Tag Archives: Classic Albums

HMO Digest – 25th September 2022

It’s been two whole months since the last digest so let’s not waste time with idle banter! Here’s what’s been happening on the blog.

Recent Posts

Thin Lizzy – Thin Lizzy (Album Review)

Lynott and chums scatter their beans over different scenes on their eclectic, but sleepy, debut.

Stratovarius – Hunting High And Low (Song Review)
Helloween – Why? (Song Review)

Two power metal classics in a row. Why? Why the hell not.

KISS – Bang Bang You (Song Review)

Cause 80s KISS is the best! And you wanted the best.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Knife-Edge (Song Review)

This song rhymes seagull with eagle which is just one of the many reasons for its awesomeness.

Cream – Badge (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering as long as they sound the part.

Tankard – Mercenary (Song Review)

A great example of lyrics not mattering at all.

HMO Salutes

R.I.P Michael James Jackson, producer of my favourite two KISS albums (Creatures Of The Night and Lick It Up… 80s KISS again!)

Steve Grimmett, best known as lead throat of NWOBHMers Grim Reaper, who has died aged 62.

The exalted Piledriver (aka Gord Kirchin) who has died from cancer aged 60. I wrote about a great Piledriver tune here if you want to familiarise yourself. And their albums Metal Inquisition and Stay Ugly both got stellar reissues lately so get involved.

New Stuff

A good year for new releases continues with Megadeth’s The Sick, The Dead… And The Dying! and Behemoth’s Opvs Contra Natvram which are both enjoyable efforts. Not up with either band’s best work but better than I was expecting. Other notable purchases include Marillion’s Holidays In Eden box set (love!), KISS’s Des Moines set (wow!), a Steeleye Span box set (fol-de-rol!), Whiplash’s The Roadrunner Years (ermagerd! Thresh meddle)

Darkthrone

I also had a big blow out and bought all the Darkthrone albums I’m missing. Basically all the studio albums between Panzerfaust and F.O.A.D. I should really have bought all these long ago because Darkthrone, but the news of their upcoming Astral Fortress inspired me to finally bite the bullet. I can listen to the whole discography now before the new one comes out on the 28th October.

What I Was Listening To While I Wrote This Post

Cathedral’s The Carnival Bizarre from 1995. Monstrously heavy stuff with classic tracks like Vampire Sun and Hopkins (The Witchfinder General) as well as wonderful deep cuts like Inertia’s Cave and guest guitar from one Frank “Tony” Iommi on Utopian Blaster. Let’s get it on!

Coming Up

We’re getting in to the heavy release schedule months now. There are new releases and reissues galore on the horizon. Coming up in Oct there’s new albums from The Antichrist Imperium, Avatarium and Queensryche and on the reissue front there’s Diamond Head (expanded Lightning To The Nations), Danzig (the long out-of-print 666: Satan’s Child) and album boxes from Deicide and Blitzkrieg.

On the review front I have some Deep Purple, Brian May and Whitesnake posts in the works. And probably some Darkthrone cause that’s all I’m going to be listening to for the next month or so, let’s face it. Until next time… eternal hails!

Raven – Rock Until You Drop (Review)

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Raven – Rock Until You Drop (1981)

Despite being dubbed “athletic rock”, Newcastle’s Raven were slow off the starting blocks. Their 1980 single Don’t Need Your Money was well-received but there was a big wait for their debut album to finally appear in October 1981. Not sure what took so long because Rock Until You Drop sounds like the power trio just rocked up to the studio and banged out their live set in one go. This is just one corker after another, crackling with raw energy and infectious enthusiasm (just check out John Gallagher’s crazed yelp at the end of Hell Patrol). And it’s loaded with classics too: from gonzo hard rockers Hard Ride, Over The Top and Don’t Need Your Money to superb Priest slashers like For The Future. I could do without the pair of Sweet covers though. They’re fun and add to the live gig vibe but I’d rather have had another Raven original or two. But it’s a minor gripe as Raven then proceed to wreck the place with the proto-thrash Lambs To The Slaughter and the mighty epic Tyrant Of The Airways. Raven might not need your money but you should fling some their way because you need this over-the-top NWOBHM madness in your life.

Black Sabbath – Sins Of The Father (Song Review)

“How much longer are you gonna pay, for yesterday”

Today I was listening to The Sab’s Dehumanizer for the first time in ages. Sins Of The Father stood out, which caught me by surprise cause it’s usually my least favourite track on the whole thing. It’s a bit meh of riff and the Beatlesque opening bit doesn’t do much for me. But as it picks up pace and intensity it creeps up on you and Dio sounds so committed: giving it full majestic welly on the awesome chorus and delivering the typically cryptic lyrics like they’re the most important words, ever. A dark horse track on an album that still improves with every listen.

Montrose – Montrose (Review)

Montrose – Montrose (2017 Deluxe Edition)

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.

KISS – Hotter Than Hell (Review)

KISS – Hotter Than Hell (1974 – with German logo variant!)

The meanest and heaviest album of KISS’ classic era. When their self-titled debut LP wasted no time in sliding out of the charts, KISS headed back into the studio to rush out a replacement, 1974’s Hotter Than Hell. This time ramping up the layers and distortion in an attempt to replicate the power of their live sound. The sludgy, messy end result is oft-criticised but I think the album has a dark, underground edge and the more metallic material here works really well. Songs like the genius riff-fest Parasite and the predatory Watchin’ You sound gritty and nasty. My main gripe is the stupidly slow tempos. Top tunes like Got To Choose, the title-track and Let Me Go Rock N’ Roll just sound like they need a good kick up the arse. But they’re still enjoyable versions if you just get into that blockier, doomier mindset and, best of all, there are no real clunkers here. They won’t show up on greatest hits sets but tracks like Comin’ Home, Goin’ Blind and Strange Ways are all choice deep cuts for the KISS connoisseur. Especially Strange Ways for its phenomenal whacked-out Ace Frehley guitar solo. Total attitude. Not their hottest album then but definitely one of their coolest, a rewarding evocation of KISS’ hungry years.

Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (Review)

Judas Priest – Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976)

The modern idea of “heavy metal” starts here. Judas Priest’s seminal sophomore album Sad Wings Of Destiny laid down the template for countless others to follow with its evil, slashing riffs, demonic guitar duels and the screaming, theatrical vocals of the one-and-only Rob Halford. This 1976 album contains four peerless classics in the humungous Victim Of Changes, the thrashing Genocide, Tyrant and the malevolent The Ripper. And, while less innovative, the deep cuts like the orchestral Prelude, psychedelic Dreamer Deceiver and the funereal Epitaph give the album a mournful, gothic construction that makes this the Priest to hear if you’re a crucifix-necklaced, flare-wearing, doom metal type. Supposedly the album’s A and B sides were accidentally reversed on initial release so we’ve all been listening to it in the wrong order. But it doesn’t matter. Listen to this any way you like: forwards, backwards, up, down, shuffle. Either way it’s a masterpiece. Actually… maybe avoid listening to it backwards. Just in case.

[Judas Priest – Genocide]

Pestilence – Malleus Maleficarum (Review)

Pestilence are now known as death metal masters but on their 1988 debut album the Dutchmen were still in the process of pushing the Kreator-style thrash of their demos to increasingly aggressive extremes. The crunchy riffs, violent tempos, moshing breakdowns and vocal phrasing are pure thrash but the sickening bludgeon of the delivery and the Schuldiner-esque bark of Martin Van Drunen put the band on a collision course with the emergent death metal of the era. The lyrics aren’t much of a read but obsessions with science, atrocity and surgery also push things deathward (“bifurcation of the tumour”) and provide great vocal hooks for Van Drunen’s authoritative vocals in tracks like Parricide and Chemotherapy. Although they had yet to mature stylistically, Pestilence’s formidable songwriting and precision brutality makes this a must for fans of death and thrash. It’s named after the infamous “Hammer Of The Witches” treatise, yet Malleus Maleficarum is so magical from front to back that you could well suspect this band of sorcery.

KISS – KISS (Review)

Can you guess which of these guys got someone else to do their makeup?

KISS, the band’s self-titled debut album from 1974, is loaded with more classics than any other studio album they would ever put out. The masked New York rockers were already making a reputation as an explosive live act and when you look at the tracks featured here, Strutter, Firehouse, Cold Gin, Deuce, Black Diamond and 100,000 Years, it’s no wonder few bands dared take them out as support act.

But it’s not all cut from that timeless cloth. The glam stomp single Kissin’ Time and the instrumental Love Theme From KISS don’t rank among the band’s better moments. And the young musicians were unable to capture the power and excitement of their live shows in the studio. KISS at their best put a spring in your step like no other band but the production and performance here is too tentative to quite achieve that.

KISS would eventually deliver definitive renditions of these songs on their mega-selling 1975 album Alive! But there’s a reason so many of that live album’s songs were drawn from their debut. KISS is a must-hear for fans of street-level, meat and potatoes hard rock. A flawed classic that planted the seeds of success with its pop-savvy mix of Humble Pie boogie, tasty heavy riffs and an array of songs that would become the stuff of legend.

Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent (Review)

Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent (1975)

He’s a phenomenally exciting guitar player and intense live performer but there are a disconcerting number of patchy studio albums to wade through in “Terrible Ted” Nugent’s discography. This 1975 album, his solo debut after ditching the Amboy Dukes band moniker, is as close to filler-free studio greatness as he ever got. Outside of a compilation or live album, this is the most classic Nuge songs that you’re going to find in one place.

And what classics! Stranglehold is an audacious and timeless opener: a moody, psychedelic workout that brilliantly showcases the excellent band, Nugent’s guitar chops and that superbly raunchy Gibson Byrdland tone. Motor City Madhouse is a gonzo rager and the stunning hard rockers Just What The Doctor Ordered and Stormtroopin’ are two of my all-time faves. The lesser-known Hey Baby and Snakeskin Cowboys are catchy, swaggering rock n’ rollers that hold their own among the hits.

But the patchy criticism still applies and Ted doesn’t always hit the target here, running out of steam with a brace of comparatively forgettable closing tracks. But this is still the most consistently brilliant studio album of his career and a great place for newbies to start. Like the “murder capital of the world” referenced in Motor City Madhouse, Ted Nugent is loaded with killers.

Great reissue with quality bonus tracks

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (Review)

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (1984)

Finding their label Music For Nations wanting, presumably puny, Manowar used the budget they were given to record their third album, 1984’s Hail to England, but used it sparingly: covertly working up an additional batch of tracks which they then used to win a record deal with Virgin/Ten Records. Sneakiness aside, Manowar achieved a heroic feat. They had recorded two of the very greatest albums in the history of heavy metal… at the same time.

So here’s the second of those peerless works, Sign Of The Hammer. It’s pure heavy metal, but Manowar’s explosive and idiosyncratic idea of what that might be. Joey DeMaio leads from the front with his humungous bass riffs and leads but the whole band is on stellar form. Eric Adams sings with absolute authority and commitment, Ross The Boss’ wild, off-the-cuff guitar solos are impossibly exciting and Scott Columbus pounds out the drum equivalent of shouting “FRESH HORSES” at the top of your voice. The songwriting is also godly, with opening lines like “black clouds on the horizon” and “burning embers of the second death will come in the night” 100% guaranteed to give all but the false true metal stirrings.

The album is near flawless. All Men Play On Ten and Animals kick the album off like KISS-on-steroids. Thor (The Power Head) is as thunderous and warring as its title suggests. Mountains is elemental in its epic scope and the black wind conjured up in The Oath and the Sign Of The Hammer tips the album into sheer aural chaos. There’s only one chink in the armour here and that’s the bass noodling of Thunderpick. It’s extremely skippable but, as always with Manowar, there’s mad genius at work as the workout proves to be an effective overture to the sublime album closer Guyana (Cult Of The Damned). Eric Adams excels here, delivering an account of mass suicide with chilling and heartbreaking sincerity.

This album has hopped around the top spot of my favourite albums of all time for decades now, vying with that other work of genius Hail To England. There are times when I seriously wonder if I’ve wasted my time listening to other music when I could have been listening to this and, listening to it again now, I reckon I probably was.