Sunday, November 22, 2015

Burning Metal

Rockaway Drive – We Live

Independent – 2012

Muthas, I’m not normally in the habit of reviewing three year old albums, but I was listening to an episode of the always awesome Rock And Metal Combat Podcast, and cohost Ian Wadley recommended a band by the name of Rockaway Drive.  He played a couple of their songs and I was completely blown away by the quality of the cuts.  I immediately began searching for information on them and I found their Facebook page and ReverbNation account.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate any of their CDs for sale, and there only appeared to be a couple of their tracks for sale as downloads.  I then contacted the band and they quickly responded with information and a link to their whole album on Youtube. Thanks guys!  

Rockaway Drive is from the same city that’s home to half of my family - Louisville, Kentucky - and they play rock solid, traditional heavy metal.  In fact, if their debut album We Live had been released back in 1984, it would slot right in with other U.S. Power Metal like Shok Paris, Ded Engine, Breaker, and Riot. There’s a ton of mid-80s Judas Priest to many of these songs too, which is always a good thing.   

We Live features ten tracks and is 39 minutes long, which is the perfect length for an album – not so much material that you lose interest, but rather they leave you wanting more.  The songs themselves are mostly straight-up traditional metal with tasteful guitars and a solid rhythm section.  There are a couple of slightly more commercial tracks, and by that I mean commercial for 1984 because they sure as aren’t commercial for 2015!  The vocalist on the album is very good and he sounds like one part Rhett Forrester, one part Harry Conklin, with a dash of Midnight and a pinch of Mandy Lion’s rough edge.  Basically, he’s got the perfect voice for this type of material – melodic with a rough edge.  

Check out the songs “We Live” and “Black Witch” which are great examples of what they do.  In fact, just listen to the whole album below:

The band was nice enough to provide me with the following bio which should answer most of your questions: 

“Rockaway Drive was formed in August of 2009 with one goal in mind and that was to bring back the sounds of 70s and 80s Heavy Metal. In the six years of the band’s existence they have played countless local shows in the Louisville, KY area, and they have opened for such acts as Metal Legends Accept, Quiet Riot, and most recently, Sanctuary.  They released their debut album, We Live in 2012 to much critical acclaim.  Over the years there have been a few line-up changes and other challenges, but the band continues to march forward!  The current line-up are led by the twin axe attack of Mick Watkins and Wes Rogers, vocalist Dani O’Dea, bassist Brad Rogers and drummer Nigel Paul.  They are currently writing material for their sophomore release and aiming for a 2016 release date.”

Also, check out the following live videos featuring the current lineup:

I am looking forward to their new album and I hope they make We Live available in its entirety either digitally or in a physical format.  Pro tip - a Bandcamp page is always a good way to sell some downloads and merch!

The Bottom Line: Do you like U.S.P.M. and traditional heavy metal and do you like supporting independent bands?  If so, check out Rockaway Drive and throw them some coin when their new album is released.  I know I will. 


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let Them Pacify While We Annihilate

Satan - Atom By Atom

Listenable – 2015

Muthas, in 2015 several NWOBHM bands have released, or are set to release, new albums.  I’ve already reviewed the new Iron Maiden, I’ll review the new Saxon shorty, and this time I’m reviewing the new album from Satan.  In 2013, Satan came out of nowhere with one of the best albums of the year – Life Sentence.  It has a legitimate claim to the crown for most impressive comeback album of all time.  The band intentionally wrote and recorded the album as if they were recording the follow-up to their 1983 classic Court In The Act.  Most bands claim to do this, but they normally deliver something that’s various shades of disappointing.  Life Sentence delivered on that promise and then some, with the album being maybe the best thing they have ever done.  So how does the new album, Atom By Atom stack up?  Read on!

Atom By Atom picks right up where Life Sentence left off and is definitely a worthy successor.  It features their patented intricate guitar work, solid rhythm section, and the ageless voice of Brian Ross. The forty seven minute album offers up ten tracks that are all good if not great.  There are no low points on the album to bore the listener, which is very rare with older, reunited bands. 

“Farewell Evolution” kicks off the proceedings with a killer scream and then tons of frantic, frenetic guitars that propel song ably.  It’s a great way to launch an album!  “Fallen Saviour” and “Ruination” display more pure speed, hooky guitar work and tasty vocals.  “The Devil’s Infantry” has appropriately martial drumming and crunchy guitars with really cool lyrics. Also, the final scream from Ross is a perfect display of his vocal power. Check it out here along with the rest of the album:

It should be noted that Satan write some insanely catchy choruses that will drill right into your gray matter and stay there for days and the title track is a great example of this. There are a couple of other superlatives tracks on the album – the galloping “In Contempt,” the middle-eastern flavored tinged “Ahriman,” and the uber-catchy “Bound In Enmity,” which reminds of their song “Twenty Twenty Five.” So damn good!

One of the absolute highlights of the LP is the final cut, “The Fall Of Persephone” which spins an epic tale of the destruction of the Earth by a meteor.  This is a departure for Satan with its varied tempos, mid-song spoken word piece, and the result is an unmitigated triumph. This sprawling track proves that you don’t need eighteen minutes to tell a great story and enthrall your audience.  Also, it’s not about a fucking blimp that crashes, which certainly helps.


The Bottom Line:   This is a great album and a more than worthy follow up to “Life Sentence.”  It’s definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the band, the NWOBHM or great heavy metal in general.  There’s much to love here and it’s definitely worth purchasing, so go out and get it.

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Of Lols?

Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

BMG – 2015

Muthas, have you noticed that every recent album from the Old Masters of Metal has been praised to the hilt as being superb – Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and now Iron Maiden?  Let’s face the truth, most of these albums range from awful, to forgettable, to passable, to average.  None of them is “the best thing the band has ever done” regardless of what most reviewers and the band members themselves claim.  So that brings us to the latest album from Iron MaidenThe Book Of Souls.  Most of the reviews of this album have devolved into nothing more than a hagiography of Maiden, with such absurd claims that it’s the best album since Brave New World, or Fear Of The Dark, or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, or even more absurdly Powerslave.  Come on man, that’s total bullshit.  Let’s not go crazy here, and instead let’s take a look at this album with an honest, critical eye.

Two things are immediately apparent upon the first listen to this 93 minute double album- the production by Kevin Shirley is fucking atrocious and Bruce’s vocals are very strained on the majority of the tracks. It’s is baffling to me that the band retains the services of Shirley because his production jobs are universally terrible.  There is absolutely no separation of the various instruments and the drum sound is particularly bad.  Poor Nicko’s drums sound like state of the art cardboard box drum sound from 1995.  Awful.  Bruce is really pushing it on most of the songs and the results are disappointing and troubling.  Bruce needs to take a page from Rob Halford’s book and pull it back a notch and realize that age has caught up with him.  The tongue cancer and chemo can’t have helped matters either.

What about the songs?  Well, there are eleven of them spread over two CDs.  Disc one clocks in at 50 minutes and disc two at 43 minutes. Of course there are some longer tracks, but there are many sub eight minute cuts for a change.  The album kicks off with “If Eternity Should Fail” and it’s a very good opener, with a catchy chorus and doesn’t feel its eight minute length.  The next song is the lead single, “Speed of Light” which feels dull and lifeless at first, but does get somewhat better with repeated listens.  There is a cool video game themed video for it which you can check out below:

“The Great Unknown is a good song that delivers the goods and has that vintage Maiden sound, but the album comes to a screeching halt with the next cut, “The Red And The Black.” Unfortunately, this is not a cover of the killer BOC song, but rather a bloated thirteen minute cut that could really use some judicious trimming.  Of course this is a Steve Harris construction and exhibits all of his worst modern day songwriting habits.  There’s probably a great five minute song lurking in there someplace, but I don’t have the patience for Steve’s bullshit. 

Thankfully, this is followed by “When The River Runs Deep” which shows tons of pep and is not repetitive at all which helps to clean the palate after “The Red And The Black.” Disc one closes with the ten minute title cut, and of the three ten-minute-plus songs on the album it’s the best.

Disc two opens with “Death Or Glory” which sounds like the Iron Maiden of the days of yore and is easily one of the best songs on the album.  It’s direct, full of energy and is a fun listen.  “Shadows Of The Valley” is enjoyable and sounds like something that could have been on Somewhere In Time without the synth guitars. 

“Tears Of A Clown” has cringe inducing lyrics about a comedian that’s really sad inside and it’s dedicated to Robin Williams. Maiden deserves a round of cock punches for this trite horseshit.  A clown that’s sad?!  How inventive!  I’ve never heard of that before.  Fuck off with this.  Paradoxically, the music is very good on this track with some very nice guitar work.  Too bad about the lyrics being hot garbage.

“The Man Of Sorrows” is a bit lackluster and sort of just plods along. It’s not the worst song on the album, but it’s one of the more forgettable compositions.  By the way, really inventive song title there Maiden.  It’s not like Bruce has a far superior song with the same title or anything.    

And that leaves us with only the eighteen minute and three second “Empire Of The Clouds” which many are hailing as a masterpiece on par with “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.”  Those people are fucking idiots. This song is thirteen minutes too long and is a perfect example of self-indulgent, repetitive twaddle featuring Bruce Dickinson at his pretentious worst.  Egads.  There isn’t even a guitar solo until ten minutes into this journey to the center of boredom.  The rest of the band was probably like, “Oh fuck!  Bruce has cancer!  We’d better indulge this horseshit because who knows how long he’ll be around.”  Of course it’s about a blimp that crashed in 1930.  How exciting!  I’d rather listen to Bruce recite passages from a 747 maintenance manual.  Fuck this shit. Boo!!!!

Well this is harsh.  It's not that bad.

The Bottom Line:  The Book Of Souls is not a great Iron Maiden album, but it is the best Iron Maiden album since the reunion.  Of course, that’s not much of a high bar to hurdle, but they did at least achieve that.  If you are a fan of the band from their classic period you will find a lot to enjoy here even with its flaws.  It’s bloated with several tracks that are absurdly long, but you can always skip the nonsense.  If this sounds like something you’d like, then go buy it, or better yet, go buy Bruce’s Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding which are far better than anything that Maiden has put out since 1988.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Killers Are Ready

Enforcer - From Beyond

Nuclear Blast Records - 2015

Muthas, Swedish metallers Enforcer are back with their fourth album, From Beyond, and it's a blazing 42 minutes of 100% pure, unadulterated, chromium steel. 2013's Death By Fire was great, and this new album is definitely its equal, if not even better! It’s rock-solid and all of the songs are top notch, which makes it a great companion to Death By Fire. There are loads of balls-out speed metal tracks mixed with heavy doses of traditional metal, and that's a winning combination in my book. 

From Beyond features mostly speedier cuts, as it to be expected from Enforcer, but it does have a couple of longer, epic tracks that are very good.  Frankly, there aren't any bad songs on the album at all.  It's clear that Enforcer knows how to write excellent songs, and one of their strengths is their choruses - they are total earworms!  Some bands struggle with this, but Enforcer's choruses will be stuck in your head long after you're done listening to the album. Also, the album is very well sequenced and is the perfect length for vinyl - all of which is conducive to a great listening experience.

"Destroyer" is the absolutely ripping opening cut and it's also the lead single and video.  Check it out below:

"Undying Evil" is the second track and it's another freewheel burner with an anthemic chorus and lyrics about vampires.  Check out the video for this bloodthirsty killer of a tune:

"One With Fire" and “Hell Will Follow” are examples of the killer, balls out, speedsters that have become a staple of Enforcer albums. Once again, the band has included an excellent instrumental - "Hungry They Will Come" - and it's positioned perfectly at the midpoint of the proceedings.  I love that Enforcer has a real appreciation for meaty instrumentals, as they've become something of a lost art since their 80s heyday.  Well done lads. "Below The Slumber" and "Mask Of Red Death" are the two longer, epic tracks and they are both very good.  They ably showcase another aspect of the band's excellent songwriting skills.  Would you like to hear some sweet, dual-guitar Maidenisms without ploughing through a 92 minute, two CD monstrosity? If the answer is yes, you should definitely check out the guitar noodling on “The Banshee.” 
In other news, Enforcer is releasing their first live album – Live By Fire – on November 20th and they are embarking on a co-headling tour of the States with Warbringer, Cauldron, and Exmortus.  Here are the dates:


The Bottom Line: From Beyond is a great follow-up to Death By Fire and is well worth picking up if you are a fan of Traditional Metal, Speed Metal or plain old good music.  Enforcer proves once again why they are the cream of crop of the NWOTHM.  Highly recommended!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blackened Swarms Of Sorrow

Orchid – Sign Of The Witch

Nuclear Blast Records – 2015

Muthas, San Francisco doomsters Orchid are back with their fifth (!) EP and, as per usual, it’s a superb mini-collection of 70s-inspired metal.  Most people think of EPs as being throwaways or stop-gaps, but Orchid’s are just as good as their LPs.  They assemble all of their recordings with great care regardless of the length which is not usually the case with other bands.  I love these shorter musical statements and I wish more bands would embrace the format, but I doubt they are very lucrative financially.   

Here’s a breakdown of the tracks:

“Helicopters” – Starts the album off with a crash and follows with a sense of impending destruction that permeates the rest of the song. Lyrically it’s about a village that’s being attacked, most likely during the Vietnam War.   It’s a very good track and reminds me a bit of “War Pigs.”

"John The Tiger" – The song is a perfect example of how Orchid truly understands one facet of Sabbath’s music that’s frequently missing from other doom bands – sometimes you just gotta swing!  This is definitely a toe-tapper and one of the highlights of the EP.  Killer!

"Under The Sign Of The Witch" – The lead single/video is a prototypical Orchid song, which means it recalls the glory of the Sabs without exactly copying any one particular song.  A massive drum sound is coupled with an excellent chorus that will get stuck in your brain for hours.  You’ve been warned!  Check out the video below:

"Strange Winds" – The last cut is a mystical, ethereal ballad that features a creepy 60s style organ sound that compliments and enhances the atmosphere of the song.  Orchid always excels at these ballads – e.g., “Falling Away” – and this one is no exception. 

One of the reasons that Orchid is one of my favorite bands is they understand the importance of cover art, fonts and layout.  They’ve got a very good sense of aesthetics and this time it’s exemplified by the 3d cover art on the EP, the cool fonts on the cover and spine, and the use of Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death for center labels and on the back cover.  Kudos fellas!


The Bottom Line:  Sign Of The Witch is another excellent EP and it’s certainly worth your bucks.  If you’ve never purchased anything by Orchid, this is a great place to start as it’s a good overview of what they have to offer.  Check it out.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Party With The Demons Down Below

Venom – From The Very Depths

Spinefarm Records – 2015

Muthas, NWOBHM stalwarts Venom released a new album back in January and it’s a rib-cracking, gut-pounding, rip-ride of Metal.  It might be the best thing they have done since their 1995 reunion, and it’s certainly the best release with the current lineup of Cronos, Rage and Dante.  Let me state right off the bat that if you are only a fan of “classic” Venom from their Neat Records days, you might not like this album.  This is modern Venom and it’s much more groove-oriented than what you may have been expecting.  If you only like Black Metal this won’t be your cup of poison, but you might want to give it a listen anyway if you like your thrash with some groove.

The band’s last album was Fallen Angels from way back in 2011, and it was a long slog through fifteen tracks of lackluster tunes.  From The Very Depths is 14 tracks and its fifteen minutes shorter than Fallen Angels and two of those tracks are brief instrumentals, so there’s only 12 tracks of real material.  The shorter length really helps tighten up the proceedings and, as a result, the album never feels long and has a great flow.  Cronos is the producer and his knob-twiddling efforts result in a superb production that is the best any Venom album has ever had.   The album is packed full of loads of mid-paced, crushing songs such as “Smoke,” “Temptation,” “Stigmata,” “Crucified,” “Mephistopheles,” and “Wings Of Valkyrie,”  Check out the video for “Smoke” below:

There are some speedier cuts sprinkled throughout the album to keep things moving along such as the title track, “The Death of Rock N Roll,” “Grinding Teeth,” and “Long Haired Punks.”  Check out the videos for “Long Haired Punks” and "Grinding Teeth" below:

One oddity is the track “Evil Law” which is a groovy mid-paced, stomper that’s apparently sung in Ancient Sumerian?!  I am not so sure I believe that one, but that’s what Conrad Lant is claiming and my Ancient Sumerian Rosetta Stone lessons were lost in the mail, so I guess we’ll just have to take old Cronos at his word. The album closes with the anthemic “Rise” which would make a great opening live track when they hit the road.  Venom is on the bill for the Maryland Deathfest XIV in 2016, so maybe they’ll play some of these new tracks then.   


The Bottom Line:  Venom has conjured up a surprisingly good album of groove-based thrash, and if that’s your thing you should definitely pick this one up.  It’s clearly superior to all the other modern Venom albums, and it’s great to see them come out with an album that’s this good so late in their career. 


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Satan’s Serenade

Night Demon
 Live In The Steel City

Muthas, have you ever seen a band that not only commands the stage, but demands your attention?  That’s what Night Demon did in a tiny club in Pittsburgh on Tuesday June 6th.  They blazed through a high energy set of absolutely killer tunes as if they were playing in front of a crowd of thousands. Their relentless assault reminded me of when I saw Motorhead for the first time and they absolutely blew me away.

Did they waste any time with pointless chit-chat and rambling nonsense in between songs?  Fuck no.  They played song after song with barely a pause in between.  Night Demon was the physical embodiment of "all killer, no filler!" They didn’t let the lack of monitors affect them in any way - they simply played like they were on stage at Wacken Open Air instead of Gooski’s bar.  They even used a smoke machine and a light show to great effect! When was the last time you saw a band do that in a tiny bar?!

 If you aren’t already aware, they also have a mascot – Rocky – who comes out during the song “The Chalice” – and interacts with the crowd.  It’s hilarious and badass at the same time, and is a great example of Night Demon’s determination to entertain their fans.  In another bid to be fan-friendly, the band keeps merch prices low - $15 shirts – and they offer a great variety of items. When was the last time you saw a tour program and for a mere $8!  They also sell a couple of different patches, a baseball hat, CDs and vinyl – all for great prices.

It was a great night and everyone in the band was gracious enough to sign CDs, vinyl, tour programs, etc.  Jarvis, Brent and Dusty are very approachable and more than wiling to chat with the fans.  Be sure to ask Dusty about the Ultimate Warrior and don’t forget to get Andrew Bansal’s (aka Rocky) autograph!  Also, check out Andrew’s awesome website – Metal Assault. 

Here's the setlist:

Screams In The Night
Full Speed Ahead
Heavy Metal Heat
Lightning To The Nations (Diamond Head cover)
The Howling Man
Curse Of The Damned
Livin’ Dangerous
Road Racin’ (Riot cover) (Dedicated to yours truly!)
Ancient Evil
The Chalice
Save Me Now
Axe Crazy (Jaguar cover)
Night Demon


  The Bottom Line:  Go see them and buy some damn merch!  These guys are more than deserving of your ducats.  Also, you’d better go see them now before they are in limousines and jets, stylin’ and profilin’! You can find their tour dates here:


Sunday, May 3, 2015

We Won't Be Back

Diamond Head:
 Making Sense of Their CD Releases
Part 2

Muthas, we covered the albums from Diamond Head’s classic period from 1980-1983 in Part 1, and in Part 2 we are going to cover the later studio albums, compilations and live albums.  This is where their discography gets even more confusing, if you can believe that!  First we are going to cover their later studio albums.

Death And Progress

In 1993, the band actually released a new studio album with both Sean Harris and Brian Tatler on board, but, unfortunately, Colin Kimberley and Duncan Scott were not involved.  However, a couple of Metal luminaries were on hand – Tony Iommi, Dave Mustaine and Max Norman.  The results were fairly pedestrian with nothing on the album approaching the quality of their classic material.  This album should once and for all convince you that Sean Harris is not interested in being in a heavy band as most of the songs sound like they could have been on a Thunder album. It’s definitely not the amazing return to form that we all wanted, but rather an average collection of hard rock songs.  It’s not terrible, but it’s not anything noteworthy either.

There are two versions of this album:

1993 – Castle Communications/Essential/Bronze – Cat. No. ESS CD 192
This is the most common version of the album and is abundantly available on the used market. 

2001 – Castle Music – Cat. No. CMRCD241

This is a reissue with new artwork and has reportedly been remastered which somehow actually makes the album sound worse!  It’s unlikely you’ll run across this version, and I don’t recommend it.    

All Will Be Revealed & What’s In Your Head?

I am lumping their two most recent albums together because neither feature Sean Harris, and without him the resulting music lacks any of the old Diamond Head magic.  Harris might be impossible to deal with and temperamental as all hell, but his vocals are amazing and the band suffers without him.  Neither of these releases is essential to your collection, and I don’t really recommend them. Again, they aren’t terrible, but they aren’t really the Diamond Head that you’re expecting to hear. Here’s the info on each:

All Will Be Revealed
2005 – Livewire – Cat. No. LW015-2

What’s In Your Head?
2007 – Livewire/Cargo Records – Cat. No. LW020-2


Here’s where things start getting fun as there are a bewildering array of Diamond Head compilations, and four of them all have the same title! Which takes us to:

I Got A Case Of The Am I Evils

I guess it should come as no surprise that Am I Evil is a popular name for Diamond Head compilations considering it’s the band’s most well-known song.  However, there are four separate compilations with that name and most of them have completely different content!  Here’s how they break down:

1994 – Heavy Metal Records – Cat. No. WKFM XD92

This collection features another stunning album cover from Rodney Matthews, a slipcase, and a nice booklet with full lyrics.  The vinyl version was originally released by FM Revolver in 1987.  Of course the booklet makes no mention of the origin of the songs, but it turns out that these are all demos from the years 1978-1981.  In addition, these were all remixed by Brian Tatler in 1986 - 1987.  Hooray! More remixes!  They are reverbed to hell and back with a very annoying, clattering cymbal sound just like his remixes of Lightning To The Nations. It’s interesting to hear early versions of some Diamond Head classics, but don’t be fooled, this is NOT a greatest hits package. I recommend this for die-hard collectors only. It’s unlikely that you’ll run across it anymore because it has been out of print for many years.

1999 – Chrisly Records – Cat. No. CR 25001

Guess what, despite the completely different artwork and label, this is the same exact material as on the 1994 Heavy Metal Records version of Am I Evil.  There is no difference at all even though the booklet goes to great lengths to NOT explain where this material came from.  Also, this version is readily available at distributors right now and should be avoided.  Don’t buy this unless you’re insane like me, and you are dying to hear remixed demos.

2004 – Sanctuary Records – Cat. No. CMEDD880

This compilation is actually a honest-to-god greatest hits collection!  Hooray!  This is a nice two disc set that covers their entire career up to 2001 .  The songs are a mixture of material from Lightning To The Nations, Borrowed Time, Canterbury and Death And Progress.  There’s also a couple of live tracks and an acoustic version of “Lightning To The Nations.”  This is a fairly comprehensive collection and I recommend it if you only want a greatest hits package.  It’s out of print, but easy to acquire on the used market fairly cheaply.

2013 – Spectrum Music/Universal – Cat. No. SPEC2139

This is the newest Diamond Head CD to hit the market and it is a single disc that features material from their first four albums and a couple of live tracks from the BBC archives.  It’s not a bad single disc set, and is readily available.  I prefer the 2004 Sanctuary compilation to this one, but if you only want a single CD, this isn’t a terrible choice.

Compilations That Aren’t Called Am I Evil

Behold The Beginning

1992 – Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14005-2

The granddaddy of them all! This was the earliest compilation of Diamond Head songs and is composed of remixes done by Brian Tatler in 1986.  Yep, those same old remixes are back again and they still sound like crap.  Six cuts from Lightning To The Nations are featured, as well as four songs from various singles.  The U.S. CD version adds the track “Am I Evil?” and has a liner notes essay from Lars Ulrich.  Lars even trashes the shitty quality of the remixes. Ha! Also, the liner notes are wrong because they bizarrely state, “All tracks form the album Lightning To The Nations except “Waited Too Long” released as a single.”  I have no idea why the liner notes say this because it’s clearly incorrect.  Even stranger is this incorrect “fact” has crept into the band’s discography on places like and 

I don’t recommend this compilation because it’s composed of the inferior 1986 remixes, however, you are definitely going to run across this.  It’s been in print since 1992 and is readily available online from many distributors.  Avoid.


1992 – MCA Records Japan – Cat. No. MVCM-321

You aren’t likely to run across this one, but I have it so I might as well cover it here.  This is a compilation of all of the band’s singles from 1980-1983.  Well, actually, it’s not that at all, but rather a strange combination of 1986 remixes and material from their MCA albums.  The pre–MCA “singles” are merely the Brian Tatler 1986 remixes and not the original single versions.  The MCA material is all original though, and was rare at the time of release.  This is a novelty and not something you should waste money on at this point as all of the material is available elsewhere.

To Heaven From Hell

1997 – Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14136-2

This little five track EP has liner notes that claim this is a collection of demos from 1978-1981 that were remixed by Brian Tatler in 1987.  So are these some new demos that we haven’t heard before?  Of course not!  Instead, this is half of the material that was presented on the original Am I Evil compilation from 1987. What a useless ripoff this is.  Not only is it the same old shit, but it’s only half of the demos and they charge full price for it.  This is still in print and I urge you not to buy it.  Metal Blade should feel ashamed of this cash grab.

The Best of Diamond Head

1999 - Half Moon/Universal – Cat. No. HMNCD 046
This compilation was a breath of fresh air when it was released because it was composed of songs from the MCA releases, and that material had not been released on CD in the U.S. up to that point.  There are no Brian Tatler remixes and no material from Lightning To The Nations. This is only studio material from Borrowed Time and Canterbury without any demos or live tracks.  This is not a bad single disc best of, but it is limited in scope and had been surpassed by other compilations.

Diamond Nights

2000 – Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14336-2

This compilation was the first compilation to feature the original mixes of all of the band’s pre-MCA singles and the entirety of the Lightning To The Nations album. The songs were all remastered from the original source by Dirk Buro and they sound great.  In fact, these remasters were the source for the 2001 Sanctuary Records version of Lightning To The Nations (mystery solved!)  For some unknown reason, Metal Blade chose to shuffle the song order all up rather than presenting them in chronological or even album order.  They also thought it would be a good idea to give it a name that’s very close to another Diamond Head song/EP name – Diamond Lights.  Lights, nights, whatever!

In addition, this is the only compilation to feature the “It’s Electric (Remix)” from the 1981 Diamond Lights EP which while it's certainly not essential, it is nice to have.  This compilation is still readily available and I highly recommend it if you come across it and you don’t already have a version of Lightning To The Nations that has all the pre-MCA singles on it.   

Live Albums

Unfortunately, there aren’t many live albums from any era of the band that have been released and only two are currently in print:

Bonus Live Tracks

2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 5320200

This is the third disc that’s included in The MCA Years box set.  It contains 11 tracks and is composed of the band’s performance from the 1982 Reading Rock Festival, and their 1982 BBC In Concert recordings.  Overall, this is a nice collection of vintage live material from when the band was at their peak.  It’s yet another reason why I heartily recommend The MCA Years box set. 

Live At The BBC

2010 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 5329138

Here we have a two-disc set of live material from 1980, 1982 and 1993. Essentially all the material from The MCA Years box set is here along with the band’s 1993 show from the Milton Keynes Bowl. The 1993 set is pretty good and was previously released on the long out of print CD called Evil Live. I would only recommend you pick up this set if you don’t have the box set, or you just have to have the 1993 show.  There is nothing else on it that’s exclusive.

Missing In Action?

You may be asking if there’s anything official that has never made it on to CD and this answer is…yes.  To lessen confusion earlier I said that all their pre-MCA material has been reissued on CD, but one song actually hasn’t.  For some reason, the single version of “Helpless” has never made it on to any CD that I can find.  “Helpless” was originally the b-side of the “Shoot Out The Lights” single which was the band’s first single.  This version of “Helpless” is two minutes shorter than the album version, but other than that, is not much different.  I can only assume that’s why it’s never been reissued.  You can check it out below:

A Brief Note On Wax

If you are a vinyl collector, the good news is that because Diamond Head was signed to MCA, their old vinyl is plentiful and can be had for good prices.  They issued several nice singles, EPs and even a picture disc or two.  There have been virtually no reissues of their albums on vinyl to date, but I suspect that will change in the near future.  You are only going to run in to difficulty when you get to their pre-MCA material, and Lightning To The Nations goes for all sorts of crazy prices now.  Hey, at least the CDs are plentiful and cheap!


Well that’s the end of the Diamond Head CD mysteries.  To recap, I recommend you simply buy these two releases:

Lightning To The Nations  2011 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 2785026

The MCA Years  2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 530197

That’s it!  Those are the only two you need and you’ll have all their pre-MCA material, all their MCA material and some nice live tracks. I hope this helped sort out the Diamond Head CD discography and saved you a bit of cash too.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dead Reckoning

Diamond Head: 
Making Sense of Their CD Releases
Part 1

Muthas, Diamond Head is generally considered one of the best and most influential bands of the NWOBHM.  Lars Ulrich thinks so highly of them that they were the only band to have two songs on his seminal NWOBHM compilation New Wave of British Heavy Metal ’79 Revisited, and Metallica has covered four Diamond Head songs on various releases.  Certainly every metalhead is familiar with Am I Evil because of Metallica.  I know that’s how I first became aware of Diamond Head and that began my quest to acquire their catalog. 

Little did I know that their CD releases are a tangled web of remasters, remixes, live albums and compilations.  Adding further to my confusion, the band was very prolific in the late 70s and early 80s and released all sorts of demo versions of songs that went on to be re-recorded for official releases.  To make matters even worse, the rights to their various recordings were spread across several record labels and countries, and all of these labels put out all sorts of CDs without any explanation of where the songs came from.  It’s total chaos! 

The good news is that I have purchased nineteen of these releases, and tried to track down the origin of each and every one.  I will go through each release and detail the catalog number, contents and whether or not it’s worth owning.  When all is said and done, you are only going to need to purchase a grand total of two(!) items to have the absolutely essential material from Diamond Head

Lightning To The Nations

As you probably already know, Diamond Head’s first album was 1980s Lightning To The Nations.  Now, the album actually didn’t even have a name when it was self-released by the band.  It came in a plain white sleeve with plain white labels without any identifying information at all!  The album was sold through mail order and through shows, and the band members would sign the cover and sometimes write a song title and lyrics on the cover.  A second pressing added song titles to the labels, but there was still no album title.  This led to the album being known initially as The White Album.

In 1981, Woolfe Records, a small German label, reissued the album with a proper cover and gave it the title Lightning To The Nations. Incredibly, Diamond Head’s manager sent the only copy of the master tapes of the album to Woolfe Records and they never sent it back!  This would lead to all sorts of shenanigans in the future, and it would take Lars Ulrich, of all people, to set things straight. 

The commonly available CD issues of Lightning To The Nations are as follows:

1. 1992 - Metal Blade Records – Cat. No. 3984-14006-2

So this was the first CD readily available in the United States of the album and it’s probably great, right?  Nope.  Guess what?  This is actually not the original version of the album, but rather it is composed of remixes done in 1986 by guitarist Brian Tatler.  He claimed to have remixed the album to make it sound more “modern.”  What he really did was reverb the absolute shit out of the album, and lay on an annoying as hell drum sound as a bonus.  Ugh. (These remixes will loom large when we get to the discussion of compilations.)  This was the first CD version that I ever owned and it was the only version that you could obtain for quite a while.  It only contains the original seven songs without any bonus material and has a crappy cover. It’s become scarce over the years as it is now out of print, and I highly recommend you don’t buy it as it’s completely extraneous and sounds like shit.

2. 1997 – High Vaultage Records – Cat. No. HV-1014

High Vaultage Records from Germany struck next with this fifteen track version that featured the original cover artwork from Woolfe Records.  To my knowledge, this is the only CD to feature this artwork.  High Vaultage always does great reissues, so this is probably top notch, right?  Well, it does have the original album and all of the various singles that the band released before getting signed to MCA.  It also has a very nice booklet that is loaded with good info, full lyrics and a ton of pictures.  Unfortunately, I cannot recommend that you buy this CD because High Vaultage did not have access to the master tapes and simply used some vinyl pressings as their audio source.  As a result, this CD sounds very odd and isn’t much of an improvement over the 1992 Metal Blade version.  This is still in print, but I recommend you avoid it because there are much better options available.

3. 2001 – Sanctuary Records Group – Cat. No. CMRCD239

Remember when Sanctuary Records was reissuing tons of amazing NWOBHM albums and compilations, before Beyonce’s dad drove them in to bankruptcy?  Well, this CD was part of that program of reissues, and consists of the original 1980 album and all their pre-MCA singles and EP releases except for one track. The missing track is “It’s Electric (Remix)” that was released on the Diamond Lights EP.  The CD is housed in a white embossed slipcase and the booklet is a replica of the original album cover with the signatures of all the band members. The CD sounds fine, but the music is licensed from Horgi Licensing, which is the same company that licensed the High Vaultage version.  I am not sure if this is vinyl sourced, but I don’t think it is, because the sound is very good.  This version is now out of print, but if you find it cheap it’s not a bad purchase.

4. 2011 – Universal Muisc – Cat. No. 2785026

This is the latest version of the album to be issued and it’s an absolute gem.  This is sourced from the original master tapes and beautifully remastered by Andy Pearce.  The booklet is excellent and there are fourteen tracks spread over two CDs.  This version is 100% authorized by the band as the rights to the album have now reverted to Brian Tatler.  Hold on a minute - where did Universal Music get the master tapes?  The last I told you, Woolfe Records had them in Germany.  Well, back when Lars Ulrich was doing his NWOBHM compilation, he found out the masters were at the house of the president of Woolfe Records and he promptly sent a couple of guys over to the president’s house and they forced him to return them!  They now reside in a vault that is 100% under the control of the band.  Well played Lars. 

This is the ultimate version of the album.  It does have the same fourteen tracks as the Sancutary version, and some brand new, much better artwork and a thick booklet.  I highly recommend this version and, if you only want one Diamond Head CD, get this one.

Borrowed Time

After a couple of years of hard work, lots of touring and robust sales of their self-financed LP and various singles, Diamond Head was finally signed to a major label.  Unfortunately, that major label was MCA Records and MCA knew exactly two things about marketing a Metal band – jack and shit.  MCA was notorious for signing many NWOBHM hopefuls and totally fucking them over with a complete lack of any support and little in the way of marketing. Diamond Head was not the exception to this rule and their signing to MCA did nothing to help them.  While they were signed to MCA they did manage to issue two LPs.  One was pretty good and the other not so much.

The first was 1982’s Borrowed Time and it featured five new songs, two re-recorded songs – “Am I Evil” and “Lightning To The Nations,” and absolutely stunning artwork by Rodney Matthews.  Unfortunately, the production of the album was much more polite than Lightning To The Nations, with Tatler’s guitar work in particular being robbed of much of its power.  As a result, the two re-recordings are subpar when compared to the original versions – don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. 

Paradoxically, even though this was released on a major label, official CD versions have been scarce until very recently.  There were reissues released in 1989 and 1992 in Japan and a 1992 French reissue, but other than that, there are only two CD versions commonly available in the United States:

1. 2007 – Metal Mind Productions – Cat. No. MASS CD 1078 DG

 Metal Mind Productions from Poland is well known for producing high quality reissues that are generally housed in digipaks with many bonus tracks and nice sound.  Borrowed Time is no exception to that.  Their version includes the original seven tracks and an additional seven bonus tracks – the entirety of the Four Cuts EP and the three track In The Heat Of The Night single.  It should be noted that the Four Cuts EP has a re-recording of “Shoot Out The Lights” (also inferior to the original version) to make their discography even more confusing. Thanks guys! 

The sound on this version is good, but the liner notes make no mention of any remastering, so I would assume it’s not.  This edition is out of print though, but there’s no real need to spend a bunch of ducats on it because of the next version we’re going to discuss.  As an aside, Brian Tatler claims that Universal Music told him this is a bootleg.  I’ve read nothing else that either confirms or denies that.

2. 2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 530198

In 2009, Universal Music released a nice little box set called Diamond Head – The MCA Years.  This set features a clamshell box, a very nice booklet chock full of good information and replica LP versions of Borrowed Time, Canterbury and a bonus disc of live material.  The entire set is once again beautifully remastered by Andy Pearce. 

This version of Borrowed Time has seven bonus tracks including the Four Cuts EP and four songs from a BBC Radio 1 Session.  The sound is great and the bonus tracks are excellent.  This box set is readily available, cheap and still in print.  I highly recommend you buy it.


It’s at this point in our story that we have to talk about one of the most baffling career choices in the history of Heavy Metal.  For some reason, Diamond Head decided that their third album would be a great time to completely shift gears and attempt to emulate bands like U2 and Big Country. WTF?!!  I’ve heard many people say that this is comparable to what Def Leppard did with Pyromania. At least Pyromania was still identifiable as hard rock, even if it was more commercial.  Canterbury represented a virtual wholesale rejection of heaviness for the sake of pop-rock stylings. 

I have no idea what the hell they were thinking, but it has become clear to me as I have read more about Sean Harris that he really has no interest in being in a Metal band.  He’s interested in more commercial styles of music and he tried to change Diamond Head into a pop-rock band with this 1983 release.  As you may have already guessed, Canterbury was a complete and utter disaster that completely immolated the band’s fledgling career.  The drummer and bass player either quit or were fired during the recording process, which should give you an idea of how bad things got. 

Once the album was issued fans couldn’t wait to NOT buy it.  The sales were terrible and to make things worse, the initial pressing was marred by a defect that caused it to skip resulting in a recall of 20,000 copies!  The album was also the end of their major label deal as MCA dumped them in 1984. 
The album does have a couple of decent tracks that were re-workings of earlier material – “To The Devil His Due” and “Knight Of The Swords” and it’s no coincidence that these are the songs most people cite to as being the best on the album.  “Ishmael” is a bit of Zeppelin-esque pretentiousness that’s not half bad, but the rest of the tracks are straight up pop-rock with loads of sugary-sweet lyrics and hooks.  If you don’t believe me, then check out “One More Night” for proof:

The strange thing about this album is it becomes clear that Diamond Head could have been a pretty good pop-rock band as they could produce catchy, commercial songs.  However, when you start out with songs like “Lightning To The Nations” and “Am I Evil” the chances of a smooth transition to pop are about zero percent.

CD versions of this album are not very numerous just like Borrowed Time.  Here’s what is readily available:

1.  1989 – MCA Records Japan – Cat. No. 18P2-2747

Now this is an oddball.  Lately, I’ve been seeing this version for sale from a couple of distributors.  I ordered one to see what it was and it appears to be a Japanese release from 1989, but I think it’s a nicely made bootleg.  There is no obi strip, but there is a Japanese language insert.  The lack of an obi is baffling if this is legit.  The CD matrix has no information on it other than the word Canterbury, and the printing on the actual CD is somewhat shoddy.  The booklet has complete lyrics, but there are no bonus tracks.  I would suggest you avoid this if you come across it.

2. 2007 – Metal Mind Productions – Cat. No. Mass CD 1079 DG

This is the companion to the Metal Mind Borrowed Time reissue and it sports the same format of gold CD, digipak and bonus tracks.  There are only three bonus tracks – an extended version of “Makin’ Music” (as if anyone needed that!), a live version of “Sucking My Love”, and a band interview.  This release is still readily available on Amazon, so it’s not a bad choice if you absolutely have to have this album.

3. 2009 – Universal Music – Cat. No. 5320199

This is the version that’s in the Diamond Head – The MCA Years box set. It’s remastered by Andy Pearce and has four bonus tracks – the “Makin’ Music” Extended Version, and three previously unreleased demos.  The demos are “Can’t Take No More,” “Time’s On My Side,” and “Come To Hear You Play.”  Unfortunately, there’s no information about these demos, but they are better than most of the material on the actual album.  My guess is they were pre-production demos for the album, because they sound similar to the material on Borrowed Time.  If anybody out there knows what these are, leave me a comment.  As I mentioned before, I highly recommend you get this boxset.


Okay folks, that’s the end of Part 1.  In Part 2, we’ll cover the newer studio albums, the live albums and the absolutely insane number of compilations.  If you thought Diamond Head’s discography was confusing so far, you ain’t seen nothing yet!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

From Utah They Came With Iron And Fire

Visigoth – The Revenant King

Metal Blade Records – 2015

Muthas, have you gotten your fill of music about swords, sorcery, warriors, battles, wizards, mammoths, brotherhood, Hyperborea, necromancers, and vengeance? Of course you haven’t!  Who has?  Well, we are all in luck because Visigoth from Salt Lake City, Utah has delivered an album chock full of epic, glory-filled Metal!  To give you an idea of where they are coming from musically, they did a cover of an Omen song on their 2010 demo, and their new album features a ripping cover of Manilla Road’s “Necropolis!”  They have taken these classic sounds and have built their mighty sonic monolith, The Revenant King, on top of it and the result is a kick-ass masterpiece. 

The album is composed of eight original songs and the aforementioned cover tune with a total running time of just over one hour.  Normally we would complain of a seemingly bloated length, but there are absolutely no boring cuts and, as a result, the album actually feels much shorter.  Every original song is a multi-part epic that takes the listener on a sonic adventure to the mythical realms of yore.  Tracks one through four and nine are all new material, and tracks five through eight are re-recordings of demos or EP cuts and the Manilla Road cover. 

The musicianship is top notch with excellent and tasteful guitar work, crunchy bass, booming drums and the superb vocals of Jake Rogers.  In fact, his vocals are what set this album apart from most other Epic Metal bands. The vocals in many Epic Metal albums are marred in some way - weird sounding, nasal, harsh, etc... and make those albums less enjoyable as a result.  That’s not the case here because Jake’s vocals are powerful and have a nice touch of grit that toughens up the band’s sound.  This isn’t some puffy-shirted, rapier-wielding, foppish warbling.  No sir, these vocals are clad in chainmail and wield a battle axe!  Hail and kill!

The opening track, “The Revenant King,” is excellent and is a perfect showcase of what Visigoth is all about.  It’s over eight minutes of Epic Metal that tells the tale of a king slain by treacherous bastards and how he exacts his revenge from beyond the grave.  Spoiler Alert – their flesh is rended from their bones! The band has released a super-cheesy and, therefore, super-awesome video that fits the music perfectly.  Check it out:

I could detail each track, but there’s really no need because every one of them is excellent - from the kickass opener to the nearly ten minute closer “From The Arcane Mists of Prophecy.”  Are you still not sure you want to buy this?  Check out the track “Mammoth Rider” and admit you need to buy this asap!


The Bottom Line:  This is a stunning collection of Epic Metal with U.S. Power Metal touches and burly vocals.  Crom’s teeth man! Stop being a treacherous dog, join the Iron Brotherhood and buy the damn thing!