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 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 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 and let me know!

domingo, 2 de março de 2014

DESTROYA (UK) - Destroya (EP, High Roller, 2011)


It's a pleasure for me to add a fair number of High Roller releases to my personal collection. I consider these guys to be doing a great job, bringing back some great music from the 80s (and most of all NWOBHM, of course) for die-hard fans and avid collectors to enjoy. I have been buying their CD catalog for quite a while, and now I'm adding to my humble collection some of their vinyl releases too, as I finally bought a decent turntable and therefore can delve into this amazing (and sometimes quite expensive) world, once and for all. Expect to see a fair number of High Roller releases being reviewed around here, as I have bought a lot of stuff recently!

Let's start then with the interesting 12'' EP from Destroya, formed in 1979 at the East End of London by Andy Gregory (V) and Brian Moore (B) and that had some relation with none other than Iron Maiden, as some of Destroya's first musicians were part of Maiden's crew. There's an interesting bio to be read at the insert of this EP, so I won't delve too deep into personel changes and similar info - it's enough for our purposes to say they went as far as to record a 4-track demo in early 1983, leaving behind the somber imagery of their formative years and choosing to adopt a glam look (not really attuned to most of their music to be honest, but nevermind). They also started to use some silly pseudonyms (Andy Gregory became "Diamond" and Brian Moore chose to call himself "Genocide"), and were assisted by two ex-Rampant musicians - Ricky Tiley on drums, who was christened as (prepare for a surprise) "Rampant", and guitarist Paul "Jax" Playle - for their recording of their first demo. They made a hundred copies of it back in the day, and now the tracks are available for a wider audience thanks to a careful vinyl reissue via High Roller.

After an intro full of distortion and feedback, "Violent Streets" launches in very intense fashion, with aggressive riffing and a more restrained (yet heavy enough) chorus. The production is very raw, admitedly, but I think it adds to the overall effect of juvenile energy and power. It's a good number, showing that Destroya could comfortably sit alongside the most metallic acts of the period such as Satan, Mythra and even Iron Maiden themselves (although they were surely way more riff-oriented than Steve Harris and the boys). Second song "Victims of War" reminds me, both in song structure and lyrical concept, of Jaguar's "War Machine" - even the vocal melodies are similar. I think it's no more than a coincidence (it doesn't seems reasonable to think a band actually heard the demo material of the other), but it still is quite a noticeable resemblance. It's a competent attempt to create a dramatic wartime song, even though it's a bit immature in places.

Opening side two, "Stay With Me" is the most typical song here, a heavy rocker with the usual guy-wants-a-girl lyrics like the NWOBHM bequeated us in droves. Not a bad song at all, but it's the least impressive tune on display here. The way the guitarist apparently mess things up at the beginning of the solo sums things up perfectly: it adds a bit of youthful charm, but it also sounds a bit too ramshackle for comfort. To close proceedings, "Destroya" comes out like a true proto-Thrash offering, not too many miles away from Metallica's "Whiplash" (once again, I'm pretty sure there wasn't any actual influence going on here, it's just a musical similarity). The change in pace at the chorus doesn't work perfectly well IMO, but it's a minor detail - the song as a whole being a great excuse for more enthusiastic metalheads to throw some healthy shapes all over the place. No wonder it was the opening number at their shows. A wise choice, I would add.

I wouldn't say that Destroya were victims of a brutal injustice when they disbanded a few months after releasing this demo recordings (some of them resurfaced almost imediately as Shanghai Tiger, incidentally), as there's nothing here that really defies belief in terms of quality. But they sure had a fair deal of promise, and perhaps they could have developed quite well if they managed to soldier on a little longer. Oh well, all the might-have-beens. Surprisingly, they reunited in the first half of the 90s and recorded two other demos in a more Thrash Metal style (I don't listen to it for quite a while and I guess they will be reviewed here in the not-too-distant future). This vinyl EP, though, is still their only officialy-released legacy - so I suppose buying a copy would be a good decision for anyone who loves listening to what all those crazy long-haired kids were doing in UK at the first half of the 80s. Please, High Roller, keep them coming!

(more images to be added soon!)

Andy "Diamond" Gregory (V), Paul "Jax" Playle (G), Brian "Genocide" Moore (B), Ricky "Rampant" Tiley (D)

01. Violent Streets (Moore / Gregory)
02. Victims of War (Marx / Lewis / Moore / Gregory)
03. Stay With Me (Moore / Gregory)
04. Destroya (Moore / Gregory)

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!