refused to comment on the subject for the time being. Fortunately, all the guys managed to move on, with different levels of success. Paul Di'Anno formed Battlezone and Killers (and also recorded a number of quite bizarre, not-very-respectable projects such as the "Original Iron Men" series), but later decided to just keep playing the same old Maiden songs all over the world - something that I always found to be quite sad, as I'm sure he could have done better with his music career. Today, he's engaged in a so-called Farewell Tour (his health being quite problematic for over a decade), a jaunt that recently visited my home country Brazil (I didn't attend any of the concerts, unfortunately).

Neil Murray would later record with Black Sabbath, Bow Wow, Fastway, Badlands, Brian May, Tony Martin and countless others. Pete Willis soon started his Nightrun project, later renamed as Roadhouse and that came as far as to release an eponymous album of not-really-impressive melodic rock in 1991. Nowadays, he lives a good live outside of music, running a property management company in Sheffield, UK. Janick Gers would be lost in the wilderness for a number of years before Lady Luck smiled to him - at first with Bruce Dickinson's solo project, later as a member of the mighty Iron Maiden. Clive Burr had his ventures too, sitting at the drumstool in bands such as Praying Mantis, Desperado and Elixir before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis - a disease that ultimately (and sadly) led to his demise in early 2013. I'm thankful for all the good music, and may God rest his soul.

And what about Jonathan King, you ask me? Well, I guess he wasn't done with Heavy Metal just yet, and soon became the manager of Briar, a youthful British band that released a nice and enjoyable album called "Too Young" in 1985. Lured by the tales of glory of Mr. King, the once-promising foursome delivered a second album called "Crown of Thorns" in 1987, a truly dismal LP which even presents a terrible reworking of Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" for no fathomable reason. Briar even re-recorded the lenghty-and-stupidly-titled "It's Illegal, It's Immoral, It's Unhealthy, But It's Fun" (a composition that takes the let's-repeat-the-name-of-the-song-over-and-over choruses to a whole new level) in a later single before giving up for good in the early-to-mid 90s, in one of the most unfortunate sequence of events in the entire NWOBHM. After experiencing some huge problems with The Law (he even endured some time behind bars for child abuse, an indictment he always vehemently denied), Mr. King went to play a major role in the successful careers of musical endeavours such as The Corrs and Chumbawamba. No further connections with the Heavy Metal universe, fortunately.

Paul Di'Anno (V), Janick Gers (G), Pete Willis (G), Neil Murray (B), Clive Burr (D).

01. I Will Be There 04:35
02. Living in a Fucking Time Warp 03:14
03. It's Illegal, It's Immoral, It's Unhealthy, But It's Fun 03:30

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 abril de 2013

NIGHT GAMES (UK-Wales) - Searching For An Angel (7'', Private, 1984)


Yet another obscure release that few privileged individuals can actually claim to possess a copy, Night Games' "Searching For An Angel" is an uncommon release in the amazing realm of NWOBHM in a number of aspects. In fact, it transpires that these hopefuls from Gwent, Wales never actually came to be a proper band, being no more than a very short side-project of a drummer called Huw Williams - that I suppose to have been an active name on Wales' rock circuit at the time, although I've no idea on what bands he was involved with prior to this point. Apparently, the man believed to have a few good ideas to explore, and chose (after a few studio sessions with guest musicians to help matters) to release a one-sided, privately pressed promo single - in such a limited pressing that I reckon very few people ever get to listen to it. At least until some kind-hearted individual generated a mp3 file of it, that have been discreetly circulating in P2P services for almost a full decade now.

"Searching for An Angel" is actually a pretty nice hard rocker, with tuneful vocals (which remind me quite a lot of Traitor's Gate singer Robby Evans, in such a way that I wouldn't doubt it is the man himself singing here too) and an interesting, tasteful use of keyboard layers to enhance the melodic side of things. The arrangements are all very adequate too, and the composition as a whole more than qualifies as a worthy inclusion to the most melodic and classy side of the NWOBHM spectrum. A very impressive number indeed, even more if we consider that it was all hastily-assembled for an one-off spell in the studio.

To be frank, I'm not even sure this 7'' ever made into any wider circulation, as it is indeed an extremely scarce collectable these days. The idea of releasing a single with just one song in it, although not exactly unique, is kinda hard to comprehend too - I don't know, maybe it was aimed specifically to a few influential individuals in the business and/or a local radio station or two. Whatever the case, it seems to have been a very brief experience for those involved, and there's no other signs of activity from Night Games anytime, anywhere.

Huw Williams (not to be mistaken with another welsh musician who took part in outfits such as the slightly distasteful The Pooh Sticks) was a very common name for drummers in and around Wales, as there were at least three identically-named individuals sitting at drumstools throughout the 80s. As we now know, the one Huw Williams who assembled Night Games is neither (contrary to what Malc McMillan's otherwise-accurate NWOBHM Encyclopedia says) the one who played with Count Shout and December Rose, nor the one who performed with Liverpool indie bands such as The Jactars and Crickey! It’s the Cromptons (don't ask me, I don't have a clue). There's a certain Huw Williams still playing drums in Gwent, acting as a jazz musician and music teacher, but we're not sure at this point if he is the man behind Night Games or yet another guy that would make the whole situation even more difficult to elucidate. The other names involved with this venture are still to be determined - if you have any helpful info (or a reliable image of the record, as I couldn't find none), please get in touch!

Last update: June 15th, 2013

Musicians unknown

01. Searching For An Angel 4:18

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, 21 de abril de 2013

New Electric Warriors (Compilation, UK, Logo, 1980)


Alright, I know damn too well that most (if not all) of you already own a copy of "New Electric Warriors" LP, or at least downloaded a handful of mp3 files to have a good listen at it. So, I'm perfectly aware that this compilation (released by Logo Records in the later months of 1980) is no secret to almost all potential readers of this humble blog. But I gave it a few listens lately, and I thought it would be fun to drop a few lines about it here - as this place is not only my personal Playlist, but also a good excuse to have fun with some good, old-fashioned headbanging. So please let me have a good time while reviewing this classic album, compiled by journalist Nigel Burnham at the height of the NWOBHM explosion (and please kindly read the rant of the man on the picture sleeve, as it's a very passionate - and slightly over-the-top - extolting of the spirit of those days), one of the truly seminal releases of the entire NWOBHM.

The fun begins with Turbo and their "Running" effort - a song that ephitomizes simplicity in all possible aspects, not only in its name. As previously reviewed on a earlier post, it's an extremely direct tune with marvellously brain-dead lyrics that stick like glue to your mind for days - nothing too ground-breaking or stunningly refined, that's for sure, but quite a lot of fun nonetheless. Buffalo's "Battle Torn Heroes" goes on in similar fashion (the song is pretty much the same riff repeated over and over with a small break for the chorus), but fails to achieve the same results of its predecessor, being a slightly repetitive number in comparision. Next comes Streetfighter with "She's No Angel" - a heavy-rocking tune with many solos and a prominent 70's feeling throughout. Not bad at all, if you ask me - I actually like it more than all songs from their later EP, for instance. Stormtrooper (yet another band to choose one of the most overused monickers of the Heavy Metal universe), on their turn, delivers an unremarkable number called "Grind 'n' Heat" - a very basic tune that can be heard without suffering, but won't set any pulses racing neither, and which is also plagued with a too-raw-for-its-own-good production.

Things improve greatly soon after, though, with a very talented band called Tarot and an awesome headbanging tune called "Feel the Power". It became something of a classic song for NWOBHM fans worldwide, and deservedly so: the riffing is great, the singing is top-notch, the chorus is no less than memorable and the groove of this song will set your neck in motion in a matter of seconds. The fact that they never came to release any other product of their own (and that the band members are quite hard to locate, seemingly vanished off the Earth soon after the LP was out) is extremely unfortunate, as they were surely one of the most deserving acts here featured. Shame on you, record labels of the day! Bastille's "Hard Man" pales quite a lot in comparision, although it's not a bad song at all. Actually, it is a simple heavy rocker with some good (albeit slightly rudimentary) ideas - nothing to be ashamed of, really. Anyway, let's not compare it to Oxym's "Hot Rain", next song in queue, as it would be a bit too rough with them. In fact, Oxym delivers another highlight of this LP, an inventive song which unites quite efficiently heaviness and melody - it reminds me a bit of Witchfinder General, but with a more tuneful chorus and semi-progressive guitar leads. Truly outstanding. If you're listening to the LP version, the A side will be almost over by now, and the immensely capable Dawnwatcher will close proceedings with "Firing on All Eight". Although I consider that they did even better on their two later singles, they surely do a commendable job here, with a Rainbow-influenced number full of nice twists and turns and enhanced by astute keyboard interventions.

The last eight tracks (the B side of the original release) don't make such an accomplished unit as the previous selection, although it sure have its moments. To be honest, though, I must confess I never really understood all the fuss about Vardis, you know. "If I Were King" is not a bad song at all (it's actually a good-enough boogie-metal collision with a very catchy groove in the best Motorhead vein), but it's not that remarkable either - and the fact that it's actually one of finest moments in Vardis' career is to say something about the band's musical inheritance. Silverwing's "Rock and Roll Are Four Letters Words" is nothing to set the world ablaze too, although their proto-sleazy heavy rocking is so immature that it actually turns out to be quite funny and entertaining. The first enthusiastic thumb-up on side B, nevertheless, comes in the form of Rhabstallion and their very capable "Chain Reaction" effort. It's an intense, solid heavy rock with a somewhat 'serious' feeling to it, like they had something good to deliver and were too focused to have fun while playing it. Nothing too polished or too thoughtful, but it works out quite well, and the let's-repeat-the-name-of-the-song-four-times-in-a-row chorus actually do the trick in this particular case. I also enjoy Colossus' "Holding Back Your Love" (a not-that-hard rocking tune with many keyboard layers and soft, tuneful vocals), though I suppose that it's perfectly forgivable if the more die-hard metalheads among you consider it to be a bit too sweet for your tastes.

The next two tracks (Jedediah Strut's "Working Nights" and "Still On the Outside" from Warrior - yes, another one) are so emblematic that I use both to measure the "NWOBHM coefficient" of a given Heavy Metal fan, as it helps me to determine just how much enjoyment he (or she) would take from the really obscure NWOBHM stuff. Let's face it, most of the rare singles and demos that people are crazy to hear are either simple heavy tunes centered around a nice-but-predictable riff (as Jedediah Strut's contribution) or mid-tempo heavy rockers with more than a hint of the 70s and a slightly predictable song structure (as in the Warrior tune here). If you happen to enjoy at least one of these songs, then your NWOBHM coefficient is high enough to justify some digging into the underground; if both songs fail to cause any impression on you, then I guess you can live a pleasant and healthy life without caring too much with the real obscurities. Personally speaking, I happen to enjoy Warrior's number a bit more, but both are funny listens to me, though I know in my heart that there's nothing too extraordinary going on. Therefore, I guess I'm something of an incurable case when it comes to this wonderful branch of heavy music...

That said, Kosh's "The Hit" will be useless for none but one Heavy Metal measurement: in fact, if you can sincerely look into my eyes and say you love this song from the bottom of your heart, then you surely deserve the Heavy Metal Medal of Honor for die-hard metalheads. It's quite a painful listen, to be honest, with the poor production and out-of-tune vocals only demeaning an already difficult experience. It's all too amateurish for their own good, and I guess Mr. Nigel Burnham commited a mistake here, as they clearly were not ready for a vinyl debut just yet. If they could have done better with a few more years of hard working is something that seemingly will be forever open to debate - but "The Hit" is just a plain bad song and recording, sorry about that. To close proceedings, Race Against Time (centered around the now-legendary Dave Halliday in his pre-Hell days) launches into "Bedtime", a not-very-subtle metaphor on mundane sex which may be slightly tasteless for more delicate palates but which turns out to be one of the heaviest songs here, with a very strong groove well suited for a bit of headbanging. I like it, and even put it among my favorite songs in here, but I can surely accept that some people would be less-than-impressed with it, as it isn't a true ground-breaker in any sense.

"New Electric Warriors" was only a mild success when it comes to taking the bands featured one step further in the business. Only Vardis and Silverwing (later reincarnated as Pet Hate) went as far as to release a few LPs; Buffalo and Rhabstallion would release full CDs but only in much later years, as part of the NWOBHM revival of the mid-to-late 90s. Turbo, Streetfighter, Oxym and Dawnwatcher would get as far as to release one or two single/EPs of their own, but not else (and I must add that, contrary to common belief, Jedediah Strut was never close to release any vinyl product of their own); the remaining acts would have this LP as their sole claim to fame, something which is very unfortunate in some cases. All things considered, though, "New Electric Warriors" is more than a must-have for any serious NWOBHM collector: it's also a good introduction to this fascinating period in British Metal music, and in Heavy Metal as a genre. Don't hesitate too much on buying a copy when you have the chance - and, if you happen to have been a member of any of those bands (the mighty Tarot, for instance) please please please get in touch!

See picture scan of the back cover for further details

01. TURBO - Running 2:38
02. BUFFALO - Battle Torn Heroes 3:34
03. STREETFIGHTER - She's No Angel 6:05
04. STORMTROOPER - Grind 'n' Heat 4:03
05. TAROT - Feel the Power 5:31
06. BASTILLE - Hard Man 3:45
07. OXYM - Hot Rain 3:33
08. DAWNWATCHER - Firing On All Eight 4:10
09. VARDIS - If I Were King 3:02
10. SILVERWING - Rock and Roll Are Four Letter Words 3:16
11. RHABSTALLION - Chain Reaction 3:47
12. COLOSSUS - Holding Back Your Love 3:37
13. JEDEDIAH STRUT - Working Nights 2:42
14. WARRIOR - Still On the Outside 3:38
15. KOSH - The Hit 3:02
16. RACE AGAINST TIME - Bedtime 2:57

Extra thanks to The Corroseum 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!

sexta-feira, 12 de abril de 2013

BEG TO DIFFER (UK) - The Singer and the Artist (7'', Micro Records, 1985)


When it comes to visual contents, Beg to Differ's sole single from 1985 is surely one of the most surprising artefacts of the entire NWOBHM era - although, if we're to be really strict here, a 1985 debut doesn't really qualify as NWOBHM when it comes to release dates. The front cover speaks for itself, and those who own a copy (don't look at me, mate, hope to get there someday!) describe a fold-out sleeve with band pictures, illustrations and lyrics for both songs featured (namely "The Singer and the Artist" and "Moving Away"). It's quite a beautiful package indeed, although Beg to Differ seem to have been a somewhat fleeting project, being extremely difficult to find any references to live outings or any further activities from them. I reckon they bet all their chips into this lovingly-presented single, hoping that it would attract some media and label attention and planning to build up from there - something that, as we all know by now, just never happened. And it's unfortunate, as this two-tracker contents show in a pretty effective manner.

"The Singer and the Artist" lives up to the promise of the record's presentation, being a very adventurous and inventine number full of subtle arrangements and tempo changes. The vocals are not that adequate though, the high-demanding vocal lines being apparently too much for the limited skills of Ray Berry. Don't get me wrong, it's far from any disaster scenario, but it's just too clear that he is stretching his singing at near breaking point in this particular track. He survives relatively unscathed, though, and the interesting sollutions on songwriting and high level of musicianship overall more than qualifies the tune to a very high position in the NWOBHM ranking. Flipside "Moving Away" is a far more down-to-earth, hard-rocking tune with the usual let's-repeat-the-name-of-the-track-over-and-over chorus. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable number too, with a guitar-only intro enhanced by semi-martial drumming before launching into an upbeat rocker that can really set some necks in motion, if you ask me. All in all, a remarkably capable release for such a fly-by-night group, and one that most Heavy Metal fans are very likely to enjoy quite a lot.

Unfortunately, most of the musicians involved with this promising release seem to have made no further appearances in the metal scene - which is a bit of a shame, as their collective talents are more than evident here. The only musician who seem to have kept a somewhat high profile in the Metal scene was guitarist Colin Riggs, curiously as a bass player rather than the guitarist he originally was. He joined Tokyo Blade's offshot Mr. Ice in the late 80s before being recruited for Tokyo Blade itself and taking a part in the recording sessions for the "Burning Down Paradise" and "Pumphouse" CDs. Mr. Riggs would also be enrolled by Paul Dianno's Battlezone, recording the respectable "Feel My Pain" CD and touring extensively throughout the world. It was a very enriching experience, I'm sure, although it seems that Colin Riggs chose to pursuit different challenges from the early 2000's onwards, as he did not surface on any other music groups of note. Any extra info on Beg to Differ would be very appreciated!

UPDATE (August 9th, 2015): I just learned that Ray Berry, who performed vocal duties for Beg to Differ, unfortunately passed away on July 2014. I'm sure he was deeply loved by all those who knew him, and I'm grateful for all the music. May God rest his soul.

Ray Berry (V), Colin Riggs (G), Pete Langford (B), Russ Poole (D).

01. The Singer and the Artist 4:01
02. Moving Away 3:18

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!

quarta-feira, 10 de abril de 2013

One Take No Dubs (Compilation, UK, Neat, 1982)

RATING: ****

Although the NWOBHM period had quite a lot of vinyl compilations to call their own, EP releases were far less common than full album selections - something understandable, I guess, as it didn't make much sense to assume the expenses of such an endeavour and not putting out an LP in the first place. One of the few EP compilations of those days (and one of the most well-regarded amongst collectors), however, comes in the form of Neat's "One Take No Dubs" EP from 1982, a pretty functionally-presented release with an interesting (not to say money-saving) concept: four promising new groups, a song for each band, all recorded in a single  live-in-the-studio take with (yeah, you guessed it) no overdubs. Fortunately, there's no shortage in talent or enthusiasm here, this 12'' being an excellent choice if you are a NWOBHM fanatic who had enough of mp3 files and just started to form a proper collection to call your own (yeah, me too).

The record kicks off in major fashion, with Alien delivering an awesome heavy rocker in the shape of "Could Have Done Better". The drive of this tune is overwhelming, and the simple-and-catchy vocal lines just stick to your mind for days. It's a total disgrace that this combo never released any vinyl artefact of their own, as they were an undeniably capable group of musicians with nice songs to their credit (their other vinyl appearance, "Absolute Zero" in the "60 Minute Plus" compilation, also kicks ass). Next comes the more well-known Avenger and their "Hot 'n' Heavy Express" - featuring the unmistakable vocals of Mr. Brian Ross, a few months before joining forces with Satan for the ultra-classic "Court in the Act" LP. It's a good enough track, admitedly - a heavy mid-paced tune with ever-present riffing and the usual strong vocals from the Blitzkrieg stalwart - but it doesn't show Avenger at their best, to be honest, being a bit too raw and unpolished for its own good. They would fare undeniably better on later releases, with Ian Davison Swift on vocal duties (I'm not saying Ross has anything to do with the not-too-impressive results here, mind you). Still, it's an exclusive number (later included on Avenger's "Too Wild To Tame" 2-CD compilation from 2002), so it's not a dispendable track at all.

The B-side of this 12'' starts with Black Rose delivering an extremely energetic and enjoyable take of "Knocked Out", later to be included (in a different form, of course) in their "Boys Will Be Boys" LP. I suppose they never sounded that heavy and intense in any other moment of their career (OK, maybe on "Sucker for Your Love"), and this hard-hitting rendition is easily the stand-out track of the compilation - along with Alien's cut, of course. Even the wrong bass note at the end of it sounds awesome! To close proceedings, the talented guys from Hellanbach laid down "All Systems Go (Full Scale Emergency)", another fast-paced tune with creative, heavy guitars and tons of energy on display. It's not a memorable song like the Alien and Black Rose offerings, but there's nothing wrong with it neither, this particular version being far heavier than the one they would include in their "Now Hear This" LP. It worths more than a listen, and the EP as a whole surely worth a safe place in any serious NWOBHM collection.

All bands here featured, apart from the wronged Alien, went to release full albums on Neat, so it's fair to say that it was a very successful release when it comes to help new bands to move a step further in the business. Of those, Black Rose and Avenger are still going strong to this day, with revitalized line-ups and new albums recently out and/or due to be released soon. Hellanbach is no longer active and there's no prospects for a reunion in the days to come, but they released two LPs of their own back in the day, so they sure fit in to the "sucessful NWOBHM bands" file. Give me a CD with unreleased Alien material and I guess justice will be done at last!

See picture scan of the back cover for personnel details

01. ALIEN - Could Have Done Better 2:32
02. AVENGER - Hot 'n' Heavy Express 4:10
03. BLACK ROSE - Knocked Out 3:13
04. HELLANBACH - All Systems Go (Full Scale Emergency) 3:09

Extra thanks to The Corroseum 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!

segunda-feira, 8 de abril de 2013

TOSH (UK) - One More for the Road (LP, Bicycle Records, 1982)


The humble beginnings of the english band known as Tosh took part in the first half of the 70s, when Howard 'Tosh' Midlane (V/G, a musician whose activities can be tracked back as early as the late 60s) and Dave Palmer (V/D) toured around Cornwall and South Wales as a duo under the (truly hopeless) name of Bicycle. They were more of a country/folk/pop/pub-rock proposition with jokey cabaret cacoethes by this stage, but things would start changing in earnest, as a proper band took form via the addition of bass guitar and keyboards and the adoption of a (slightly) better monicker, Tosh. A stable unit took for in the later half of the decade, with Tosh himself and Dave Palmer being assisted by Tony Cousins (K/V) and Tim Collingwood on bass, later replaced by Reg Hancock. This 4-piece unit was a frequent live attraction in their locality towards the early 80s, and the changes in personnel also caused a shift in musical direction, their small-crowd-pleasing mixture of old gradually being augmented with heavier, more serious and adventurous compositions.

In fact, it seems that Tosh's cruise into increasingly more metallic waters was something of a request from the other band members, that felt not so comfortable with the lightweight nature of the band's repertoire. As Tosh himself was the main songwriter, the fact that he agreed on writing some heavier tunes shows how much of a friend-loving individual (and a versatile composer too) he is. According to keyboardist Tony Cousins, the shift in direction prompted drummer Dave Palmer to become the main singer, as everyone thought his voice was more suited to the more rocking approach of the band. He was replaced on drums by Steve Jackson.

Actually, things get a bit confusing by the time their sole LP, "One More for the Road", was recorded. Although not credited on the album, it's perfectly possible that Reg Hancock actually recorded all basslines, and it's kinda baffling that Howard 'Tosh' Midlane and Tony Cousins are credited for vocal duties alongside Dave Palmer, as there's no indication that Palmer was actually the band's proper singer. Also credited are Steve Turner (G/B, seemingly involved with a group called Bucket Boys) and sax player Phil Boucherat, although both more probably acted in a guest capacity rather than being proper members of Tosh. Maybe the guitarist's appearance was a retribution of sorts, as the whole album was recorded in his personal studio, but it's no more than a conjecture of mine, you know.

To be frank, "One More for the Road" doesn't really sound like a proper album, as its two sides display very different styles of music. The A side is the heaviest and showcases the more obvious progressive rock influences, with two very lenghty songs full of climates and instrumental parts. "Julius" is the most adventurous number by far, being my favorite song on the album too. It's not like they reinvented the wheel, that's for sure - but they managed to get some good ideas together and came out with an interesting, atmospheric epic tune with good guitar duels and keyboard interventions, a song that even reminds me of Shaftsbury (a band I actually enjoy quite a lot) in places. "Queen of Tiger Bay" doesn't rate that high on my Metalomether to be honest, although it's probably the most metallic song of the entire LP and seems to have been a true favorite among their small-but-loyal following. It's not a bad song at all, but the (very simple) central idea doesn't qualify for a 8-minute opus, pretty much losing steam halfway through. The solos are quite nice, though.

Still, it's a pretty respectable first half, that hints of better things to come on the flipside. Shockingly, though, the four remaining numbers are much more linked with the pub-rock roots of their 70s than anything more metallic or contemporary. Maybe those songs were old live favorites of sorts and they felt it would be mandatory to include it so the album would be more appealing for the loyal fan. Who knows? Wherever the explanation lies, songs like "One More for the Road" (with more than a hint of Beatles' "Let it Be", incidentally) and "Millionaire" sound dated and unsubstantial from the first listen, rendered utterly forgettable as a result. Semi-ballad "Little Runaway Sister" shows slightly more inventive arrangements, although the prominent saxophone doesn't really help matters, to be point-blank honest. In the end, I guess "Life's High Trapeze" is a bit of saving grace: a slightly inventive song that may not set any pulses racing, but can heard from start to finish without causing any grimaces at all. All things considered, though, the B-side of this LP is far from memorable IMO, failing to live up to the promise of the first two songs. Anyway, it may be a good idea for the open-minded NWOBHM collector to buy this album if it comes out for sale at a reasonable price.

The band that delivered "One More for the Road" didn't last for long, though: unable to fully commit with the hectic touring routine scheduled by Mr. Tosh (he even organized a charity tour called "The Walk", that would cross Wales north to south and end up in Cornwall, playing gigs daily along the way), Tony Cousins and Reg Hancock left Tosh for good, soon followed by drummer Steve Jackson.  Howard 'Tosh' Midlane and Dave Palmer reassembled the Tosh venture with Tom Haywood (D) and Billy Blister (I have a distinct feeling it wasn't his real surname, you know) on bass, which curiosly led the whole endeavour to be called The Blister Band in a few live outings, for no tangible reason. In a later stage, Mr. Blister was replaced by Alan Ross (earlier with the Flying Tygers) and violinist Jiz Brooks and percussionist Arthur Kurwyn would also join the outfit for a while, which tend to suggest that they were no longer trying that hard to be a Heavy Metal band around this juncture.

It seems that the Tosh band died a natural death in the mid-80s, with most of the musicians failing to appear in any other bands of note. Dave Palmer would assemble a small-pub attraction called No Picnic which is still pretty much active to this day, whereas Mr. Tosh himself apparently reassumed his country/folk persona as a solo artist. Surprisingly, a comeback gig happened as late as 1994, the musicians reuniting for a moving, heartwarming homage to Tim Haywood, diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was surely a beautiful gesture, and the drummer himself took part in the gig, which was even released in a tiny CD edition. Unfortunately, the fatal disease took its toll and Haywood died a few months later. As for the hard rocking incarnation of the Tosh venture, I guess there's no prospect of a get-together in the foreseeable future. But never say never, you know.

Howard 'Tosh' Midlane (V/G), Dave Palmer (V/D), Tony Cousins (V/K), Steve Jackson (D). Guest musicians: Steve Turner (G/B), Phil Boucherat (Sax). Uncredited (?): Reg Hancock (B).

01. Julius 11:40
02. Queen of Tiger Bay 8:03
03. Millionaire 3:33
04. Little Runaway Sister 4:37
05. Life's High Trapeze 4:15
06. One More for the Road 6:08

Extra thanks for Strappado HM Rarities for audio 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!

domingo, 7 de abril de 2013

SPITFIRE (UK) - So You Want to Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star (7'', Carrere, 1982)


This sleeveless 7'' from 1982 was a mysterious curiosity for many years. Released by the mighty Carrere label in 1982 without any credits or usable info, this strange single (coupling a cover version for The Byrds' "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" with the original song "Spitfire Boogie" - although I use the word 'original' guardedly, readers take note) was something that NWOBHM collectors and dealers simply couldn't make their minds about. As time moved on, however, the truth came out: Spitfire was a sort of side-project from Rage (earlier known as Nutz), recorded sometime between their "Nice 'n' Dirty" and "Run For The Night" LPs and released under a different band name. It was a transitional period for Rage, as they were using the recently-enrolled Terry Steers (ex-Thin End of the Wedge) as their sole guitarist, following the departure of Mick Devenport, so maybe it was also a chance to relax a bit and put their act together before Rage return to strenght.

Although the name Spitfire is an overused and hopeless choice, it's perfectly understandable that Rage (and maybe even Carrere) would prefer to use an alternate identity for this release, as it sounds considerably different from their more serious proposition - and, to be very honest, it's not the kind of release you will be proud to call your own. It looks (and sounds) more like an humorous and not-remotely-subtle cash-in, something they probably recorded in a matter of minutes in an attempt to make some money - and perhaps those involved even had some second thoughts about it, as it came out in such a careless presentation. I wouldn't say it was a good move, honestly, as I can hardly imagine it selling more than half a dozen copies in the first instance. Metal fans can be really carried away at times, but they just won't buy any piece of vinyl just because it's supposed to be Metal, you know.

Being an admirer of The Byrds myself, I was really curious to hear what Spitfire done with "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star", the purported A-side - and it's a pretty decent and respectful version IMO, with a reasonable ammount of heaviness and an adequate vocal performance from Dave Lloyd. Sure, there's nothing to be too excited about this rendition (and it's far from being the best song from The Byrds too), but they did a good job out of it, if you ask me. The flipside "Spitfire Boogie", on the other hand, is pretty much hopeless: a uninventive boogie number (yeah, you guessed it) with an extremely predictable song structure and a brain-dead chorus repeating "we're laughing all the way to the bank" until you just can't take no more. A throwaway track if I ever heard one, "Spitfire Boogie" (credited as "Spitfire and the Blackpool Barmies", for no tangible reason) is unlikely to spin in your sound system more than once, but the A-side is prefectly acceptable and maybe you can take some joy out of this 7'' in the end of the day. I would say it may be a good idea to track down a copy if the asking price is cheap enough, but don't spend too much money on it unless your personal utopia is to have EVERYTHING from the NWOBHM era - an impossible task, I know, but that's what utopias are all about, right?

It may not have been exactly an ill-fated venture, as it probably wasn't even that serious in the first place, but the Spitfire exercise didn't make the participants any favours neither. After releasing "Run For the Night" in 1983, Rage fell apart and the musicians involved with this 7'' took their sepparate ways. Tragically, drummer John Mylett died in a car accident just a few weeks after Rage was disbanded, an extremely sad event that made any further reunions totally impossible. Dave Lloyd demoed some material with a number of musicians (namely ex-Diamond Head bassist Mervyn Goldsworthy, ex-720 / Samson guitarist Dave "Bucket" Colwell and drummer Pete Jupp) and enjoyed brief spells with Uli Jon Roth and Diesel before establishing the 2AM project, that released an AOR album called "Every Second Counts" in 1987. Later he also teamed up with Steve Morris (ex-Export and that would later join Gillan) in a band called Sliced Bread, so it's fair to say he kept himself quite busy through the years. Bassist Keith Mulholland also had some projects to call his own, namely Zen Machine and Garth Rockett and the Moonshiners (weird name, that) before having a role in the fortunes of the reunited Demon in the late 90s. Terry Steers took a part in an obscure and unsuccessful act called Tawntaw, but kept himself quite distant from the music scene in later years.

Dave Lloyd (V), Terry Steers (G), Keith Mulholland (B), John Mylett (D).

01. So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star 2'51''
02. Spitfire Boogie 3'13''

Many thanks to riptorn for the mp3 files! Greatly appreciated, mate ^^

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!