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!