terça-feira, 30 de dezembro de 2014

LORD MANTIS (USA) - Death Mask (CD, Profound Lore Records, 2014)

RATING: ****

If there's any sort of soundtrack in hell, I think it's safe to say that Lord Mantis is getting very close to sucessfully transcribe it. "Death Mask" is their third attempt to conjure something terrible and unnamable with their music, and I wouldn't be remotely surprised if a few demons start hanging around your house after a single listen of this CD. To take the bizarre metaphors even further, I think that this album (starting from its magnificently disturbing artwork) may be very difficult for most heavy metal fans to stomach, and even those already initiated into sickening music will need some time to fully digest the foul meal Lord Mantis is serving this time around.

Their brand of blackened sludge metal is corrosive enough to dissolve generous doses of drone and doom into it, creating a pestiferous bouillon that reeks of terror and tastes like pure insanity. Lord Mantis also adds a disturbing ritualistic feel to their music, like they're invoking despicable things rather than just singing about it. It's a somewhat hypnotic atmosphere, enhanced by groovy-yet-abrasive guitars and song structures that create a sense of vertigo, a twisted kind of drive perhaps comparable to slowly sinking in fetid quicksand. And I must say that Charlie Fell's singing is one of the most raspy and desperate I have heard in quite a while. Actually, instrumental track "You Will Gag For the Fix" comes as an unusual kind of relief: though the ambiences are far from soothing, there's not a single word being shouted or muttered in it, and it gives the listener a pause to breathe before that perverted monster comes out of the speakers once again.

It's hard to mention single tracks here, as the atmosphere the album conjures is the real winner. It starts fast and desperate, then slowly submerges in unpleasant blurriness until you just realize there's no longer a way out. "Death Mask" is a cohesive unit, in such an extent that I seriously doubt any individual songs would have the same effect if taken out of the running order. Still, I think that "Possession Prayer" (with a truly scary chanting of "Blood! Rust! Incinerate!" that gets the more uncanny due to its apparent lack of sense), "Negative Birth" (some intimidating blast-beats going on, and the singing is particularly filthy here) and "Body Choke" are impressive enough to deserve special mention. "Coil" is also interesting, with some morbid spoken intro being followed by unwholesome robot-like singing, but the track as a whole is more like a long and vile interlude than a proper composition. Still it works quite well, that's for sure, thanks to the cohesive flow I mentioned above.

Lord Mantis sound twisted, repulsive, brutal and most of all unique on "Death Mask", surely one of the most disturbing (and individualistic) listening experiences in recent memory. I wonder if any other bands will dare to follow their footsteps in the near future.

Charlie Fell (V/B), Ken Sorceron (G), Andrew Markuszewski (G), Bill Bumgardner (D).

01. Body Choke
02. Death Mask
03. Possession Prayer
04. You Will Gag For the Fix
05. Negative Birth
06. Coil
07. Three Crosses

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!

domingo, 16 de novembro de 2014

DEMON PACT (UK) - Released from Hell (CD, High Roller, 2012)


Demon Pact came and went very quickly at the height of the NWOBHM boom: took part in a local-band compilation ("Kent Rocks", 1981), released a 7'' single (also in 1981, coupling the tasteful ode to cannibalism "Eaten Alive" with the slightly less tongue-in-cheek "Raiders") and promptly disappeared without a trace. Their very intense (and somewhat politically incorrect) music, carried along by extremely rude vocals, captured the imagination of those who enjoyed more blasphemous branches of Heavy music - and the front cover of their sole vinyl offering, depicting a scantly-clothed she-devil with huge bat-like wings, surely helped matters. It took over three decades for the world to hear all that Demon Pact had to offer - but the good old High Roller would not let us down for long, and now we have "Released from Hell", on both CD and vinyl, to show what the fuss was all about.

The instrumentation is competent enough, but don't expect any showcases of dexterity: they keep it (mostly) tight and (always) simple, their raw interpretation of the NWOBHM ethos sounding like a slightly less frantic and more riff-oriented version of Venom. I always considered Donald Meckiffe to be a fundamental part of Demon Pact's appeal: his rasp, kinda sloppy (and hardly in-tune) vocal delivery may sound a bit too jarring for some ears, but definitely adds an element of intensity to the music, sounding even a bit menacing sometimes - listen to him on "Eaten Alive" and perhaps you will get my point. It comes as no surprise to learn that his decision to leave led the band to almost immediate desintegration: his singing was unsophisticated perhaps, but it was surely unique and potentially unreplaceable.

Some songs are actually quite strong, such as the aforementioned "Raiders" (nice bass playing and a reasonably catchy chorus, my personal favourite really), "Demon Pact" and "Escape", all presenting the band at their heaviest and with some pretty respectable riffing too. But this CD also shows that the lads still had to considerably hone their songwriting skills if they really aimed to better things, as "Ain't No Woman" and "Cry Witchcraft" were both very rudimentary in terms of song structure. There was a lot of talking about an "unreleased album" from Demon Pact, but "Release from Hell" is proof that it was urban legend after all: their studio legacy is brief (only 7 songs) and the production is raw, to say the least - enough for a few demos and a semi-independent 7'' single, but I suppose they would need further visits to the studio if they ever wanted to release a full LP at the time.

But even the rough edges of the studio offering sound almost overly-produced when we get to the live section of this CD: everything is so poorly recorded that sometimes you can hardly understand what's actually going on. Donald's voice is even more crude than usual, and it's fair to say that ditties such as "Physical Feedback" and "Sick Child" (some of it recorded when the band was still called Fenris Wolf) seems to have been spawned from the very depths of hell, for good and bad. Maybe even Lemmy Kilmister would be a tiny bit shocked with the noisy version of "No Class" here featured... This album closes with two rather pointless inclusions from an ill-fated late 70s project called Rudi Mental: the connection with Demon Pact is extremely tenuous, the production is very poor and the punk rock leanings of "Plain Talk" and "Don't Bother Us" are of minimal interest for NWOBHM addicts. Well, I tend to think almost every piece of music on Earth deserves an official format to call its own, so let's assume it was the only way it would ever find the light of day and hope some more tolerant punk enthusiasts will find joy in listening to it.

All things considered, "Released from Hell" is a good compilation for NWOBHM collectors, but I tend to think those who are not really obsessed about the period in question may find it a bit less enjoyable as a whole. Not that this CD was ever meant to conquer the world in the first place, of course. Maybe Demon Pact could have achieved a higher profile if they managed to stick together a while longer, but I reckon they fulfilled their actual lifespan; let's face it, the scarce vinyl legacy and the lack of information about the band were decisive to create an aura of mystery, and this is what made them underground legends in the end.

Donald Meckiffe (V), Richard Dickerson (G), Alan Dickerson (B), Ian Finlay (D). Also performed: Simon Li (V/G/B on Rudi Mental titles), Roy Bridle (B), Phil Wickenden (D on Fenris Wolf titles).

01. Demon Pact (R. Dickerson, A. Dickerson)
02. Raiders (R. Dickerson, A. Dickerson)
03. Eaten Alive (R. Dickerson, D. Meckiffe)
04. Ain't No Woman (R. Dickerson)
05. Physical Feedback (R. Dickerson)
06. Escape (A. Dickerson)
07. Cry Witchcraft (R. Dickerson, A. Dickerson)
08. Demon Pact (remix) (R. Dickerson, A. Dickerson)
09. Eaten Alive (original mix) (R. Dickerson, D. Meckiffe)
10. Ain't No Woman (remix) (R. Dickerson)
11. Physical Feedback (live) (R. Dickerson)
12. Born to Die (live) (Demon Pact)
13. No Class (live) (Clarke, Kilmister, Taylor)
14. Losing (short version) (live) (R. Dickerson)
15. Sick Child (live) (R. Dickerson, D. Meckiffe)
16. K & F (live) (Demon Pact)
17. Losing (full version) (live) (R. Dickerson)
18. Plain Talk (from Rudi Mental) (S. Li)
19. Don't Bother Us (from Rudi Mental) (S. Li)

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!

sábado, 8 de novembro de 2014

WOLFSBANE (UK) - Massive Noise Injection (CD, Essential/Bronze, 1993)

RATING: ****

You don't need to be an Iron Maiden obsessive to know that singer Blaze Bayley was strutting his stuff with Wolfsbane before joining Steve Harris' army - and that such a choice was much less based on Blaze's singing abilities than on his stage presence during a tour that Maiden and Wolfsbane made together in 1990. "Massive Noise Injection" was recorded in 1993 and it captures a very special moment for the band - not only because it was a gig at the legendary Marquee Club of London (UK), but also because the band were just voted the best unsigned act of the previous year - quite an encouragement for a band that, despite being regarded as a promising act, were just dropped by previous label Def American. "With this single moment we slice the cancer of indifference from our lives forever", celebrates the band at the booklet notes, and it is indeed the feeling that emanates from this record: a band that refuses to concede defeat, determined to go from strenght to strenght.

Wolfsbane always felt at home playing an upbeat, straight-to-the-point mix of British Metal with punk rock, glam and alternative rock 'n' roll, and "Massive Noise Injection" presents their collective talents in no uncertain terms. And if their studio input never really captured the band at their best, this live recording shows for all to hear what the fuss was all about. The CD is as live as it gets, really: the rough edges are audible, the production keeps everything simple and there's an avalanche of energy coming out of every song. Blaze Bayley himself deserves a mention, as I seriously think he is at his best here: his voice fails him in places, his range is far from impressive, but he sings all these sex-drugs-and-rock'n'roll lyrics with such an effort and such a passion that it turns out to be really funny and extremely catchy. His stage banter is also priceless: he spends a lot of time threatening the audience ("put your fists in the air or I'm coming out there and fucking kill you" and stuff like that), but in such an irresponsible, good-spirited way that it only adds to the electrifying atmosphere.

I dare to say every single song here is better than the studio versions, and tunes like "End of the Century", "Manhunt", "Black Lagoon", "Steel", "Loco", "Money to Burn", "Kathy Wilson" and so on (really, I could mention the entire tracklist if I wanted to) were surely crafted to drive an audience wild. Speaking of those in attendance that night, I reckon they may have been not that many, but they sure are totally into it, singing along with the choruses and basically having a whole lotta fun. Wolfsbane have the audience at their mercy, and they give them no time to rest. I'm not even sure why Wolfsbane ever bothered to record studio offerings, as they were such a great live band that a live recording every couple years would be a much wiser move if you ask me. It's unfortunate that Blaze's departure, right after the releasing of Wolfsbane's best studio album ("Wolfsbane", from 1994), signalled the end of the line for the band, as they were undoubtedly a very talented bunch. Things are now full circle though, as Blaze (now a solo artist, as you sure know) reunited with his partners in crime and Wolfsbane is back for more. Heartwarming, for me at least.

If you know nothing about Wolfsbane, this is the CD you should invest your money in, as you will hardly find a better picture of what the group used to be before Maiden come their way. Not an all-time classic perhaps, but if you're playing this one very loud with the lights turned out and still doesn't feel like being there that  night, well, you better seek medical help. Or else you can go fuck yourself, you fucking wanker (that's what Blaze would say, you know!).

Blaze Bayley (V), Jase Edwards (G), Jeff Hatley (B), Steve "Danger" Ellett (D).

01; Protect & Survive
02. Load Me Down
03. Black Lagoon
04. Rope & Ride
05. Kathy Wilson
06. Loco
07. End of the Century
08. Steel
09. Temple of Rock
10. Manhunt
11. Money to Burn
12. Paint the Town Red
13. Wild Thing

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!

quarta-feira, 1 de outubro de 2014

MIRAGE (UK, Wales) - Biography

Being an amateur NWOBHM researcher may be slightly frustrating sometimes. It's not uncommon that your hard efforts are rewarded with absolutely no success at all, and sometimes suceeding isn't even that good in the end of the day: old "classics" may not be that hot, and old musicians often are not that proud of what they did in the dim and distant past... But believe me when I tell you, sometimes it TOTALLY worth the effort indeed. I have been very lucky recently when it comes to track down members of long gone (but never really forgotten) NWOBHM bands, and I'll do my best to give you some exclusive info in the coming weeks. For starters, please let me drop you a few lines about the mighty Mirage from South Wales - a band that capture people's collective imagination for decades, and an history that I'm really proud to say that is still going strong at this very moment!

Mirage came to existence sometime in 1983, while guitarist Richard Price from West Midlands was doing his time in Cardiff, studying Chemical Engineering at the Polytechnic of Wales. After a minor experience with a youthful band called Nova in the early 80s, Richard Morris wanted to have a band to call his own once again, and a few ads in Cardiff music shops got him in touch with Gerry Turner (D), Richard "Wretch" Morgan (V) and Carl Skinner (B). They chose the name Mirage and became something of a promise almost immediately, although it transpires that they performed no more than a couple of local gigs during the course of their existence. They went as far as to record a handful of original songs, one of those ("Blind Fury") picked up by the tiny Notepad label for inclusion in a humble local-band compilation, called "Notepad Productions Vol. 1" and released in 1984. They also took part in a local Battle of the Bands competition, but Mirage didn't really last the distance in its original form, the project being laid to rest even before the end of the year.

Maybe nobody would really take notice of Mirage's only vinyl appearance if not for our good friend Malc MacMillan and his invaluable NWOBHM Encyclopedia from 2001. MacMillan reviews "Blind Fury" in very enthusiastic terms, describing the track (pretty much the only Metal on display there) as a "superb, catchy, mid paced number with an excellent vocal performance" and "truly one of the classic tracks of the entire NWOBHM genre". You don't need much more than that to spark the imagination of a NWOBHM aficionado - and it was over a decade of wondering about Mirage and "Blind Fury" until I finally get in touch with two of the band members (drummer Gerry Turner and Richard Price on guitar), very nice people who treated me with great kindness and furnished me with info and invaluable music files - incluiding the elusive "Blind Fury", the classic track few people had the chance to hear.

After listening to it several times, I can wholeheartedly tell you that Mr. Malc MacMillan was completely right all along. What a nice song it is! It's a simple, yet extremely catchy mid-tempo heavy rocker which brilliantly captures the energy of a youthful bunch of talented musicians. The vocal lines are excellent (the bridge to the chorus is particularly impressive) and delivered with great talent by Mr. Wretch, whereas the other players completely overshadow the rough edges of the overall performance with massive quantities of sheer (and contagious) enthusiasm. It shows more than simple promise: actually, these guys were GOOD, and they really could (should?) have become a way more popular band under different circumstances. If you're not convinced just yet, you can watch this video, edited by Mr. Price himself (and he was kind enough to mention this humble blogger in it, which I consider to be a huge honor indeed), where "Blind Fury" appears in all its glory. Listen and believe!

As earlier mentioned, Mirage was over at the tail end of 1984, but it wasn't the end of the line for the musicians involved. After a brief spell under the name Blondel, the Price / Morgan / Turner trio relocated to Price's hometown Birmingham and, assisted by Andrew Foster (B/K), reassembled as High Society. They wrote many songs in a more eccletic and experimental vein, the resulting material not being really connected to Heavy Metal, although the songs are mostly very enjoyable. They went as far as to put together a rehearsal studio of their own but, sadly, High Society split up in 1988, before leaving any proper recordings registered for posterity.

Singer Richard Morgan ran the High Society's studio for a few years after the band was history and later joined another band called Electraglyde, even releasing a full CD with them in the early 90s. Gerry Turner is no longer playing drums on a regular basis, but it's still pretty much active when it comes to music, home-recording lots of material in a one-man-band called Temple of Doubt and receiving some deserved airplay on Internet radio stations. Unfortunately, after keeping a very low profile on music for the remainder of his life, Mirage's bassist Carl Skinner passed away a few years ago, the kind of news that I'm always sad to share, really.

Richard Price would join a band called Serene Machine in the early-to-mid 90s, releasing a self-financed CD and performing a lot of gigs, the overall sound of the band being more attuned to bands such as Smashing Pumpkins and Suede. Since 2004, he plays guitar with Love Commandos, a very interesting rock band I would really reccomend you to give a chance to. They already have an album out (called "Siren" and available on iTunes) and a new release is a reasonable prospect in the near future, so it's heartwarming to know that Richard Price's guitar will surely be around for a good number of years to come.

And what about Mirage, you ask me? Well, it's great to say that we actually do have some news to share! Richard Price and Gerry Turner are very much in touch to this day and, after locating a handful of unreleased demos, are strongly considering a vinyl release to call their own. The tentative 7'' single will couple the outstanding "Blind Fury" with "Twilight Zone", a heavier affair with intense riffing and a catchy chorus. Let's hope for it to materialize in the near future, as the world would sure be a better place with a few more Mirage songs around!

Million thanks to Gerry Turner and Richard Price for kindly answering my e-mails and helping me with all the music and info on Mirage. A huge thank you to Mr. Malc MacMillan too, whose indispensable NWOBHM Encyclopedia (and the enthusiastic review to "Blind Fury") kept the flame alive for over a decade, making us all wonder about Mirage and their contribution to British heavy music. I'm a learner and a fan, and I bow to the three of you! :)

terça-feira, 30 de setembro de 2014

DEEP MACHINE (UK) - Rise of the Machine (CD, High Roller, 2014)


I must admit it: though I was obviously excited about having the chance to finally listen to a full CD from Deep Machine, there was also a bit of fear of what was waiting for me after pushing the "play" button. I mean, much of what makes a band legendary exists nowhere but in our imagination: you listen to all those poorly-recorded demos from the 80s, spend years and years wondering how great it would be if all those marvellous songs had been immortalized on at least one proper LP and then lo and behold, Deep Machine is back on the road and "Rise of the Machine" is out. The real world will never be exactly the same as your imagination, and it sometimes can truly spoil the listening experience (although in some cases, such as Hell, the surprise is undeniably positive). So there I was, a fan of Deep Machine whose little dream finally comes true, knowing that a single listen would, in a sense, change things forever. But oh well, there will always be Mendes Prey or Tranzzam to fantasize about, so let's cut the crap and went straight to the album review, right?

This particular incarnation of Deep Machine is the one captained by guitarist and main songwriter Bob Hooker - there's also an alternative band, acting under the name The Deep and presenting a few former members of Deep Machine. That means Deep Machine 2014 is directly related with the earlier days of the band, bearing no connection with any formations put together after Hooker being replaced by Kevin Heybourne (of Angel Witch fame) in 1981. So don't expect renditions of "Nightstalker" or "Saga" around here, such songs being far more suited to The Deep than today's Deep Machine. Alongside Hooker, the new incarnation of Deep Machine presents Lenny Baxter (V), John Riley (B and not the main character of a Byrds' song, incidentally), Chas Towler (D) and a shady individual who rather call himself Beastie (G). They are a strong unit and it shows throughout the CD, so rest assured there's nothing to complaint about when it comes to individual performances.

As for musical contents, I think opening song "The Wizard" sums it all perfectly. It's a memorable song and truly an obscure classic of NWOBHM, but this particular recording reach less-than-impressive results - mostly because the band chose to completely change the chorus, replacing the memorable many-words-in-a-roll original for predictable, metal-by-the-numbers "you will sense the fear / when the wizard is near" nonsense. Was it all just so vocalist Lenny Baxter could be credited as a songwriter too? Though it's by far the most radical (and least sucessful) attempt to fix what was not broken, it's not the only time that "Rise of the Machine" sounds like Deep Machine is just trying too hard to recreate themselves in a way that wasn't really necessary. It's not a major issue, but it gets quite annoying sometimes and it prevents this CD from being even more enjoyable.

The best moments of this album are on "Witchild" (as strong as it should be), "The Gladiator" (I always loved its simple-but-memorable riffing) and "Hell Forest" (surprisingly upbeat version here). New songs such as "Whispers in the Black", "The Gathering" and "Celebrophile" are good enough and show that the band can still write pleasant music, so we're not let down in that sense either. But there's a few disappointments here and there, such as the aforementioned "The Wizard" and "Iron Cross" (seriously lads, leave that good old choruses alone!), that truly fail to live up to the expectations. Old chestnut "Black Priestess" is a remarkable piece of songwriting in an Angel Witch vein, but the changes in singing, although subtle, sounded a bit too strange to my ears. And I really miss "Demon Preacher" for instance, one of the finest songs Deep Machine ever wrote - though it can be included in a future release, who knows?

All things considered, though, "Rise of the Machine" is still much more of a triumph than anything else. Their small-but-loyal fanbase will undoubtedly be happy that their longtime heroes were able to deliver a nice CD after all these years, and I wouldn't demand for more. It's not the album of my dreams, but no one can enter my brain to find out exaclty what my dreams are, so I guess things are fine the way they turned out to be. NWOBHM fans (and I know you're out there) are well advised to give this record a chance.

Lenny Baxter (V), Bob Hooker (G), Beastie (G), John Riley (B), Chas Towler (D).

01. The Wizard (Hooker/Baxter)
02. The Gathering (Hooker/Baxter)
03. The Gladiator (Hooker/Baxter)
04. Warhead (Hooker)
05. Black Priestess (Hooker/Baxter)
06. Hell Forest (Hooker)
07. Witchild (Hooker/Baxter)
08. Celebrophile (East/Baxter)
09. Killer (Hooker/Wiggins)
10. Whispers in the Black (Hooker/Baxter)
11. Iron Cross (Hooker/Baxter)

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!

segunda-feira, 14 de julho de 2014

SIDEWINDER (UK) - Basil Herd (7'', SRT, 1983)


The rise of the NWOBHM collecting scene in the 90s (a ressurgence in interest that is pretty much active to this day) surely had a few side effects, as I'm sure most of you are aware. Some records (even though very good in much cases) were passed out as undiscovered classics of the era while actually being nothing of the sort. In some cases they came out too late (or too early) to fit the NWOBHM timeline, sometimes the bands were not British, and there's a number of cases when the groups in question weren't even trying to be Heavy Metal at all. The immensely obscure Sidewinder, from which precious little is known at present, seems to fit like a glove into the third category. Their one and only vinyl release, a self-financed 7'' from 1983, may be included in many NWOBHM wishlists, but I really don't think any of the musicians involved (whoever they were) ever wore leather jackets and bullet belts, as "Basil Herd" and "The Game" have almost nothing to do with Heavy Metal.

As this is a double A-sided single, I randomly decided to consider "Basil Herd" the main focus of attention around here. It's powerpop with some slightly heavier guitar parts, although the song structure and lyrical subject actually reminds me of some Oi! bands like Cock Sparrer at their "Running Riot in '84" days. The basslines are quite prominent and the song as a whole is reasonably well-crafted and catchy, so it's not like we're being submitted to any sort of atrocity here - I actually kinda like it, to make things clear. But I'm afraid this tune won't appeal to the vast majority of headbangers, being more indicated for those who happen to enjoy the powerpop and indie scenes as well. "The Game" is a tiny bit more intense, with some guitar interplay and a reasonably nice chorus, but still it's firmly rooted in indie/new wave soil, being miles away from anything remotely close to Heavy Metal. If you're desperately looking for NWOBHM comparisons, I would say that Sidewinder reminds me slightly of Blazer Blazer and Urchin - but it's a very tenuous connection really, as they were much closer to Buzzcocks and The Jam than anything more forceful or metallic. Not bad anyway - maybe they could have achieved better things if given some encouragement, as their music doesn't leave that much to be desired for indie rock enthusiasts.

I must admit I have no idea who were involved with Sidewinder - there's precisely zero usable info on the label, no writing credits, no mentions to any recording facility, nothing. I once read somewhere that this particular band came from Yorkshire, but I have no corroboratory info on this, so the lads could be from pretty much anywhere else in the UK. Therefore I'm left with no choice but to ask the kind reader to help me fill the blanks. If you have any reliable info on Sidewinder, even the slightest, please don't be shy and use the e-mail address below to get in touch. I would love to know more about Sidewinder, really.

Musicians unknown

01. Basil Herd 3:00
02. The Game 2:59

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!

quarta-feira, 2 de julho de 2014

TROTYL (BUL) - Lunatic (7'', Balkanton, 1988)


There's a lot of Heavy Metal waiting to be found in Eastern Europe, you know. Once hidden behind the Iron Curtain, many bands from the 80s tried their luck with loud guitars, high-pitched vocals and heroic lyrical themes, all with different levels of sucess of course. The fact that they were submited to a considerable degree of isolation from the Western increasingly-globalized culture rendered many Heavy Metal contributions from Eastern countries to sound quite unique - and I'm always very interested to learn more about this geographical area, as there's a fair bit of interesting music waiting to be heard. I must confess I knew nothing about Trotyl from Bulgaria until a few weeks ago, when I managed to obtain mp3 files from their "Lunatic" single - I had no clue they actually released a few full albums of their own and were active, in a way or another, until 2010 or thereabouts. I still didn't put that much effort into grabbing the rest of their discography, but I suppose their debut single (released sometime in 1988) is a good introduction to their musical legacy.

"Lunatic" is Heavy Metal as traditional as it gets, with simple-yet-effective riffing and undeniable influence of Accept in the vocal department. Curiously, each song has a different singer, this one being delivered by Vasil Kalpachki. Not sure if they were changing vocalists at the time or if having two singers was the idea all along (there's five musicians pictured, you know), so any enlightenment will be greatly appreciated of course. Whatever the story, Vasil's vocal register is adequate for the True Metal feel of the song and it's fair to say he does a commendable job here. Perhaps "Lunatic" won't be the most staggeringly original display of Heavy Metal you'll ever hear, but it's a pleasant song with a good instrumental section and a reasonably catchy chorus, so I guess most long-haired, big-bellied metalheads will have a good time listening to it.

B-side "Warrior" evokes a different and much darker feel, although the Doom Metal suggestions from some quarters are considerably out of the mark, at least when it comes to this particular track. The idea seems to be more epic than gloomy, with lyrics depicting a fighter who's afraid to die - not an unusual subject for Heavy Metal bands, that's for sure. The song reminds me a little of "Black Candles" from Oz (a healthy comparision, I would add) before changing things around with an intense interlude packed with guitar leads. The vocals (from Julian Konstantinov this time) are deeper and more forceful, and it really adds to the overall atmosphere. Nice track indeed, and you are well advised to give it a listen when you have the chance.

Trotyl (which translates as "trinitrotoluene", or TNT if you like) were already doing the rounds for a while when this 7'' was issued, being formed in 1981 or thereabouts - and it took another while until these Bulgarians would release another record, the "Nosht" LP from 1995. They were never the most prolific of acts though, and I'm sure the difficulties inherent in being a Heavy Metal band under a communist regime took a major role in Trotyl's shortage of vinyl releases. It's a good find if you're want to expand your 80's European Metal collection, although only a minority of us will be willing to pay the considerable ammounts of shekel required to buy such an item.

Vasil Kalpachki (V in "Lunatic"), Julian Konstantinov (V in "Warrior"), Alexander Dinev (G), Ivaylo Dinev (B), Kiril Georgiev (D).

01. Lunatic 4:35
02. Warrior 5:13

Many thanks to Strappado Metal Blog for audio files and 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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

domingo, 29 de junho de 2014

HGB (Henry Gorman Band) (UK-Scotland) - s/t (LP, Balkanton, 1984)


Wonders never cease, really. I must admit I was really surprised when I first found out about a full LP from Scotland's HGB (the Henry Gorman Band, as some of you may be aware), as I thought for a long time that the "Chase the Night Away" 7'' was their only vinyl legacy. Turns out I was completely wrong: the band somehow became a well-regarded act behind the Iron Curtain in the mid-80s and went as far as to issue a debut LP in Bulgaria (!), which was probably the most unexpected place for a Scottish bunch to release an album at the time. The album in question came out in 1984, though most (if not all) recordings were probably made way earlier, in 1981 or so. It's perfectly understandable that even the most obsessive NWOBHM collectors were unaware of the album's existence for quite a while, as Bulgaria was hardly a place to search for undiscovered NWOBHM in the first place. But I have a theory that the most unexpected a find is, the more likely it is to be found - we often find things when we aren't actively looking for it, and you know that it's true, dear reader. No one was really looking for a HGB full album, I guess - not because HGB was too bad to create any expectations (it's not the case at all), but only because no one would have imagined such a development from such an obscure act. And all of a sudden, lo and behold, someone just found it.

Labelling HGB as a NWOBHM act is actually taking a bit of a liberty here, as I don't really think they ever wanted to be a Heavy Metal band at all. Most of the time, Henry Gorman and his partners just try to be a good rock 'n' roll band, which is totally acceptable if you ask me. Actually, "Chase the Night Away" is slightly deceptive, as this undeniably  interesting Heavy Rock tune (augmented with prominent keyboards in a definitely 70'ish mood) is quite different from most of the other songs on display. Following song "Stranger" is much more attuned to what HGB seemed to really have been about: Classic-Rock-Radio oriented stuff that reminds me of Bad Company, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Boston and so on - not in the same league of the aforementioned bands, of course, but nothing too objectionable either. Sometimes they actually manage to sound pleasantly intense and forceful, as songs like "Coming Down" and "On the Run" (despite the somewhat monotonous chorus) make perfectly clear. But these are exceptions for the rule, as the persevering combo (it seems they were doing the rounds in native Scotland as early as 1978) is happy to deliver innofensive, easy-going rock tunes like "Keep Off the Grass" and "Too Late to Love Somebody" at every available opportunity.

HGB's eponymous LP is not a bad experience at all, but sometimes the band seems rather unfocused and inconsistent to be honest. "This Time Tomorrow" is a yawn-inducing ballad that attempts to evoke feelings of melancholy but turns out to be just plain boring, while "So, So" is just too dull and poppy for its own good and "Don't Say No" is a cabaret ballad that really have no place in a rock album like this one. Side Two is particularly difficult for more convict headbangers, as only "Daytime Lover" (good guitar work, even though the song as a whole is closer to AOR than anything else) will come to the rescue - and it's not like SWAT is coming to save you from harm, if you know what I mean. The production is pretty basic and the instrumentation, albeit undeniably competent, won't raise any eyebrows in the virtuoso-obsessed world we're living in - even though Henry Gorman himself is quite a capable guitarist, it has to be stated. All things considered, this LP discovery is not one to please most NWOBHM palates, being more suited for long-time collectors rather than newcomers to the genre. I actually kinda enjoyed the ride, but I'm sure most long-haired metalheads will prefer to spend money somewhere else.

Surprisingly, the songs from this studio session were revamped in a recent vinyl called "The Past is Alive", released by ONR earlier in 2014. Most of the tracks are taken from the elusive Bulgarian release, with "On My Way" and "Get Out on Time" being ommited and a song added called "Movin Out". You won't be losing much, as the two missing songs are hardly stand-out tracks from the original vinyl issue, so if you really need to add some HGB to your collection then "The Past is Alive" may be a good (and least expensive) choice. As for HGB, it seems they were disbanded not long after their debut hit the Bulgarian shops, as Henry Gorman decided to relocate to New York in 1984 - a good move it seems, as he made a good career for himself as a session musician and songwriter. He made an appearance with The Far Corporation (something of a Toto offshot put together by producer Frank Farian) and released a somewhat sucessful album with a band called Big Stupid Guitars in recent times, so it seems he kept himself quite busy. Long may his career continue.

Henry Gorman (V/G), Ronnie Garrity (B), John Grant (D/V), Danny Gisbey (K/V)

01. Chase the Night Away 3:53
02. Stranger 4:35
03. Coming Down 2:54
04. This Time Tomorrow 5:30
05. Keep Off the Grass 3:49
06. On the Run 3:55
07. So, So 2:18
08. Don't Say No 3:50
09. On My Way 4:17
10. Daytime Lover 3:52
11. Get Out on Time 3:39
12. Too Late to Love Somebody 3:41

Many thanks to Heavy Metal Rarities forum for audio files and 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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

quinta-feira, 22 de maio de 2014

Is The War Over? (Compilation, LP, Z Block Records, 1979)


Although it never got anywhere near becoming a target for obsessive NWOBHM completist (and rightfully so), the "Is the War Over?" compilation released by Z Block Records in 1979 was always well-regarded amongst indie rock collectors, as it's the very first appearance of Young Marble Giants - a name that means little to nothing for most rock fans, but that rings a lot of bells for post-punk enthusiasts. This LP showcases eight bands from Cardiff (Wales), most of them operating in a New Wave style - you know, Joy Division was quite a great influence for new bands at the time I guess. Z Block was actually one of the very first independent rock labels in Wales, being arranged pretty much by the musicians themselves, all very commendable if you ask me. There's not much to make long-haired metalheads smile around here, but the musical contents are far from atrocious most of the time, so I think it's fair to drop a few lines about this generous 16-track LP, all bands allowed to use whatever recordings they wanted in a limit of 8 minutes each.

Addiction is a very basic punk rock band with juvenile vocals, opening the LP with pure youthful energy but pretty much nothing else. "Seek & Search" is perhaps the slightly better of the three (very brief) contributions here featured, with a tad more forceful guitar work and a let's-repeat-the-name-of-the-song chorus to match - and it's an almost ridiculously short tune (92 seconds and that's it), so it just don't have the time to become really annoying, which is somewhat fortunate if you ask me. "Stampede", on the other hand, sounds a bit more like typical Rock and Roll in a Rolling Stones vein, but it's a song that comes and goes without even getting close to cause a real impression, and "Violence" is such a predictable song that you can almost sing along to it at the very first listen, as there's absolute zero surprises going on (the basslines are mildly interesting though).

Mad Dog is the closer to Heavy Metal we'll get this time around, although they sure needed some time to hone their technical and songwriting skills. Both "Killer and "Someone Here Must Like Me" are pretty average boogie/rock numbers with a slightly more upbeat delivery than usual - a style that won favour with a fair ammount of bands those days, admitedly, but usually with more accomplished results. The opening riff of "Killer" is perhaps close enough to the usual NWOBHM ethos to justify a mention, but I think "Someone Here Must Like Me" is the most interesting song of the pair - the overall effect is maybe a bit too punky for its own good, but the chorus is better and the song seems more cohesive as a whole. Still, everything is very basic, with loads of enthusiasm but few original ideas going on, so the long pause in Mad Dog's career (they wouldn't release new vinyl material until 1985) was fortunate, as it gave the youngster the necessary time to mature.

I'm not sure that I can actually call Test to Destruction's "Passive" a song at all, as it sounds more like a complete beginner making his very first attempts to extract sounds from a synthetizer, while another individual mouths a few senseless phrases over it. Maybe they were trying to create an avant-garde industrial nightmare or something (and I'm sure some fans of Einstürzende Neubauten or Clock DVA would have this song in high regard as some sort of pioneer), but for me it's just plain nonsense, sorry about that. Following this yawn-inducing piece of ill-advised experimentation, Riotous Brothers closes Side One of this LP with a Punk/New Wave delivery pairing "Airey Neave" with the remarkably brief "No Justice" (82 seconds this time), both reminding me a bit of The Clash in their "Give 'Em Enough Rope" days (not quite as talented as the real thing, of course). The sound production is not good at all (the guitar seems like it was plugged straight into a home soundbox) but the compositions are decent, specially "Airey Neave" - a song that perhaps could appeal to some Rancid fans out there, if they would actually bother to search for such an obscure track in the first place.

Opening Side Two of this LP we have Reptile Ranch, with a single contribution called "Waterhole". After a very confuse intro with a lot of audio effects, some feedback and a few violins (or something), we are confronted with a somewhat meditative post-punk tune without any drums (at least I can't hear any signs of percussion anywhere), carried along by noisy guitars and some Atari-videogame-style keyboards (yes, seriously). I'm not really sure what to think of this track to be honest: it sounds more like a pre-demo later to be augmented with proper instrumentation rather than a finished product, but the composition itself is passable as a whole. Next comes The New Form with no less than three songs in a very New Wave/Punk Rock vein once again. Of the three, I guess "Blockhead" is the most interesting, with a very direct approach and wacky lyrics that are actually good fun. Many modern-day punk rock bands would surely have a good time recording a cover version of this song, I suppose. "Boy" is a bit too simple for its own good if you ask me, but "On the Edge" (the closer to real New Wave territory here) has a slightly disturbing feel that deserves a mention, despite being a pretty basic composition with not a single drop of Heavy Metal trickled in.

I'm not sure what makes a bunch of musicians decide to adopt Beaver as a band name (perhaps pure youthful lack of criteria, who knows), but let's try to overlook this really hopeless choice and set our focus on the two songs they perform here. This is pure pub rock with not much in the sense of individuality or will to experiment, although both "Mack the Knife" (not that one, of course) and "Kleptomania" are perfectly listenable. I'm sure thay never really got a chance to make it big with such a predictable brand of music, but it's all very upbeat and enthusiastic, so let's not be too harsh on the lads, OK? If you're looking for comparisions, it reminds me a little of Speed Limit (as Malc MacMillan also says in his NWOBHM Encyclopedia) - a style of choice that probably worked to great effect at small clubs in Cardiff, but not enough to qualify them as real NWOBHM contenders at all. To close proceedings, the Young Marble Giants - a band that would actually make quite a name for themselves in the post-punk scene. This is the very first studio offering from the group, and the two tracks here featured ("Ode to Booker T." and "Searching for Mr. Right") are very individualistic indeed, with the sweet and plaintive voice of Alison Statton giving some nice nuances to a very basic, drum-machine oriented background. I'm not a huge fan, but I acknowledge their efforts to create a musical personality of their own and I suppose the cult status of Young Marble Giants is more than deserved. I wouldn't reccomend it to diehard metalheads, though.

Although most band included on "Is the War Over?" would unspectacularly plungle into oblivion soon after the LP was out, there's a fair percentage of (slightly) successful stories to be told this time around. The aforementioned Young Marble Giants are now indie heroes, their "Colossal Youth" LP being regarded as a post-punk classic, and Mad Dog would find a career for themselves during the later stages of the NWOBHM phenomenom, releasing an eponymous album as late as 1986 (soon to be reviewed around here, I hope). Addiction never achieved greater things, but there's an interesting biography to be read here, and Reptile Ranch released a couple of singles of their own before vanishing from the scene - guitarist Spike would later work with Alison Statton in two post-Young Marble Giants projects, namely Weekend and Spike (a band rather than a solo project, it seems). You can also learn about these projects in a website dedicated to Z Block Records' legacy. All things considered, I think it's fair to say that, compared to other compilations of the period, "Is The War Over?" was a reasonable success when it comes to give some hopefuls a chance to shine. Not one to give NWOBHM addicts some sleepless nights, but a fairly interesting compilation all the same.

01. ADDICTION - Violence
02. ADDICTION - Stampede
03. ADDICTION - Seek & Search
04. MAD DOG - Killer
05. MAD DOG - Someone Here Must Like Me
07. RIOTOUS BROTHERS - Airey Neave
09. REPTILE RANCH - Waterhole
10. THE NEW FORM - On the Edge
11. THE NEW FORM - Boy
12. THE NEW FORM - Blockhead
13. BEAVER - Mack the Knife
14. BEAVER - Kleptomania
15. YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS - Ode to Booker T
16. YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS - Searching for Mr. Right

Extra thanks to Discogs 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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

domingo, 18 de maio de 2014

Offering of Isca (Compilation, LP, Micro Records, 1985)


This extremely rare compilation with an extremely unassuming cover did not really raise any eyebrows among the NWOBHM collector scene until relatively recent times, when someone actually came to know there were some Heavy music to be found there. But it was always a sought-after artefact for obsessive collectors involved with Krautrock, Synthpop, Minimal Synth and similar subdivisions of electronic music - something that, coupled with the undeniable scarcity of the LP, rendered it a very expensive purchase with outlandish prices being asked every time it cropped up for sale. Produced and compiled by Circuit 7 member Martyn Good (also one of the partners in Micro Records, or so it seems), "Offering of Isca" is a fair-balanced compilation when it comes to the most prominent musical genres at the time - there's at least two bands sure to appeal to the NWOBHM enthusiasts (maybe three, if you're a more broad-minded collector), so it's more than justified that I drop a few lines about it.

Renegade Angel's "Hell's Let Loose" is a good enough tune indeed - a mid-tempo track with a driving rhythm and distorted guitars reminiscent of none other than Venom (I kid you not). But don't think we're talking of some Black Metal wannabes around here: it's much more of a Hard Rock-Heavy Metal collision (it even reminds me of Silverwing's "Rock and Roll are Four Letter Words", for instance) that sounds quite amateurish most of the time, although I tend to think it adds charm to the track rather than ruining it. "Classic Offender" is slower and heavier, sounding a bit like Shock Treatment's "Nuclear Warfare" (more dedicated NWOBHM addicts will know what I mean) but still keeping the not-really-professional vibe of the previous number. The final section of the song is more forceful though, trying to give a dynamic feel to the composition, with acceptable results. Not bad really, and Renegade Angel is surely a welcome inclusion into the realms of British 80s Metal.

Prowler is quite an overused name when it comes to NWOBHM, but this is yet another one, being unrelated to all the other ones a NWOBHM addict could number. "Sanctuary" is perhaps the best song of the entire compilation when it comes to Heavy Metal: a reasonably forceful song with simple-but-good riffing and some more sedated parts, specially at the chorus. It reminds me of bands like Sparta and Sabre, being a pleasant composition as a whole - it could have been included in some of Ebony's compilations without being out of place, for instance. I would completely agree with the guys from Corroseum on "Murder & Revenge" though: this one is a very basic hard rocker that actually seems closer to Stooges and New York Dolls than anything more Metal-related. Markedly inferior to the other song they deliver here, but still worthy of a spin or two, I suppose.

Of the other bands featured, The Outfit's "Reckless" is the closer we'll get to Metal territory around here. The guitar work is OK, and the composition reminds me in places of more poppy moments from undoubtedly NWOBHM bands - a bit like Midas' "Can't Stop Loving You Now", just to give you an example. More charitable Metal addicts may even enjoy it (I indeed enjoy it a little, to be honest), but there's a sax making a solo where a guitar should be, so don't get too over-excited about it if you are a purist. "Stealing with the Boys", on the other hand, is a strange Reggae-Metal type of tune (I tell you no lies) where a surprisingly strong chorus appears coupled with yawn-inducing Peter Tosh-like instrumentation in places. It's difficult to make a strong opinion on this song, but I guess most long-haired metalheads would discard it straight away. Personally speaking, I actually kinda like it, so The Outfit gets out with a not-really-convinced but still sincere thumbs-up, just to acknowledge their good guitar work and their will to experiment.

Circuit 7 is a synthpop outfit with more than a passing resemblance to Kraftwerk - needless to say, not exactly a winning formula if you want to capture the heart of a Heavy Metal fan. That said, "India" is slightly interesting, as it seems to have some influences of progressive rock in its structure - although the faceless (and tuneless) vocals leave a lot to be desired. You're unlikely to listen to it more than once though, and "Beat Tonight" is actually pretty risible even for electronic music standards, I guess. The least interesting band here by a long stretch, at least in my honest (but perhaps unfair) opinion.

Finally, we can succintly describe V.o.K. as a surprise package. You can easily live without ever listening to "Lonely Boys, Lonely Girls" unless you are a dedicated Minimal Synthpop collector, but "Nukes of Terra" is a major improvement - even being miles away from a Metal song, it's actually one of the most enjoyable compositions of the entire LP! Its post-punk, near apocalyptical atmosphere works very well and the chorus sticks to your mind in no uncertain terms. It's not a surprise to know that most electronic music collectors want "Offering of Isca" because of this single track, as it's easily the most unique and accomplished composition of the LP, and a remarkably strong offering (sorry about the pun) from such an unknown outfit. It really makes you wonder what these guys could have become if this song was the A-side of a proper single from a more high-profile label... A surprisingly good composition indeed, even more when you compare it to the other (very weak) contribution of V.o.K. here featured.

Needless to say, the bands who took part of "Offering of Isca" disappeared out of sight pretty soon after the LP was issued, with most musicians involved giving up on being rock stars and having (hopefully) very happy and wealthy lives away from the music scene. Circuit 7 was the most stablished band at the time, with two singles released in 1984, but they seem to have become history not long after that - though an LP of archive material called "Video Boys" was released as late as 2009. All the other bands plunged into oblivion after "Offering of Isca", with no individual releases or further compilation appearances before or ever since. Quite surprisingly, Renegade Angel decided to return from the wilderness at some point: they made a comeback gig in 2010 and created a Facebook page to keep those interested informed of further developments. Sadly, there's no updates since 2012, which tends to suggest they decided to lay the band down to rest once again - but let's hope for some further movement from the lads in the not-too-distant future.

See picture scans and labels for further details

01. CIRCUIT 7 - India
02. RENEGADE ANGEL - Hell's Let Loose
03. THE OUTFIT - Reckless
04. V.o.K. - Lonely Boys, Lonely Girls
05. PROWLER - Murder & Revenge
06. RENEGADE ANGEL - Classic Offender
07. PROWLER - Sanctuary
08. CIRCUIT 7 - Beat Tonight
09. THE OUTFIT - Stealing with the Boys
10. V.o.K. - Nukes of Terra

Extra thanks to Renegade Angel 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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

sexta-feira, 16 de maio de 2014

WENFFLAM (UK-Wales) - Deigryn Du (7'', Tryfan, 1986)


I was looking forward to listen to Wenfflam (another band from Wales that have chosen to sing on their native Welsh language) for quite a long time, and most of my curiosity was surely indebted to the simple, but surely eye-catching picture sleeve to their sole "Deigryn Du" single from 1986. The Metal-looking logo is enough to spark the imagination of any Heavy Metal fan, and the sheer scarcity of this 7'' (issued by Tryfan, a minuscule subsidiary of Sain Records) sure gave some collectors a few sleepless nights. Furtive glances and surreptitious whispering used to regard Wenfflam ("Flames", in a free translation) as some sort of late-NWOBHM forgotten miracle, and the fact that no one seemed to have heard their music until a few years ago only fostered the cult status around it. On the other hand, experience taught me that Welsh-singing rock bands use to be quite fond of recording watered-down ballads at any available opportunity. That is something that truly intrigues me BTW: why are Welsh-speaking musicians so obsessed with balladry? Maybe there's something to do with the geography of Wales, the montainous landscapes and sparsely-populated coastal cities being propitious for a more contemplative mood... Oh well, I don't know. Wherever the explanation lies, I had my spirit prepared for all kinds of unpleasant surprises when I finally managed to obtain mp3 files taken from this extremely elusive slice of vinyl.

"Deigryn Du" (the songtitle means "Black Teardrop", believe it or not) is a very mellow ballad (no surprises here, right?) that could actually be passed as a more radio-oriented song from a Heavy Metal band if we had any grounds to say that Wenfflam was a Metal outfit in the first place. The lads were apparently very young, but their individual performances are all acceptable as a whole; that's actually too bad that their efforts were focused in such a faceless composition though. The guitar solo is somewhat more punchy, that's for sure, but the song as a whole is unlikely to set any pulses racing. Flipside "Mynadd Byw" is a more upbeat number, admitedly, but don't expect any skull-crushing Metal assault to be launched here: it's a very basic rock number that sounds like a more restrained version of Stray Cats. Nothing too disgraceful at all, but I seriously think that NWOBHM collectors have far more fitting options in which to invest their hard-earned cash.

Apart from the two songs from this 7'', there are three more studio recordings of Wenfflam known to exist. "Lisa" is another rock 'n' roll tune with more than an influence of rockabilly-oriented acts from the early 80s - another indication that the nice logo was pretty much anything that Wenfflam had to do with Heavy Metal at the time. "Creithiau Ddoe" is something of a positive surprise, as it's a slighty more forceful semi-ballad with good guitar work in places - there's even an almost-metallic instrumental section here! It seems to have been the most successful song from the band, as it was even aired a few times in Welsh TV, and it's not bad at all - not a world-beater by anyone's standards, but way better than "Deigryn Du" for instance. Still, the closer we'll ever get to Metal territory when it comes to Wenfflam will probably be "Cyn Ddaw Y Bore" - a very upbeat rocker that could even pass as a bona fide Hard Rock tune if given a proper production. They seem to have been quite interested in guitar interplay, and the solos are pretty good once again. I suppose these two compositions are from a later period in the band's career, with some line-up changes and a revised repertoire. Whatever the story, it's a shame that they never released a second single, as I have a strong feeling that it would be more appealing to our tastes than "Deigryn Du" turned out to be. Watch the video below and judge for yourselves.

The Welsh-language rock scene was a very small one at the time (and it still is today), so it's perfectly understandable that Wenfflam's lifespam was a short one, the lads deciding to disband long before the end of the 80s. Most of the musicians involved seem to never have taken any role in music afterwards, but there are still some clues to be checked. It seems for instance that Declan "Paddy" Parry - a well-travelled bass player for local bands like This Thing, Hitchcock and Army of Crows, now with none other than Marshall Law - is the bass player wearing a Metallica t-shirt on the video below, although the full extent of his spell with Wenfflam is still to be determined. Huw Owen, credited as bass player in "Deigryn Du", is also supposed to have taken part in other bands from Wales, but it's a very common name over there so it's difficult to tell without asking him first. Finally, I was told long ago that original guitarist and songwriter Edward Huws gave up any plans of local rock stardom and decided to pursuit a career in classic music, but this info can also be completely wrong. If any of you good people can help me to fill the gaps, please kindly get in touch, as there's no reliable info on Wenfflam anywhere and I think that it would be fair to give them the dignity of a proper bio.

Glyn Parrington (V), Edward Huws (G), Daffyd Baines (G), Huw Owen (B), Euron Williams (D). Also performed: Kevan Critchley (G), Declan "Paddy" Parry (B).

WENFFLAM - Cyn Ddaw Y Bore

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!

quarta-feira, 14 de maio de 2014

WIKKYD VIKKER (UK) - Black of the Night (7'', Boogie Records, 1983)


I must admit that intentionally-misspelled band names always give me the chills, and I'm usually not really symphatetic towards groups that choose to adopt such "funny" and "confrontative" epithets. But Leichestershire's (UK) Wikkyd Vikker somehow manages to survive their ill-conceived moniker and became a target of deserved praise from NWOBHM collectors, an adulation that their scarce vinyl legacy is more than enough to justify. Formed in 1981, the group was originally a four-piece with Dick Boorman (V), Gary Butler (G), Andy Harrison (B) and Adrian Bates (D), and it took less than a year before now-legendary Ebony Records offered the youngsters some much-needed studio time.

The first chance to listen to these hopefuls was "Super Rocker", a song included in a 1982 compilation called "Metallic Storm" (soon to be reviewed around here). Unfortunately, it didn't really show what the band was capable of, as it's a somewhat predictable heavy rocker like hundreds of contemporary groups could write without much effort. It was a wasted opportunity perhaps (and there was no contract talks with Ebony at any stage), but Wikkyd Vikker didn't spend much time dwelling on this mistake, expanding their act to a quintet by recruiting second guitarist Mark Evans - formely with Valhalla and one of those responsible for the "Lightning in the Sky" single from 1981. The newcomer pretty much took the songwriting duties all for himself, and it's fair to say that it was a considerable improvement, as their sole individual release (the "Black of the Night" 7'' from 1983) demonstrates quite well.

Both "Black of the Night" and "Release" are strongly connected to the NWOBHM sound and vision, being quite easy to ignore the glam-evoking monicker of the band and imagine the lads rocking hard at a small pub, all wearing their denim and leather outfits and banging their long-haired heads all over the place. I don't know about you, but it's sure a nice mental image for me! "Black of the Night" is the strongest of the pair, carried along by an ultra-NWOBHM riff that bands like Saxon and Dealer would sure enjoy calling their own and an astute song structure, coupling a simple-but-catchy chorus with a mellower mid-section soon to delve into a climatic (albeit very simple) instrumental part. Really good stuff to make any NWOBHM enthusiasts, well, even more enthusiastic than usual. "Release", on the other hand, is a considerably more restrained tune - the main riff screams NWOBHM in your face once again, but the song as a whole seems less intense and I really think Dick Boormann could (and should) have sung with a little more passion here. The backing vocals are a bit radio-friendly (not that such a small-run single would gain any airplay, you know), but the composition drags on for quite a while - something that does little to help matters, if you ask me. But don't get me wrong: "Release" is a good song as a whole. The sound production is fairly competent, the individual performances are all within the usual standards and this humble 7'' show Wikkyd Vikker in a very positive light most of the time.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), Wikkyd Vikker (that chose to adopt the equally-hopeless name Pretty Wicked and a more glam-oriented outlook at the later stages of their existence) would not be around for much longer, being probably disbanded by the mid-80s. It is mentioned in some quarters that a second pressing of "Black of the Night" appeared sometime in 1984, under the Pretty Wicked guise and even with a picture sleeve - I sure wouldn't dismiss such a possibility, though I never saw such an item myself. None of the musicians involved seem to have kept plugging in after the band was over, any signs of further musical activity from them being impossible to locate - but efforts are being made to contact some of the long-time members of Wikkyd Vikker, so maybe we'll have some nice things to share in the near future.

Dick Boorman (V), Gary Butler (G), Mark Evans (G), Andy Harrison (B), Adrian Bates (D).

01. Black of the Night
02. Release

Many thanks to Mega Watt Fanzine for the label picture!

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!

domingo, 9 de março de 2014

The Friday Rock Show (Compilation, UK, BBC Records, 1981)


The idea of releasing a compilation LP with session highlights from BBCs "The Friday Rock Show" was one surely destined for success - and it comes as no surprise that 1980's "Metal Explosion" would be followed by another instalment roughly a year later. "The Friday Rock Show" is a rather functional title, but it leaves no room for confusion, and it's a worthy follow-up to the previous volume, perhaps even more interesting than its predecessor for die-hard NWOBHM addicts. While "Metal Invasion" was a good record but with a considerable small ammount of out-and-out NWOBHM, this LP is unequivocally a NWOBHM compilation, as nearly all tracks (even the not-so-interesting ones) can be easily associated with the explosion (pun intended) of youthful musicians growing their hairs down to their belts and playing some unashamedly heavy music for the sheer hell of it. As most of you already know, the musical enthusiasm of good old Tommy Vance allowed countless hopefuls to use BBC's Maida Vale Studios to record a few tunes for nationwide broadcast - and some of the more worthy contributions end up being included on this compilation, mostly with pleasant results.

The fun begins with Spider and "What You're Doing To Me", a song that won't cause any surprises on anyone familiar with the music of this particular bunch. It's a metallic interpretation of good old boogie, sounding like Status Quo with heavier guitars, much like the vast majority of their material and much like a large percentage of NWOBHM outfits, to be honest. Turns out to be a funny song that's very easy to enjoy (although it could be a bit shorter, I guess), but don't expect loads of originality or adventureness going on around here. Unfortunately, the mighty Diamond Head contributes with the somewhat lacklustre ballad "Don't You Ever Leave Me". I love these guys really and they were surely one of the most creative bands ever to come out of the NWOBHM, but I consider this song to be one of their most uninspired moments, a sub-Led Zeppelin without any hooks at all - and God knows Diamond Head's songs are usually overflowing with hooks most of the time. Even Sean Harris' vocal performance is slightly over-the-top, his uhh-babes and whooaas getting truly annoying after a while. Sorry guys, but I could have easily lived without it.

Things improve greatly right after that, though, with Sweet Savage and their superb "Eye of the Storm" tune - a very intense, hard-hitting track filled with flashing guitars and a commanding pace that really set necks in motion. I guess James Hetfield learned a thing or two from the way Raymond Haller sings here - seriously, the voice of Haller and the vocals on "Kill 'em All" sound nearly identical in places. Sweet Savage were really taking a step onwards when it comes to heavy arrangements, being pretty much a proto-thrash outfit even as early as this. Outstanding, really. And Last Flight's "Dance to the Music", although a song of a completely different kind, keep things in a very high level. This is a hard rocker made to make you move, and I bet you won't be able to listen to it without stomping your feet or waving your head from one side to the other. It sounds good-humoured, high-spirited and hugely entertaining without letting us down in the rock department. Perhaps it may be a bit too pop-tinged for some tastes, but I consider Last Flight to sucessfully walk a very thin line between "sounding catchy" and "selling out" here, this song being one of the most unexpected NWOBHM classics you will ever hear. And oh yeah, I mean it!

Side 2 begins with the well-known Demon and "One Helluva Night", one of their most sucessful songs ever. It's a raunchy Hard/Heavy tune like thousands wrote in the NWOBHM era, and I sincerely consider it to be only a marginally-interesting song - let's face it, they sure wrote far more individualistic and challenging music even at the time this LP first hit the shops. Still, it struck the right chord within the metal market of the day and it's still one of their most well-known compositions, so what do I know? I would prefer they had included a song like "Father of Time" (also played at the BBC session in question) though. Next comes Black Axe and one of my favorite songs from the NWOBHM era: "Edge of the World" is (at least to my ears) a unexpected masterpiece of British heavy music, no less. It's all very simple - the riffs, the lyrics, the guitar leads, the arrangements - and much more melodic than the majority of NWOBHM ever managed to be, but it's all so unbelievably catchy and memorable that it's even a bit difficult to describe: you really have to listen to believe. It's a song about being with a girl while the whole damn world is crumbling to an end, and there's a charm in such a lyrical context (and in the song itself) that hooks you immediately. It's a real shame that this hugely talented band never achieved global domination, as they surely deserved it. Their sole album (released as Wolf) is definitely one to snap up at the earliest opportunity though, so keep your eyes open!

Sadly, this superb track is followed by "Belfast", perhaps the least interesting song Withcfynde (usually a very interesting band) ever commited to vinyl. It's supposed to be a moving ballad about the years of painful civil war in Northern Ireland, but it turns out to be a cold, yawn-inducing slow number that is simply very bad. It's of moderate historical interest for dedicated fans, as it's the very first song with Luther Beltz (then Chalky White) to be released and it would never turn up on any other Witchfynde album or CD, being completely exclusive to this compilation. It's also curious to hear a quasi-satanical band singing about political subjects, but such trivia is far from turning "Belfast" into a more pleasant song, so I consider this inclusion to have been a mistake. Thankfully, the final song of "The Friday Rock Show" is a great Heavy Metal track in the form of Xero's "Cuttin' Loose". It's a strong composition with interesting riffing coupled with a bluesy vocal performance from Moon Willians, a very gifted singer indeed. And it's also a showcase for the talents of guitarist Bill Liesegang, as there's a huge solo going on too (and a surprisingly not-boring one, it must be said). It's very sad that Xero didn't really last the distance (I guess most of you are aware of the infamous connection with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden, and that was a huge setback for them back then), and although this track was not the best choice possible (a different take of "Cuttin' Loose" already appeared on "Metal for Muthas II" compilation a few months previously) it's a nice representation of their considerable talents.

Unfortunately, it would be the last LP from BBC Records to present hopeful NWOBHM bands: although material from such sessions would be included in many band's individual releases in the future, it's a shame that many deserving acts will probably never see their songs released on vinyl or CD. I'm not sure why they never released a third instalment, as the two LPs surely sold quite well. As I told in a previous post, I love cherishing a dream of seeing a "best of Friday Rock Show" CD series coming out sometime, but I know damn too well how much of a remote possibility it is. Thankfully, some recordings straight from radio broadcasts can be located, so at least some sessions can be heard on mp3 format. History and economics aside, "The Friday Rock Show" is a compilation with enough appeal to make NWOBHM fans happy, so I would suggest you to add it to your collection ASAP.

See picture scan of the back cover for further details

01. SPIDER - What You're Doing to Me
02. DIAMOND HEAD - Don't You Ever Leave Me
03. SWEET SAVAGE - Eye of the Storm
04. LAST FLIGHT - Dance to the Music
05. DEMON - One Helluva Night
06. BLACK AXE - Edge of the World
07. WITCHFYNDE - Belfast
08. XERO - Cuttin' Loose

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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!

quarta-feira, 5 de março de 2014

BASHFUL ALLEY (UK) - It's About Time (LP, High Roller, 2011)


Yet another artifact from the (hopefully never ending) series of vinyl releases from High Roller Records, Bashful Alley's LP is a must-have for all you NWOBHM addicts out there. I guess you all know that their sole release in the NWOBHM days (the "Running Blind" 7'' single) is a true classic of the genre and it's great to have it included in "It's About Time", alongside all the other studio recordings of the band (ten tracks in total, but oh well). Go there and buy it straight away. Well, this is the abstract of the post, and that's pretty much all you need to know. But I suppose you will want to read the full review, right? OK, let's go then.

Bashful Alley was the brainchild of Rob Tidd (G) and Ian "Truff" Threlfall (B), both young (but slightly experienced) musicians from the Midlands. Tidd, for instance, played a while with a more rock-oriented outfit called Next, "Running Blind" being originally a part of this band's repertoire. The first line-up of Bashful Alley also included Dave Slamen (V) and a drummer called Donkey (don't ask, I don't have a clue), but the more stable unit of the group would have Robin Baxter on drums and Rob Tidd taking over vocal duties as well. They released the reasonably successful (and now near-legendary) "Running Blind" single by the small Ellie Jay label in 1982, and later decided to explore new musical avenues with Anthony Jones being added as a second guitarist. After a few years of hard working, they decided to call it a day sometime in 1985, the musicians later joining outfits such as Sleaze Brothers Inc., Dollface and Line of Fire in later years. With the NWOBHM collecting scene taking shape, Bashful Alley became a target of well-deserved (if belated) adulation - and High Roller came to the final rescue, releasing all the remaining recordings from the band in a much-welcomed LP.

There's not much left to be said about "Running Blind", for instance - a song that, as time went on, came to be a true classic of the NWOBHM genre. It's a great resume of what all the fuss was about those days: mid-paced heavy music played with youthful enthusiasm, nice riffs, catchy chorus, tons of energy... The song has it all, really. Excellent, really - and its early demo version, that closes proceedings here, is also very nice.  "My My My" was the B-side of their now classic 7'' single, and it's also a very good tune - it reminds me of Iron Maiden a bit, specially for the astute use of twin-guitar leads, but perhaps Thin Lizzy would be a closer paralel here. Another catchy vocal lines and a mellower, almost atmospheric solo session are more than enough to qualify it as another easy winner, the resulting single being one of the nicest of its kind ever to be released during the height of the NWOBHM.

The other eight songs included on this LP are taken from demos, some planned for a follow-up release that unfortunately never materialized. "She Only Wants Me for My Body", for instance, was recorded at the same session than the two takes of the single and it's strong reminiscent of Status Quo, but with an unmistakeable tongue-in-cheek vibe (c'mon, look at the song title!) that results in a fair lot of juvenile, politically-incorrect fun. "It's About Time" is even more in a Quo scheme of things, maybe a bit too much for its own good if you ask me - but oh well, there's nothing wrong about playing some good old boogie from time to time, right? "Nicotine Kiss" is more of a punkish heavy rock, very raw stuff indeed - we can forgive them for sounding a bit immature here, as it was their very first composition as a band. And there's also more of Thin Lizzy going on here, specially on "Why Can't You See?", a song that Phil Lynott himself could have penned, really. Not bad, I guess.

But Bashful Alley is at their best (as most bands usually do) when they allow themselves to be a bit more adventurous. For instance, I really like "Rescue Me" - a hard-rocker-as-usual but with nice, different lyrics and a slight change of tone at the chorus that really works quite well. It shows personality, and I really like it as a whole. "Light it Up" is also great, a more bluesy number with great guitar work that metamorphoses into a frenzied, flashing assault towards the end. Nice and funny, indeed. These two tracks could have made an awesome single under different circumstances, no doubt about that! And I guess all surviving material from Bashful Alley shows a band full of genuine potential, a bunch of musicians that could really have achieved some good things if given the required encouragement.

"It's About Time" is a good item for collectors, not only for the music, but also for its simple-but-interesting presentation. There are lyrics for all songs, nice liner notes from Rob Tidd, archive photos and so on (the LP itself is a picture-disc, incidentally). All things considered, I guess Bashful Alley deserves your careful listen and a few bucks of your money - better late than never, I would add, as they unfortunately were mostly ignored the first time around. Let's not give them the same treatment now, OK?

(more images to be included here soon!)

Rob Tidd (V/G), Ian "Truff" Threlfall (B), Robin Baxter (D). Also performed: Dave Slamen (V), Anthony Jones (G), Donkey (D).

01. Running Blind
02. My, My, My
03. She Only Wants Me for My Body
04. Rescue Me
05. Light it Up
06. Why Can't You See?
07. It's About Time
08. Nicotine Kiss
09. She Only Wants Me for My Body
10. Running Blind

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!

segunda-feira, 3 de março de 2014

Metal Explosion (Compilation, UK, BBC Records, 1980)


Maybe it's not a must-have when it comes to NWOBHM compilations (surely albums like "New Electric Warriors" and "Metal for Muthas" are far more representative of the genre), but "Metal Explosion" is quite a good one and an important item for any serious collector, for both musical and historical reasons. BBC Radio One's "Friday Rock Show" was an extremely influential radio show in the 80s, being pretty much a mandatory listen for any British Heavy Metal fan - every friday night from 10pm to midnight thousands of long-haired kids would stay in tune for some heavy music, thanks to the enthusiastic and indefatigable Tommy Vance and his determination to give national airplay to talented new bands from all over UK. Recording at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios, the hopefuls would have quality material being heard pretty much everywhere, and it's no surprise how helpful this exposure was for many now well-regarded bands. And releasing selected cuts from such sessions in vinyl format was an obvious, but surely welcomed move - although it's a shame that so few of the heavier bands received such a treatment, while less aggressive types of rock and roll were privileged with countless compilations, EPs and Peel Sessions throughout the years. "Metal Explosion" is the first of two LPs to come out with NWOBHM music from BBC, and I have quite an affection for it - though I never lived in UK and never heard a single Friday Rock Show in my entire life. Go figure.

The fun begins with Samson and their "Take it Like a Man" effort, a number that would also find pride of place on their "Head On" LP. There's not much difference between the two versions, although the live feel gives the song a raunchier vibe and really helps the energy flow, you know. Samson was never my favorite NWOBHM band, but they sure were quite a significant act of the period and this song is a good example of their usual approach. On the other hand, "Johnny Cool" was never the most well-regarded song from Praying Mantis (I guess it was never even played live in the last 20 years or more), but I must say it was always one of my personal favorites - and it is to say something, as I'm a huge fan of the Mantis and really love most of what they did. OK, I know we're not in usual Heavy Metal territory here, as it's much more a boogie-type rock'n'roll with extra energy, all criticism from die-hard metalheads being perfectly understandable. But I have a fond feeling for it - maybe because of its sheer energy, maybe because the astute lyrics, or perhaps the nice guitar work throughout... Well, I like it. A lot. Judge me if you will!

Trespass' "Visionary" is a slow, heavy number with a somewhat grandiose atmosphere and some nice changes in pace to keep the listener's attention. It was a time of maturing for the lads, and this song shows they were mastering their trade at quickening pace - it's actually too bad they didn't manage to release a full LP back in the day, as I suppose they would have done a commendable job. Still, I'm not totally in love with "Visionary": it's a good song, but not one I'm always excited to listen to, to put it straight. Perhaps it's only me, anyway. And then "Paper Chaser", Taurus' contribution and probably my favorite song from the entire album. As singer Terry Keegan himself once told me in an e-mail exchange (hope to publish some info from it very soon!), the song is a "guitar feature", a chance for axemen Terry Swain and Nigel Brown to show their talents. But it's also more than that - it's a hell of a good heavy rocker with tons of energy and a bum-pa-dum-pa-dum that really sets your whole body in motion. The guitar solos work quite effectively, and the end of the song is no less than outstanding. What a nice track, my friends. Too bad they never managed to release a full album through one of their many guises (they later became Raid the North and then The Works), as they surely deserved it.

Opening side B, comes the dependable More and their heavy, aggressive "Soldier" number. Paul Mario Day is one of my favorite NWOBHM singers, and he delivers quite a performance here, really adding to the overall atmosphere with his deep, powerful voice. The main riff is awesome, a pure-blood Sabbath but with the necessary NWOBHM feel to it, and the resulting composition is one of my personal favorites when it comes to More (and they were a pretty respectable band throughout, you know). Thumbs up. Next comes Money, a band that wasn't really a newcomer to the scene (they already had a full album and a few singles released at that point) and that tried a lot to adjust their material to the headbanging spirit of the times. "Leo the Jester" is a quirky number really representative of the band's creativity, and the many twists and turns of the composition become more familiar and rewarding with repeated listens. Still, it's not a song that fit too well into the usual NWOBHM archtype (it's a very 70ish tune with even reminds me of Queen a little), so I would completely understand any headbanger willing to skip it and go straight to the next track. I like it, anyway.

Ian Gillan was a fairly respectable name back in 1980 - not only for his Deep Purple days, but also for his reasonably successful solo career. But oh well, he was nowhere near a hopeful anymore when "Metal Explosion" was released, so it's hard to fully understand the inclusion of "If You Believe Me". Even more considering it is a very large number (around 9mins in total) and not a Heavy Metal one at all, being much more a blues-rock with many pianos and full of vocal improvisations. It's boring and very much out of place here if you ask me. Fortunately, Kevin Heybourne and his Angel Witch come to the rescue, closing proceedings with a kickass rendition of "Extermination Day". I suppose all of you know what to expect from a typical Angel Witch song: abrasive guitars, intense pace, obscure lyrics about some mythological/mysterious subjects and the unmistakable voice of Mr. Heybourne, with its somewhat nasal tone and all that wonderful howls and shrieks. Actually, it's one of the most frenzied songs from their vintage years (and it was never included on any of their studio albums), so be sure to properly bang your head while listening to it, will you?

BBC would release another compilation of NWOBHM around a year later (named "The Friday Rock Show", just to make the origin of the tracks perfectly clear, I guess) and some bands managed to release tracks from the show on individual releases, but fact is that most of the wondrous BBC sessions from NWOBHM bands are unreleased to this day, and probably forever will. Thanks to some surviving recordings straight from radio broadcast, we still can listen to some of it - but I like to fable about how cool would be a series of CDs, perhaps a boxset filled with highlights from Tommy Vance's enduring show (it lasted from 1978 to 1993) to make all NWOBHM fans like me very happy. Not that I really believe it can happen, mind you. But let's be grateful for what we have: "Metal Explosion" is quite a nice listen and I expect all of you to have a copy of it. They could at least license an official reissue in CD format...

See picture scan of the back cover for further details

01. SAMSON - Take it Like a Man
02. PRAYING MANTIS - Johnny Cool
03. TRESPASS - Visionary
04. TAURUS - Paper Chaser
05. MORE - Soldier
06. MONEY - Leo the Jester
07. GILLAN - If you Believe Me
08. ANGEL WITCH - Extermination Day

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 drequon@gmail.com and let me know!