Friday, October 1, 2010

Fist – Turn the Hell On

Iron Maiden with Di’Anno or Iron Maiden with Bruce Dickinson?

That’s a debate Pope and I love to have, over and over, endlessly for the last 19 years.  Pope’s firmly in the Dickinson camp, and his reasons are sound. Dickinson had the pipes, the air raid siren vocal chords, and there’s no doubt he’s a great frontman.  Without Dickinson, Maiden never would have become, well . . . MAIDEN.

But that’s not what it’s about for me.  With Di’Anno, Maiden possessed something they lost the day Dickinson walked into the band room; something primal, something raw, something vital. Maiden’s first album, and the entire, early NWOBHM scene was around raw guts.  It was a D.I.Y. effort created entirely from passion.  The NWOBHM was heavy metal’s punk rock moment.  Their rebellion against the status quo.  It was metallers taking their records and distribution literally into their own hands.  Scores of bands pumping out furious, riff-maddened metal, on clumsy, self-manufactured, barely produced singles and tapes. Selling em by hand out on the streets.  It was bizarre guys having air guitar battles at sweaty, stink-filled underground metal clubs, and frothing at the mouth at the next band to emerge onto the scene.

And it didn’t last long.  NWOBHM started around 1979 and by 1981, certainly by 1982, the scene had already bowed down to the man, becoming a commercial megalith.  If you followed the music, you could feel the transition hit you like running into a brick wall.  There it is, right there, when Maiden switched to Dickinson, when the Tygers of Pan Tang switched to Deverill, when Def Leppard put out High N' Dry.  In each of their own ways, these moves heralded the death of the raw NWOBHM in favor of a slicker, more produced, more commercial sound.  Not that it was all bad mind you, just different.

And not my NWOBHM.  My metal was guts, baby.  Riffs flying at the speed of sound.  Technically, maybe not the best.  Vocals were strained.  Playing was primitive.  But passion.  God, the NWOBHM was about passion.

And to that effect, I offer you this brand new Metal Mind reissue of the debut album from long forgotten early NWOBHM hooligans, Fist.  Don’t go looking here for the refined polish of Number of the Beast-era Maiden.  Fist were plying their workingman’s trade way back when the scene began, releasing their first single on a Neat Records compilation tape way back in 1979.  Many times in Ripple reviews, Pope or I will write the words “we can’t understand why this band didn’t find a bigger audience.”  Not here.  Here, it’s beautifully clear why Fist were never commercially successful.  Their sound is barely finished, their playing sufficient, their singing rough.  And damn I wouldn’t have it any other way.   Raw, primal passion, baby, it’s all raw passion.

Remember this is the punk moment of metal, and Fist burst out of the gate with that flag flying high.  “Hole in the Wall Gang,” sums it all up perfectly.  Staggering, stuttering riffs married to a sledgehammer beat and walloping bass.  Their sound is familiar, certainly a product of the era.  Think a combination of early Praying Mantis with On Through the Night-era Def Leppard and you’ll get the feeling.  And if those names give you giddy chills, then Fist will too.

I was being a bit flippant when I said their playing was sufficient.  In truth, these cats could pump out a riff and a quick solo with the needed precision of their sound.  Sure, it’s not “Phantom of the Opera,” by Maiden, but it’s not supposed to be.  It’s tough and ballsy and would’ve got the yobs shouting with fist-clenched beer stein in the pubs.   Keith Satchield used the full range of his voice, like a young Joe Elliot, often straining his vocal chords beyond their comfort zone.  But I dig that.  I’m the guy that prefers Tino Troy’s vocals in Praying Mantis over the many singers who came later who could clearly sing better but lacked that “guts.” I’m the guy who prefers Di’Anno.  I dig Satchield.

“The Watcher,” is another perfect period rocker, a jaunty, thudding riff-fest, sounding even more Mantis-like this time, but with all their own style.  Fist knew how to write a song, their compositional strength is strong and they always know how to throw that chorus or bridge at you to hook you fast in your seat.  “Collision Course,” is a mid-tempo, near power ballad that actually rocks.  “Forever Amber,” chugs along with a Nugent intensity.  “Axeman,” is fierce and has such groove it’s downright sexy.  “Vamp” is a proto-Leppard rocker.  And the whole album is like that.  A perfect microcosm of all that I loved about the early NWOBHM movement.  Energy, melodies, riffs and hooks.  And the more I listen to this album the more I love it. 

Two bonus tracks tacked onto the end complete the package.  “Brain Damage,” and “Law of the Jungle,” and these tracks burn!  If anything, these tracks are heavier than most of the cuts on the album proper, and definitely fill the disc out. This was a great debut record, a lost NWOBHM classic, finding a band just brimming with promise.

Turn the Hell On won’t please all metal fans.  Heck, it may not even please all NWOBHM fans.  It’s ugly and has warts and flaws.  But if you’re like me, and see the Di’Anno Maiden as the true king of metal, then I expect you’ll find those blemishes on the Fist album to be just as beautiful as I do.


Buy here: Turn The Hell On (Remastered)


Mighty High said...

I was just thinking about these guys the other day! There was also a Canadian band called Fist that had a few good songs but UK Fist was way better. NICE ONE!

PS - Dianno rules!

Anonymous said...

I remember a group called FIST and they had a song called Turn The Hell On but it doesn't sound anything like the song that I played on here.

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