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 drequon@gmail.com 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 drequon@gmail.com 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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!