Noise-some Notes – 4th Mar 2013

Manilla Road – Crystal Logic

It doesn’t matter how many Metal bands you know and love, there are always more out there. And obscurity doesn’t automatically suggest inferiority. After 25 years of active Metal worship I only just discovered this great album from 1983 and it’s already essential listening at HMO Mission Control. Flaming Metal System, in particular, hits the spot so much it makes me wonder if I was a barbarian in a past life!

The edition I own... not my actual copy but it's a better photo that I could take. And if you click the pic you can go buy your own!
The edition I own… not my actual copy but it’s a better photo that I could take. And if you click the pic you can go buy your own!
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Buying Round-Up – February 2013

As part of the HMO Challenge 2013 I was aiming to spend no more than £50 on music in February. In January I had only overspent by £8. February is a much shorter month so it should have been a doddle. It wasn’t. Here’s how I got on.

BÖC Set!
BÖC Set!

Blue Öyster Cult – The Columbia Albums Collection (£55 Amazon)

Whe-PAH! Instantly over budget with my first purchase! This had been tempting me for months but its release kept getting put back so my excitement had reached fever pitch. This set contains all fourteen of BÖC’s Columbia albums from their 1972 debut to 1988’s Imaginos, the Some OTHER Enchanted Evening live DVD, a download voucher for 4 live shows recorded for radio, a Rarities CD andRadios Appear: The Best of the Broadcasts (disappointingly a CD compilation of the aforementioned radio show downloads).

BÖC Overload!
BÖC Overload!

In total you’ve got about 20 CDs worth of music here which is fantastic value. I’ve a lot of BÖC on CD and vinyl already but it’s great to have them all on CD and there’s still enough music here that I didn’t have already to make it worthwhile. A superb set from a classic, undervalued band and I don’t regret busting my budget for it öne bit.

Paradise Lost CDsParadise Lost – S/T and At the BBC (£14 from Missing Records and Amazon Marketplace)

I plugged a couple of gaps in my Paradise Lost collection this month. I’m particularly pleased to have picked up At the BBC for just £10 as it’s been out of print for some time. All it needed was a new jewel case and now it’s as good as new! These radio sessions do a great job of capturing the band’s early style and development before things started to go a bit weird! The 2005 self-titled album was PL’s return to Metal form after those weird years.

Gov't Mule Georgia Bootleg BoxGov’t Mule – The Georgia Bootleg Box (£16 Sainsburys)

Many of Gov’t Mule’s live releases have had cover versions and guest appearances galore but this intriguing live box set focuses on the band’s original material from their early power-trio days (before the shock death of bassist Allen Woody). This was probably a bit of an extravagance but I’ve been in a real Mule mood these days and, at £16 for 6 CDs (3 concerts) of material, it was another great value set.

And many thanks to the lovely EvaOverload for enabling buying me the new Richard Thompson album Electric!

This one was free!
This one was free!

I’ve went royally over budget this month but I’m not downhearted. At £85 I’ve still spent less than I did in February 2012. I also bagged a sought-after rarity and with about 30 CDs to listen to I got plenty of value and a metric shit-ton of music to keep me occupied for a while. Hopefully in March this lot can keep me amused and away from shops and the internet and I can claw back some of my dignity. That’s the theory anyway.

FEBRUARY 2013 TOTALS

Amount spent on purchases: £85

Amount budgeted: £50

Amount over/under budget: £35 Over

HMO CHALLENGE 2013 TOTALS

Amount spent on purchases: £143

Amount budgeted: £100

Amount over/under budget: £43 Over

Sabbat – History of a Time to Come (Review)

Sabbat - History of a Time to Come CD Reissue
Sabbat – History of a Time to Come CD Reissue

If you were in a successful Thrash Metal band in the 1980s, you were probably American or German. While the UK was a massive influence on the genre via bands such Venom and Motorhead, the UK Thrash Metal scene is generally a footnote in any history of the genre. However, in England’s green and pleasant land there was one band that was more than a match for any of the more successful Thrash exponents from overseas.

They were Nottingham’s Sabbat and their debut album History of a Time to Come had the pace, aggression and technicality of Slayer and Megadeth and the filthy Black Metal tinge of Germany’s Destruction and Kreator. But, in addition to being able to thrash with the best of them, Sabbat had a pagan and medieval quality to their music which sounded uniquely British.

The whole album is expertly paced. For the most part the band thrashes like maniacs but the album is interspersed with enough memorable horn-raising riffs to appeal to fans of Maiden and Priest. There are also occasional clean passages, river sounds and tweeting birds offering pastoral respite from the musical sword-waving elsewhere.

Songs like Hosanna in Excelsis and Behind the Crooked Cross are satisfyingly direct and savage with Andy Sneap’s deft guitar riffs and snaky legato fills. Vocalist Martin Walkyier impresses too: his crazed screeches, growls and exaggerated pronunciation (“The poison-ah! infil-ah! trates-ah!”) coming across like a possessed Dark Ages preacher or prophet. His startling vocal performance here would prove influential in the Black Metal genre both in the UK and abroad.

Walkyier’s wild delivery is especially useful in songs like A Cautionary Tale and I For An Eye where the songs take the form of Dante-inspired short plays. His varied vocal delivery is great for carrying the multitude of dramatic parts and his voice is often harmonised and doubled over to create a mysterious, occult atmosphere. One of the finest examples of this comes in A Cautionary Tale where Walkyier’s voice is weaved together with a backwards vocal for spellbinding effect (“Bell, book and candle. Candle, book, bell. Forwards and backwards to damn me to hell. Jehovah, I beg thee. Have mercy on my soul”).

Narratives are also expressed musically by the skilful changes in pace and mood. The greatest example occurs in the shift to a classic mid-tempo riff during I For An Eye to illustrate Lucifer’s malevolent intent. An uplifting, cleaner version of the same riff is introduced later beneath the melodic solo which closes the song (“I burn”). This is one of the album’s most awe-inspiring moments and a great example of the Andy Sneap’s skill as a composer, arranger and player.

The lyrics on History of a Time to Come deserve praise too. Many of the era’s bands were moving away from horror-themed lyrics and towards the real world horror of politics and nuclear destruction. Sabbat managed to use elements of both, filtered through the lens of a distinctively pagan and spiritual worldview. Horned is the Hunter (the album’s centrepiece) is suitably apocalyptic but the story of man’s downfall (the “history of a time to come” referred to in the album’s title) is told through the eyes of our forgotten Gods of nature. The topic of Nazism is cloaked by a focus on their occult obsessions in Behind the Crooked Cross and the greed of TV evangelists (always a popular target for 80s metallers) is turned into a medieval carnival in The Church Bizarre.

Sabbat History of a Time to Come CD Rear CoverSabbat would only release one more album, Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays), before the classic line-up split. Walkyier would go on to form Skyclad (one of the greatest bands of the 90s) and Andy Sneap would build a very successful production career. He would later use this success to help reactivate Hell, an obscure UK Metal band that was a massive influence on Sabbat.

This edition of History of a Time to Come has been superbly remastered by Andy Sneap himself and also includes 5 gruff live tracks from East Berlin (taken from the End of the Beginning VHS) with the standout track being a blistering version of For Those Who Died. There isn’t a weak track on this CD. It’s a superb record, superb reissue and a must-have for fans of Thrash and Black Metal. Charge!

HMO Rating: 10 out of 5

[Sabbat – I For An Eye]

Single of the Week – Nik Kershaw Wouldn’t It Be Good (7” Single)

I’m delving into the world of the single! I’ll buy a 7”, 12” or CD single every week and post my findings here. Who knows what musical discoveries will be made?

Private Dick Nik and Slick Nik share a fag in a warehouse.
Private Dick Nik and Slick Nik share a fag in a warehouse.

After the success of last week’s bargain bin Survivor single, I went back to Missing for another rummage through the detritus of their 50p section. I hit paydirt once again with this 80s Pop classic.

I once went through a phase of watching Vintage TV. A lot. This, along with Boys of Summer, Down Under and Wired for Sound, was one of the videos I kept hoping would come up. It’s one of those songs that I really like on its own without any interest in hearing the artist’s other music. Maybe one day I’ll actually listen to the B-Side of this and see if that grabs me.

Wouldn’t It Be Good is a great track. It’s very open sounding with slick Rock guitar, a gloriously cheesy synth hook and some strangely detached and threatening vocals. You can call this my “bad 80s” side if you like but I love the sound and vibe of this stuff and a large part of my imaginative space is taken up by Miami Vice so this just hits the spot! Recently I downloaded the very 80s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for PS3. I’ve been playing that frequently and, as EvaOverload noticed, trying to “will myself into the telly”. Well it turns out this Nik Kershaw track plays on the radio there! I haven’t heard it yet but I’m just going to have to drive around some more, imagining I’m Sonny Crockett, until it does.

Noise-some Notes – A Week in Listening 4th February 2013

Gov’t Mule – Dose Gov’t Mule started off as a side-project for Allman Brothers Band members Warren Haynes and Allen Woody but, prior to the recording of the project’s 2nd studio album Dose, they had decided to leave the Allmans and concentrate solely on the Mule. The result was one of the best albums of the 90s and a Blues-Rock classic. Much heavier and looser than the Allmans and even more impressive for having been recorded predominantly live with only the vocals and some extra instrumentation overdubbed later. The name came from the (ABB drummer) Jaimoe’s description of James Brown’s wife’s ample rear end apparently! Nice.

Clan Destined – In the Big Ending… 6-track EP from a real hero of mine, Martin Walkyier: the gravel-voiced, pagan frontman of Sabbat and Skyclad. I hadn’t listened to this since its release in 2007 and really enjoyed going back to it last week. Swinging like Judas, Devil for a Day and A Beautiful Start to the End of the World are top-drawer Walkyier. It’s great having a music collection big enough that I can dip into it and discover a new favourite in there.

Helloween – S/T Mini-LP Although Power-Metal godfathers Helloween would go on to greater glory with their Keeper of the Seven Keys albums, they would never sound this furious or perfect ever again. This 5 track mini album is an absolute riot of furious thrash riffing and irresistible melody. It’s such a blast I’ll forgive them for ripping off Breaking the Law in Victim of Fate. The lesson being, if you’re going to nick a riff… nick a good one!

The Faces – Five Guys Walk into a Bar (Disc 1) The first disc from a very thoughtful and passionately curated box-set. The BBC tracks, live songs, rehearsal recordings and a song recorded in a hotel room(!) are all very evocative and give a more rounded sense of the band’s powers than their studio albums ever managed. It also shines a welcome light on the under-rated talents of the much-missed Ronnie Lane. His Debris is one of the most heartfelt and touching songs ever.

Anathema – Natural Disaster I only put this on because I was rearranging my CDs and dropped it all over the place. It fell out of its case and skited across the floor. I was most displeased and forced to listen to it just to check if it was ok. Thankfully it played fine and I enjoyed it way more than I expected. Especially since I had been hoodwinked into listening to it by my own dropsy! It brought back lots of memories of going to London to see the “Unholy Trinity” show in Sep 2008. Good times!

SONG OF THE WEEK: The catchiest and best track from The Clan Destined’s excellent EP In The Big Ending…

[The Clan Destined – A Beautiful Start to the End of the World]

How Tempting? – February 2013

Welcome to the second month of the HMO Challenge 2013! In January I allocated myself a £50 budget to spend on music and music DVDs. I spent £58. Not a great start but not a complete disaster either. For February, once again, I gave myself a paltry £50 to play with. It’s a short month after all.

These How Tempting posts are supposed to be a list of the albums and DVDs that are tempting me the most and therefore mostly likely to be putting a dent in the budget. But I have to come clean. The February budget is already gone… and then some.

So there isn’t any point in doing a list of tempting music this month, given that I’ve probably bought it all already! There is only one notable release still to come in February and that’s Darkthrone’s The Underground Resistance. It’s one of the most exciting new releases of 2013 and, according to Darkthrone’s Fenriz, “torn from the wombs of the Riders of Rohan of Metal”. Indeed. Thankfully, this hugely anticipated release won’t be out until the 25th so if I can just hold off a week it will be a March purchase and I can avoid pounding February’s budget into complete submission.

Mind you, there are still a couple of weeks of February to go and plenty of interesting stuff left over from January that I didn’t buy back then. Temptation abounds! So far this month I’ve already picked up 20+ discs of music including: a box set from some Rock legends, a couple of Richard Thompson albums, an excellent out-of-print CD from one of my favourite UK Metal acts and a cheap compilation from a great American power trio.

Join me at the beginning of March to find out how I get on!

Single of the Week: Survivor – Burning Heart (7” Single)

Two worlds collide, rival nations!
Two worlds collide, rival nations!

I’m delving into the world of the single! I’ll buy a 7”, 12” or CD single every week and post my findings here. Who knows what musical discoveries will be made?

When I started my weekly single hunt I had imagined I would pick up singles of the songs that I like but don’t like enough to buy full albums to get. You know… stuff like Bronski Beat, Men at Work, Mental as Anything, Cutting Crew, John Farnham, Mr. Mister, Cliff Richard… all that kind of stuff. (In fact, Cliff’s Wired for Sound is actually the Single of the Week Holy Grail. Any time I go into a shop and leave without it feels like a failure.)

This week I decided to rummage around in Missing Record’s crusty 50p cheapo section to see if I could find any nice surprises. I ended up with Survivor’s Burning Heart on 7”.

This is the awesome theme tune from Rocky IV and, for my money, a superior track to the more well-known Eye of the Tiger (the Survivor track that graced Rocky III). It’s the kind of simmering, brooding Pop-Rock that makes me pine for the 80s and lyrics such as “When his body says stop, his spirit cries… never!” will make this single essential listening before I head out to Badminton for the weekly grudge match with EvaOverload.

The B-Side is a live version of another Survivor track, Feels Like Love, a song I’d never heard before. It reminds me of Raised on Radio-style Journey, which is no bad thing, but it gets to the guitar solo and then sticks. But that’s no big deal. I wasn’t looking for rare B-Sides with this purchase. It’s the heroic, montage-friendly A-Side, awesome cover and 50p price tag that make this a winner!

Super highways, coast to coast... oops, wrong song. Sorry.
Super highways, coast to coast… oops, wrong song. Sorry.

… and classic rock too!