Sunday, May 31, 2015
Rys's List Of NWOBHM Obscurities That You Need To Know About
I want to start out by saying I am in no way shape or form an expert in the musical sub genre lovingly named New Wave of British Heavy Metal (a term dreamed up by former Sounds editor Alan Lewis). It's just my favorite era in metal music.
For my definition, the NWOBHM time period is very loose – I'd give it from 1979 – 1987. Unlike some other people, I don't consider non British Bands to be part of the movement, even though the spirit is there, might as well call it New Wave of heavy metal without the nationalist qualifier.
Even the casual fan has heard of the bigger names, of course Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon to name a few. My aim today is to shed some light on the bands that are lumped into the “also ran” category. Due to bad timing, lack of promotion or a myriad of other factors, these bands never got the attention they so rightly deserved.
This will be a recurring segment – so if you don't see your favorite band (or YOUR Band) listed – check back soon! This is all just in my personal opinion, and I welcome any one to add their own choices in the “comments” section. Remember one person's idea of “obscure” or “unsung” is another person's “commonplace”.
I have to start off the list with the London based band Elixir. I'm embarrassed to admit I was unfamiliar with their music until they played in New Jersey in the summer of 2006. From the first note of the song “Star of Beshaan”- I was hooked!!! I am very proud to have been a part of the band's foray into social media – starting with MySpace, then of course the ubiquitous Facebook and Reverbnation. Elixir's music has often been referred to as “Maiden-esque” because of the dual guitar leads and galloping bass lines. But there is so much more to them!! Definite influences of Thin Lizzy and UFO as with so many other bands of the time. Paul Taylor's vocals do evoke Biff Byford of Saxon at times, but he definitely has his own voice and style. The band's first full length LP “The Son of Odin” wasn't released until 1986, thereby barely catching onto the tail end of the already passe movement and being overshadowed by the hair metal and thrash bands that were gaining popularity at the time. Elixir broke up a few years ago, and original members Taylor and guitarist Phil Denton have gone on to form a new band called Midnight Messiah – who still preform Elixir classics during their set.
From the Brockley district of South London Terry Jones and his son Alan Jones formed the doomy/Sabbathy/folksy (yep) theatrical Pagan Altar. Known for taking promo photos in Nunheard cemetery – like I said in a previous article – Terry was the real deal and the name “Pagan Altar” was not a nonsensical moniker for the band. In their early years they came onstage in cloaks, with coffins, skulls, candles, the whole bit. It's a shame that no footage exists from that time that I could find. According to the bio on the band's website, the band rarely played outside of South East London, which may be one of the reasons historians don't cite them as being one of the pivotal bands from that era. Fortunately, due to the power of the internet, a demo tape that had been bootlegged “to death” was soon in the band's own hands – and they were able to give it a proper release. The band had achieved cult status in underground metal circles, and in the last few years played at prestigious festivals around the world, including Dubai. In 2013, Terry finally was able to bring the band to the US to do a one off gig at the Maryland Death fest – where I will say time and again that they owned the day – if not the whole festival.
Alas recently the painting of Terry that was stored in the attic was destroyed, time caught up to Dorian Gray, and the music world is still grieving his loss. At this point in time it is unlikely the band will continue without him.
Perhaps more known for their infamous “Beastiality” album cover, where singer Garry Dalloway gets down and dirty (literally) with a pig in a sty – Birmingham's Beasts had some great music. More on the bluesy end of the spectrum – that “fat bastard” had an amazingly soulful voice. It's sad that the album cover may have turned people off to the band. Their whole catalog is excellent, including the “04” album, which aside from boasting another cover that's sure to make it onto “worst covers ever” lists around the internet, contained re-released versions of songs originally on Beastiality.
Sadly, vocalist Dalloway passed away in 2006 just as the band were gaining steam again. They've had a series of vocalists including Rocky Shades from Wrathchild UK, and continue to tour and write new music to this day.
The North East of England was a hotbed for bands in that era. Unfortunately because of the distance to the capital a lot of them didn't get the credit they deserve. The band were actually a bit ahead of the curve. Then called Axe, they recorded their first single, “SS Giro” in 1978. Fighting against the popularity of punk rock the band regrouped, renamed themselves “FIST” and released one of the first singles on the NEAT label, “Name Rank and Serial Number”. On the strength of the single, the band were signed to major label MCA. Due to “hassles” with the label, the band were dropped and returned to NEAT records.
The band have recently become active again, gaining great reviews for their live shows around Europe. Another band I would chew my right arm off to see in the States!
Also from the North East of England, Spartan Warrior are another brand I'm ashamed to admit I didn't know too much about until recently. Their guitarist Neil Wilkinson contacted me on Facebook a few years ago about getting the band on British Steel Festival. After checking out their music, I was one of their biggest champions, but sadly that festival series is no more. SW's 1983 full length debut, “Steel n' Chains” still stands up to this day as a classic metal recording. Great hooks, exceptional playing and top notch vocals from David Wilkinson. The band is still currently very active playing gigs around the UK and some of the bigger European festivals.