Neat Records’ 1981 release Lead Weight was one of the best NWOBHM compilations, featuring a whole bunch of songs you couldn’t hear anywhere else. My favourite of the bunch is Fist’s Throwing In The Towel. It tells the tale of an ageing boxer lured into the ring for a comeback bout… only to realise his thunder-crapping days are behind him. It’s got a wonderfully downtrodden chorus and there’s real tension in the verses as the staccato vocals punch and jab. It’s brilliant, inventive stuff that holds its own amongst the compilation’s heavy-hitters like Raven and Venom. Unfortunately, Throwing In The Towel was the last song this lineup of Fist released which is a shame… they could have been contenders.
I can’t think of many metal instrumentals I would pick out as album highlights but here’s one: Final Gates, from Running Wild’s 1988 pirate metal classic Port Royal. Written by, and showcasing, Running Wild’s new bassist Jens Becker, Final Gates is a cut above: avoiding the usual pitfalls of skippable atmospheric scene-setting or virtuoso showboating. Instead, it’s a track that stands on its own: creative and restrained with wonderful guitar solos and Becker going all Geddy Lee on some infuriatingly catchy bass lines. It’s a wonderful, funky odd-man-out amidst a bounty of power metal swashbuckling.
“Read the rites, cast the spell, call the chaos lords of Hell”
I loved Hell’s 2013 album Curse & Chapter but Darkhangel cast a particularly strong spell over me. It reminds me of two of my favourite British bands, combining Sabbat’s medieval thrash with Cradle Of Filth’s theatrical horror. And it shifts from goosebumps catchy (“from thy kingdom will come”) to esoteric tongue-twisting (“whose might unmarred the maker’s mind unmade”) with intense flair. Best of all, when vocalist David Bower performed Darkhangel live he did it dressed as a 12ft-tall horned Pan on stilts while twirling a firework-spouting trident like a catherine wheel. He knew that a song this good deserves mad props.
May was a very black metal month here at HMO, with strong new releases from Watain and Devil Master. I also listened to the Abbath album… a lot. And three of my four reviews on the blog were of that nefarious ilk.
In the comments, Kingcrimsonprog brought up the fun topic of mis-spellings on album sleeves. Any favourites typos out there? It wasn’t on a sleeve but my fave is in the Paul Stanley ad above. Can you spot it? It’s a belter.
Soulful rock goodness from the perennial HMO man crush.
Alan White, Yes drummer, who has passed away aged 72. Wonderful drummer from the ultimate prog band.
Vangelis, Greek musician/composer, who has died aged 79. Best known round these parts for The Four Horsemen by Aphrodite’s Child. Top. Tune.
Record Store Day 2022
I wasn’t able to participate on the day on account of a shitey cold. But I still managed to grab what I wanted later in the week.
What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post
The Boston S/T. I might be in the minority in preferring the second album Don’t Look Back but the debut is awesome too. Brad Delp is one of the best singers that ever sang and I should be sick of More Than A Feeling by now. But I’m not.
The Month Ahead
I’m looking forward to the new Artificial Brain and Kreator albums and finally getting my hands on the much-delayed Mayhem De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas box set. There’s also the latest in the KISS Off The Soundboard series, a recording of their Donington ’96 show. I was there but now I can finally find out… were they genuinely boring or was I just too sunburned to appreciate them properly? Find out next time!
Any time I write about David Coverdale and Whitesnake I’m tempted to throw in a few knob gags. But I’m not going to because All In The Name Of Love is a heartfelt, serious Cov effort with The Gov feeling the post-Tawny blues and singing about it in soulful fashion. The woman troubles bring out the Free/Bad Company in his voice, which is where he’s at his best, especially when he lets loose on the wonderful bridge and closing choruses. Although it’s a bit smooth and MOR in production, I reckon this would have fit nicely on old beergut-era Whitesnake albums like Trouble and Lovehunter. It’s got a warm sound with a lovely bluesy guitar solo and a big throbbing organ underneath.
Abbath’s third outing Dread Reaver is the most uniquely frustrating album I have heard in many, many moons. Not because it’s completely absymal. I’d take a disaster like Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus over this any day. That was a hoot! The problem with Dread Reaver is that it’s stuck at this infuriating point of being solid but never exciting me or blowing me away. A noisy, thrashy, black metal album from one of the genre’s greats that takes in all sorts of brilliant influences (Manowar, Motörhead, Mayhem, lots of Bathory) should make me feel something. Either Abbath’s considerable craft and experience has taken over in lieu of genuine inspiration or passion or he’s overworked the thing to the point where any human factor has been ground out. Whatever’s happened, it leaves me cold. And not in a cool, “grim permafrost” way.
The narrator of I Am The Black Wizards has been a ruler for eternities and is so mighty that the souls and spirits of numerous obedient wizards now belong to him. Or something like that. Whatever is going on, it’s metal as fuck. And it’s black metal 101 too, an essential track from a mandatory band. Taken from their debut 1993 EP Emperor, this is absolutely caustic stuff with an unforgettable guitar melody snaking through the furnace of noise. I Am The Black Wizards was recorded again for Emperor’s debut album In The Nightside Eclipse and that version is even better than this. But this version came first so it has a special importance and its cavernous cacophony has an appeal of its own.
You’d think devil worship and debauchery went hand in hand but Satanic metallers rarely sing about shagging. Midnight are one of those rare bands that dare to put their log in the fiery place. Taken from their essential 2011 debut album Satanic Royalty, Midnight’s Lust, Filth And Sleaze is a prime NWOBHM-inspired rager with a savage speed metal attack and venomously delivered single-entendre lyrics. Total satisfaction guaranteed.
“The unrelenting blow that’s cast from down below”
Mott The Hoople’s second album Mad Shadows starts with a wallop. Both penned and sung by future Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs, Thunderbuck Ram has an quiet, haunting intro but then proceeds to thud with a vengeance as Ralphs dishes out some brash and blocky riffing. Songwise it’s a bit slight with just two verses and Ralphs’ vocals are on the histrionic side but the way the band just bludgeons through the whole thing is fantastic. In their early days, Mott often struggled to sound as convincing in the studio as they did live but they don’t have any problems here as they enthusiastically bash Thunderbuck Ram to a barely-controlled climatic wig-out.
Written and recorded specially for Paradise Lost’s 1994 EP Seals The Sense, Sweetness has become a much-loved gem in the band’s discography. Over time its status has been enhanced by its position as a B-Side underdog, to the extent that the band amused themselves by calling it “the greatest song ever written” in a recent interview. Northern piss-taking aside, it is an excellent track that hits the sweet spot between the heavy doom of Icon and the goth of Draconian Times. The combo of lead guitar and grinding riff in the chorus section is especially killer. Apart from Sweetness, the EP isn’t much to write home about, but the inclusion of “the greatest song ever written” makes it essential.