Magnum. The minute the weather starts getting cooler I reach for this veritable comfort-blanket of a band. Here’s Les Morts Dansant, the centrepiece from their excellent 1985 album On A Storyteller’s Night. Set in WWI, the song describes the execution of a British soldier who has refused to leave the trenches and go over the top. The song title translates as “the dancing dead” as it illustrates the pirouette of the dying soldier as he’s riddled with bullets from the firing squad. It’s a horrific topic but Magnum’s keen moral sense ensures the song is written and performed eloquently and compassionately. Bob Catley sings movingly with his heart on his sleeve as warm keyboards and celestial guitars gradually build to a climax of Baba O’Riley-style power chords. The album cover depicts a wizard relating a fireside tale to a bunch of captivated dwarfs and Les Morts Dansant is basically the musical equivalent. Spellbinding storytelling from a magical band.
Sammy Hagar has always been a divisive figure, not least for being the interloper who dared replace Dave Lee Roth in Van Halen. But when Hagar supporters find themselves unable to convince anyone of Van Hagar’s merits or the quality of his various other outings, they can always rely on one thing: the 1973 debut album from Montrose. It’s an unassailable classic of 70s man rock and one of the earliest examples of party-hearty American metal. Other 70s hard rockers would enjoy more fame and rewards but Montrose‘s cult influence would be heard everywhere from the clubs of the LA glam scene to the garages of the NWOBHM.
So kudos to Sammy for his charismatic vocals and songwriting contribution (“I gave love a chance and it shit back in my face”). But the real star of the show is the band’s guitarist and founder Ronnie Montrose. His superior playing and hot rod riffing is timeless and, in tandem with producer Ted Templeman, he colours the band’s meat and potatoes simplicity with a deceptively rich range of tones. From the spacey, hard-charging Zep chug of Space Station #5 and the revved up intro to Bad Motor Scooter to the monster-plod bludgeon of Rock Candy, Montrose is a treasure-trove of stealable guitar parts and sounds. The old-timey Good Rocking Tonight and One Thing On My Mind lean towards filler but both are served up with charm and stop the album from getting too po-faced.
Unfortunately, Montrose couldn’t make it last. One more (underrated) album later, Sammy would be fired. And he wouldn’t be involved with anything quite this good again. But it can be 1973 forever. Just take your top off, stick on Montrose and rock the nation.
Back when I reviewed The Misfits’ Earth A.D. album you might have noticed the post’s full title was Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood. The Misfits’ back catalogue is a bit complicated… the album as a whole is usually just referred to as Earth A.D. That’s what it’s called on the band’s official website and also in their box set (which is the copy I have). But when it was originally released on vinyl it was viewed more like two mini albums and each side had a different title. The first side was Earth A.D. which was loosely post-apocalyptic slasher kinda stuff and the second was called Wolf’s Blood and had a lycanthropic theme running through it. Here’s the title track from that side. It’s neither the craziest or the catchiest song on the album. The verses are generally incomprehensible shouting, like a fight outside a pub. But the chorus is more memorable and sounds deliciously ominous and threatening: very much in the vein of Glenn Danzig’s next band Samhain. I doubt you’ll be humming this one after the album’s finished but its lyrics and mood make it a dangerous deep cut that adds to Earth A.D./Wolf’s Blood‘s hellish and violent impact.
Pentagram were formed in 1971 and are renowned as early doom pioneers but nearly 15 years passed before the cult US band was able to rise from the underground and put out their first album. It was worth the wait. The 1985 self-released debut was originally just called Pentagram but in 1993 it was reissued by Peaceville Records and renamed Relentless after this awesome track. Relentless was penned by charismatic guitarist Victor Griffin and has a walloping tone and simple, strident riff that fully lives up to the promise of the song’s title. The lyrics are a bit clunky but endearingly catchy and they’re a good vehicle for the ‘Ram’s wayward frontman Bobby Liebling to strut his swaggering, streetwise stuff. But the real joy here is the riffin’ of Griffin. His electric axe is gonna knock you on your back.
“The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”
If I was making a playlist of my favourite songs from the previous decade Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion would definitely by on it. Taken from their 2016 album The Whole Of The Law, it’s absolutely berserk. Excoriating, industrial-grade grind mixes with hammering electronic passages. But for all their nightmarish noise, Anaal Nathrakh sure have a way with a hook and cram plenty of them in here. And in Dave Hunt, they have a vocalist versatile enough to deliver them. So when he’s not creating a white-noise shitstorm out of his face, he’s delivering an insanely catchy chorus with crazed metal god vocals and driving the song to a operatic climax. Oblivion has never been this much fun. This is what you wanted, this is what you need.
The Dark Are The Veils Of Death 7″ was released in 2017 to celebrate 30 years of Peaceville Records and features two rare working versions of tracks from Candlemass’ classic 1988 album Nightfall. But although Dark Are The Veils Of Death would become one of the band’s greatest tunes, they hadn’t quite nailed it down here. Messiah Marcolin sounds great but seems to be making the lyrics up and throws the song title in at a different spot than it appears in the final version. Also, short-lived guitarist Mike Wead appears, which is historically interesting, but you can also hear why his noodly playing didn’t quite fit the bill in comparison to Lars Johansson’s molten soloing on the album. The B-Side features the funereal instrumental Codex Gigax: decent enough music but pointless as a standalone side of vinyl.
Recorded on a ghetto blaster, it’s lo-fi stuff but it has a blustery power. It’s just odd material for a single as you will rarely listen to this, if at all. And if you’re into Candlemass enough to buy this then you will have bought the later 3CD reissue of Nightfall that included these recordings (and much more). So this single was worth owning for about seven months. Dark are the travails of the music collector.
I didn’t mention Babe I’m Gonna Leave You when I reviewed Led Zep’s debut platter. It didn’t swing my verdict one way or the other. It’s not the best song on the album and it’s not the worst. But I was listening to Led Zeppelin again today and a lot of the album’s characteristics are summed up in this one song. It’s a great example of the album’s light and shade, folk and rock. A lovely acoustic part alternates with a cool heavy part where Boaby “Robert” Plant lets rip with roaring vocals. But it’s also a great example of why I got so bored of the album so quickly. The light and heavy parts both have the same chord progression which means this overlong song doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. And neither does the narrator. By the end of the tune, no-one has left anyone. After the 17th-or-so “baby” I’m the one getting itchy feet.
Backs blown out by shotgun blasts, skulls ripped out, eyes plucked from heads, hellhound dogs and warrior wasps. Welcome to Earth A.D. Released in 1983, this was the second and last album of The Misfits’ original run with Glenn Danzig at the helm. And they went out with a bang: ripping through eight songs in just under 15 minutes. The album is attacked with such ferocity that it’s often seen as inferior to their catchier debut album Walk Among Us. The 50’s horror and sci-fi fun of the debut had become dark, brutal and unhinged. And the hardcore speed, massive thrash metal guitar tones and shouted vocals all served to bludgeon the debut’s melody to a bloody pulp. But, while Earth A.D. doesn’t quite have any top-tier singalongs like Skulls or Astro Zombies, it still has plenty of hooks. You won’t be able to forget the bouncy chorus of Death Comes Ripping, the ominous croon of Bloodfeast or the gang vocals of the title track. And there’s a real glee in the album’s demented, vehement delivery. From Green Hell‘s muscular metal chugging to Devilock‘s slashing riff, this record gets the blood pumping like no other. In more ways than one. Earth A.D. is the musical equivalent of a killing spree. And if you think that sounds hellish… well, you’re really gonna like it here.
HMO salutes Pete Way who has sadly just passed away aged 69. He’d played in a few different acts and as a solo artist but round these parts he’ll always be the iconic, polka-dotted delinquent in UFO. I’d usually use a post like this to highlight some sort of instrumental prowess but he wasn’t really that kind of player. His main thing was being larger than life. Cool as fuck outfits. Cool as fuck posing. But that’s not to put down his musical abilities. His playing gave UFO’s songs a good kick up the arse and he was a talented writer too. Check out Too Much Of Nothing. It’s a rare example of a UFO tune that was solely written by Way. Taken from their 1975 album Force It, it’s a dirty down-trodden rocker with a carefree lift in its chorus. And there’s a good bit of the Way persona in the lyrics: overdoses, habits, just rolling along. It’s not one of the band’s standout moments but it’s a great deep cut and it holds its own on an album that is stacked to the gills with classics. So there was more to Way than just throwing shapes. But still… there’s a reason I own a Firebird bass. Because Pete Way was cool as fuck.
I was listening to Cirith Ungol’s King Of The Dead today and reading through the liner notes. In the booklet their guitarist Greg Lindstrom said they got the idea for their song Finger Of Scorn from a line in a Trapeze song called Jury. It’s a cool bit of trivia for any keen Ungolians out there but it also shows those Cirith Ungol guys have great taste because Jury is an awesome track. It’s taken from Trapeze’s second album Medusa and it’s one of those gripping light/shade tracks in the vein of what Budgie, UFO, Priest and the like were also up to in the early/mid 70s. Peaceful pastoral acoustics are disturbed by a riff of monster proportions. And HMO-favourite Glenn Hughes is on spine-chilling vocal form, especially in the heavier parts where his delivery of lines like “the writing’s on the wall” will give you pure metal goosebumps.
HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5
(And just to add to all the Trapeze excitement, I’ve now noticed that Cherry Red/Purple Records are putting out deluxe 3CD reissues of the band’s first three albums in September. Medusa included.)