domingo, 22 de fevereiro de 2015

WARRIOR (UK) - Let Battle Commence (LP, Rainbow Sound, 1980)


I think it's safe to say that Warrior's "Let Battle Commence" LP was one of the very first ultra-collectables of the NWOBHM revival, the scarce copies of their sole vinyl release from 1980 changing hands for impressive amounts of moolah at least since the first half of the 1990s. An early CD reissue by Vinyl Tap in 1994 helped things a little, but it was such a limited run that it also soon became a rare (and somewhat expensive) collectable. But the guys from Chesterfield (not to be confused with at least four other recording acts under the same name doing the rounds in UK at roughly the same time) signed the dotted line for No Remorse, a larger label with more widespread distribution, so I think the CD copies will be enough to finally meet demand this time around.

A well-regarded live attraction in their locality, Warrior decided to finance their debut LP themselves, with a small run of 500 copies being all their emptied wallets could afford to pay. The resulting album shows that the lads were already a strong enough unit, but still needed more time to fully mature as songwriters. The influence of Wishbone Ash is unmistakeable, with all that highly melodic twin-guitar work you can imagine, so don't go for it expecting to hear highly-distorted riffing or huge walls of sheer heaviness. Though in the midst of the British metal explosion, Warrior were mostly a 70's hard rock band, and their association with NWOBHM was much more a matter of timing than anything else. Which is not to say that their sole album is a bad effort, of course.

The production, though not really bad, is as basic as it could possibly be, an approach that probably helped the album to be done quickly but failed to give a distinct sound to the compositions. It's a shame that a promising number like "Warrior" didn't receive a more careful treatment, as I'm sure it could have become quite a powerful track under different circumstances. The songwriting skills of the lads are also a bit wavering at times: a song like "Long Stretch, Broadmoor Blues", though marginally interesting, is more boogie than anything more substantial, and ballad "Memories" is too lame (and even a bit naive) to leave any lasting good impression. I mean, I know damn too well how losing a loved one is a hell of a hard blow for anyone, but the Oh-God-I-can't-believe-that-she-died lyrics are too simplistic to barely scratch the surface of such feelings of grief. Oh well, they were all very young, so let's not be too hard on them.

Fortunately, we also have some good tunes on display, such as great opener "Let Battle Commence" (they really spent some time working on all those guitar leads, I guess), "Yesterday's Hero" (swifts from melancholy to energy with considerable finesse), "Invaders" (perhaps the closer we get to real heavy metal here, though I could easily live without the song's intro) and most of all "Ulster, Bloody Ulster", a heartfelt denouncement about the horrors of Northern Ireland's civil war. If I was kinda harsh with the lyrics of "Memories", I must say we sure have a huge improvement here (the line "the newsman says 'another one dead and Chelsea won one nil'" is truly brilliant stuff), and the song is quite individualistic as a whole.

As we all know by now, Warrior did not last for long after releasing its sole LP, with Dave Hewitt (V) and Kev Barsby (B) soon forming a new venture called Axis. It was also a short lived project, as Dave suffered a nervous breakdown while on stage and decided to quit the music business altogether as a result. Fortunately, he would reconsider, joining Stormwatch as a bassist (a band we're going to review very soon) and now plays industrial music in a project called Sukkerpunch. Kev Barsby is also active, playing in a local act called Bad Penny. The other lads seem to have vanished off the face of the Earth, but I would love to be informed otherwise, so please kindly get in touch if you happen to know better.

All things considered, I would say that "Let Battle Commence" is not the NWOBHM underground classic many still seem to think it is: most of all, it's not even a heavy metal album in the truest sense. But it does have its moments and the music it brings sound pleasant to my ears most of the time, so I think those less obsessed with the canons of heavy metal are likely to enjoy most of the ride. Fortunately, having a copy won't cost you half a month's salary anymore, which is a thing to be celebrated I guess. Music for those who love music, and all that.

Dave Hewitt (V), Steve Allsopp (G), Mick Bannister (G), Kev Barsby (B), Barry Bingham (D).

01. Let Battle Commence
02. Long Stretch, Broadmoor Blues
03. Night-time Girl
04. Memories
05. Yesterday's Hero
06. Invaders
07. Ulster, Bloody Ulster
08. Warrior

Special thanks to Metal Melts the Ice for the CD (Vinyl Tap version) images!

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at and let me know!

sexta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2015

CRYS (UK-Wales) - Sgrech: Casgliad o Oreuon Crys (CD, Sain, 2006)


It took a while longer than I anticipated (a good couple years, actually), but I finally got my hands in "Sgrech", a compilation that retells the story of Crys, surely the most successful Welsh-language heavy metal band ever (now that's a particular distinction, right?). Those who want to delve into detail may read my previous reviews if they like, but this humble CD is a good enough introduction if you know nothing about Crys and just happen to be curious about them. And it's also interesting for long-time fans (almost all of them living in Wales, I suppose), as there's also a new track called "Sgrech", the only song released by Crys in nearly 20 years now. 

As everyone would expect, the pinnacle of Crys' career - the "Rhyfelwr" and "Tymor yr Heliwr" LPs, released in the early 80s - is generously represented here, with no less than 10 tracks out of the total of 13 songs included. Not a bad move really, as both albums never saw proper CD reissues and probably never will, so I guess this compilation will be the only chance to hear remastered versions of "Pendoncwyr", "Barod am Roc", "Mwg", the excellent "Gwlith Y Bore", "Rhyfelwr", "Rociwch Ymlaen" and other important tunes of the band's repertoire.

As a fan (perhaps the only Crys' fan outside the UK, who knows?), I think that including only "Edrych am Nerth" from 1995's "Crys Roc Cafe" CD was a little too harsh on it ("Cefnogwyr Y Byd", for instance, could have made it onto this compilations without much effort) and the fact they left a song like "Cwrdd a Gofid" (perhaps my all-time favorite from Crys) out of the album is a total disgrace. And it was a nice move to include a song from Crys' humble 7'' single debut from 1980, but why they picked up the predictable "Lan Yn Y Gogledd" instead of the way more forceful and individualistic "Cawd Symud" is beyond me. But one has to make some choices, you know, and I guess they know way better than me what really made a difference in their career, so I'll give them credit for putting this compilation together in the first place.

And what about "Sgrech", the only previously unreleased song around here? Well, it's the first (and only to date) chance to hear new lead guitarist Grant Roberts, who filled the shoes of original axeman Alun Morgan as he was living in Canada at the time of recording. Unfortunately, it may also become a permanent replacement, as Morgan passed away in 2012. The song starts a lot like AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" (come on, you sure know what I mean), soon turning into a typical heavy/rock tune with basic instrumentation and a catchy (yet very simple) chorus. Liam Forde's voice sure matured with time, but still it's perfectly recognizable, and new man Roberts have some aces up his sleeve, delivering some tasty leads and a pretty respectable solo. All in all, a good enough song for such a commemoratory release, though not in the same league of Crys' finest compositions.

I'm not sure if there's any hope for a new album anywhere in the future, as Crys seem to be happy to keep a low profile, getting together at long intervails for a few low-key gigs and not much else. They all have lives outside of music now, and perhaps a full-scale reunion, even if for a small period of time, will never be a worthwhile endeavour for the lads. I mean, the Welsh-language music market is hardly a thriving one nowadays, let alone if you're in a hard/heavy band, so why bother? Still, I'll keep my fingers crossed - who knows, recording stuff is relatively inexpensive these days, maybe they just get the bug for writing music again... That would make me glad, really. 

Liam Forde (V/RG), Alun Morgan (LG), Scott Forde (B), Nicky Samuel (D). Also performed: Caryl Parry Jones (BV), Mark Thomas (G), Grant Roberts (G), Wyn Jones (K), Verden Allen (Organ), Richard Morris (Synth).

01. Lan Yn Y Gogledd (L.Forde, S.Forde) 3:04
02. Roc a Rôl (L.Forde, S.Forde) 4:19
03. Merched Gwyllt a Gwin (L.Forde, S.Forde) 4:23
04. Dyma'r Band Cymraeg (L.Forde, S.Forde, N.Samuel, A.Morgan) 3:50
05. Mwg (L.Forde, S.Forde, N.Samuel, A.Morgan) 4:46
06. Edrych am Nerth (L.Forde) 5:00
07. Gwlith Y Bore (L.Forde, S.Forde) 6:00
08. Rhyfelwr (L.Forde, S.Forde, G.Williams) 8:00
09. Barod am Roc (L.Forde, S.Forde) 3:34
10. Pendoncwyr (L.Forde, S.Forde) 3:25
11. Nos Sadwrn (L.Forde, S.Forde, G.Williams) 3:48
12. Rociwch Ymlaen (L.Forde, S.Forde) 4:31
13. Sgrech (L.Forde, S.Forde) 4:03

Have you been involved with any of the bands mentioned here? Have any extra info and/or corrections? Please e-mail me at and let me know!

sexta-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2015

METAL VIRGINS (UK) - Animal People (LP, Thrash Metal Records, 1984)


This is one that surely needs a fair bit of background info to be fully understood. Released sometime in 1984, Metal Virgins' "Animal People" is a record that never really made sense within the NWOBHM bandwagon, being far more suited to the punk rock collecting scene - and it's perfectly justified, as we all now know the album was actually recorded by a punk band called The Accursed. The lads from Kent (UK) had already released two very raw albums in the purest DIY fashion, and their music carries a sort of deconstructive vibe to it, sometimes sounding like a highly improvised and very brutal collision of GBH and psychedelic rock. A description that, as some of you may be aware, could be adequately used for Metal Virgins as well.

The songs that comprise "Animal People" were written and recorded in a small period of time, the trio of Steve (V/G and main songwriter), Gary (B) and Glenn (D) being already busy enough with The Accursed's "Laughing at You" LP that would come out the same year. Needless to say, the resulting album is much more a piece of reckless experimentation than anything more serious, the musicians themselves probably seeing it as a twisted inside-joke and pressing a handful of copies just for the sheer hell of it. They sure tried to associate it with heavy metal, not only by adopting the Metal Virgins alias but also by renaming their Wreck Em Records label as Thrash Metal Records. But I guess you don't need more than the first seconds of the title track to realize that it's pretty much punk rock, no matter how hard they want to state otherwise.

I'll tell no lies to you people: "Animal People" is a bloody mess most of the time. Perhaps the closest comparision would be Venom (though bands like The Blood and Mayhem, the English version, would not be too far off the mark), but you would have to imagine a very punk-oriented and immensely more ramshackle Venom to form an adequate image of Metal Virgins in your mind. Actually, some songs seem to have never been properly finished - I mean, I don't think they rehearsed "Virgins" before recording it, and I seriously doubt they would ever be able to repeat what they did on "Rubber Dolls", no matter how hard they were willing to try. I'm not even sure Steve actually bothered to write the lyrics, as some of it seems to be totally improvised - the obsession with terms such as "fuck" and "shit" is probably not a coincidence, you know.

The lack of knowledge on what heavy metal is all about is clear for all to hear, sometimes with truly laughable results, and the nearly nonexistent production doesn't help matters really. Not to mention the rudimentary guitar histrionics, that come and went without any relation with what is being played by the rest of the band. Some tunes are slightly more accomplished, such as "Get Out" (with a reasonable intro before launching into ultra-fast punk/HC nonsense) and the title track, perhaps the closer we'll get to anything truly related to heavy metal around here. But I reckon that the redeeming features are not enough to justify any money and effort from NWOBHM collectors, so if you happen to be one of them I strongly suggest you to invest your hard-earned cash somewhere else.

Still (and I'm the first to admit how weird this is, considering all that I stated above), I almost like "Animal People" in places: it's all downright clumsy, but there's a lot of youthful energy going on, and their carefree approach is almost charming in a way. I mean, most of us are just too cynical to lay down such a musical racket on tape, let alone to release it as an album, so the fact the trio actually did it comes to show just how much we can shovel our opinions up our arses for all they care. They wanted to spend a few hours in a basement pretending they were a thrash metal band, and there you have it. "Animal People" is not about emulating heavy/thrash music: it's about dismantling it and having a laugh while doing it. I wouldn't say the results are exquisite, but perhaps you can find some fun in listening to Metal Virgins if you're in the right frame of mind. They get a 2-star rating out of their pure swagger, and I think it's fair enough.

Steve (V/G), Gary (B), Glenn (D).

01. Animal People 4:33
02. I'm For Real 4:09
03. Feelings 2:48
04. Virgins 3:26
05. Get Out 4:12
06. Rubber Dolls 3:48
07. Call My Name 3:01
08. Invasion 5:31

Thanks a lot to Discogs for picture sleeve and label images!

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!

quinta-feira, 5 de fevereiro de 2015

THE OATH (GER/SWE) - The Oath (CD, Rise Above, 2014)

RATING: ****

Some lifespans are meant to be very brief, you know, but it's truly amazing just how quickly The Oath came and went. After releasing a nice single in 2013, the duo of Johanna Sadonis (V) and Linnéa Olsson (G) released a very strong self-titled full lenght - and, less than two months after the CD hit the shops, announced that the band was no more. The sudden demise took everyone by surprise, as many simply didn't have the time to listen to the group before it plunged into history, something that rendered "The Oath" (the album, that is) to feel like a near-posthumous effort. It would be a overstatement to say that The Oath (the band) already achieved cult status, but I'm strongly suspicious that doom metal enthusiasts will grant the ladies such a high profile in years to come. And with good reason, readers take note.

The initial riff of opening track "All Must Die" leaves no place for a doubt: The Oath is hugely influenced by old heavy/doom like Angel Witch and Witchfinder General and is not at all ashamed of that. This could be a shortcoming if the songwriters were not creative enough, but it's not the case at all: the song in question is a strong winner, with excellent guitar work and memorable vocals creating an eerie, haunting atmosphere to die for. What an impressive way to kickstart an album. And if it's fair to say The Oath's debut CD does not always live up to the high standard set by its opening number, it's also important to make it very clear: it's a strong record from quite a good band. A very good band indeed.

Lynnéa Olsson is a highly competent guitarist with the right approach for such musical avenues. Her riffs are all very cool, her playing is intense and she has quite a good ear for somber melodies, creating some very dark textures at strategic places. And what a good singer Johanna Sadonis is.  Her voice weaves brooding melodies with sheer conviction, adding almost contemplative overtones to some seriously Satan-obsessed lyrics - and she does all that without ever losing the resolve and swagger needed to convincinly deliver such kind of heavy music (and to sing such lyrical contents without sounding very silly, of course). Simon Bouteloup (B) and Andy Prestridge (D) offer the much needed foundations for the duo to shine, keeping things simple most of the time - though there are some seriously cool basslines here and there, that's for sure. And the straight-to-the-point production is actually very adequate, giving the record a sort of live-in-the-studio vibe that makes everything all the more intense.

Songs like "Silk Road" (a catchy tune with a more rock-and-rolling vibe and excellent vocal performance), "Leaving Together" (this one could REALLY be an Angel Witch song) and "Psalm 7" (slightly closer to sludge territory, but still adequately morbid) are all quite memorable, with nice twists and turns and cleverly crafted to be engaging without getting too complicated in the process. It's not all perfect of course: "Black Rainbow", though mostly a good song, sounds a tad slack-baked to my ears - maybe it just needed a little more time in the oven to get really juicy, if this bizarre metaphor makes any sense to you. And the album loses a bit of steam towards the end, with "Silver and Dust" and "Death Delight" being perfectly acceptable but not much else, if we're to be really strict here. But don't let this pinch of criticism stand in your way: "The Oath" is a truly good album that is sure to take several spins into your CD player.

It's such a pity that this is bound to be the sole release from The Oath, as all those dreary 'irreconcilable musical differences' came earlier than usual for the ladies and we are now left to wonder what it could have been. Still, Johanna Sadonis and session drummer Andy Prestridge joined forces in a new venture called Lucifer (a subtle moniker, that), while Linnéa Olsson is sure to keep things going with Sonic Ritual and Beastmilk, so I guess we'll be hearing more from both in the not-too-distant future.

Johanna Sadonis (V), Linnéa Olsson (G). Also performing: Simon Bouteloup (B), Andy Prestridge (D).

01. All Must Die 6:34
02. Silk Road 4:15
03. Night Child 3:38
04. Leaving Together 6:02
05. Black Rainbow 5:46
06. Silver and Dust 4:50
07. Death Delight 3:17
08. In Dream 2:11
09. Psalm 7 7:13

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!