Diamond Head: Diamond Head (Dissonance)
It’s well-worn history about the influence that Stourbridge’s Diamond Head had on the early thrash movement. We all know the much celebrated Metallica covers of Am I Evil, The Prince and Helpless and if you’ve been to any festival over the past ten years there is a strong chance that you’ll have caught Brian Tatler’s outfit playing those songs. And therein lies the problem for Diamond Head. Forever fated to be one of the bands that influenced arguably the biggest metal band of all time. But with a catalogue of largely mediocre hard rock tunes.
Move forward 40 years from their original formation and Tatler remains the only constant from those late 1970s days. However, the core of 2016’s Diamond Head are all long serving members. Bassist Eddie Moohan and drummer Ken Wilcox had served in the band prior to their split in the mid-1990s and were both back in the fold by 2002; rhythm guitarist Andy Abberley is now in his tenth year. The one relatively new addition is vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, who joined the ranks in 2014.
Diamond Head is a solid slab of hard rock. It isn’t going to tear up any trees and it won’t go platinum. It does however make you feel good, with a simplistic formula for the majority of the tracks which will appeal to the band’s fan base and to the average classic rock fan. Opener Bones is a quality rocking tune, whilst See You Rise contains a catchy riff which would encourage you to break the speed limit if you were pumping it through the stereo. Tatler demonstrates what we always knew; he is an excellent guitarist, peeling off solos for pleasure. The band are solid and the production is decent and in Andersen they have a vocalist with a typically radio rock friendly voice. It’s clean, it’s strong and unfortunately it sits in the same bucket as about a million others.
All The Reasons You Live smoulders with some delicious synth work adding depth to the track; a crunching riff underpins the song and Andersen gives the performance of the album whilst Tatler’s subtle guitar work is fantastic. It’s a great hard rock song, laced with AOR flavour. Wizard Sleeve transports you back to the 1980 debut Lightning For The Nations, such is its old school feel and style. You can really hear the origins of Diamond Head in this track, with a massive nod to the power of bands of the time; think Budgie. However, as the album reaches the final furlong, the songs tire somewhat. Our Time Is Now, Speed and Diamond are pretty run of the mill staples. Album closer Silence is a different matter altogether though. Full of Egyptian promise, soaring and sweeping, it builds magnificently to a roaring crescendo.
I am in genuine awe that Diamond Head still have the energy to craft and deliver a new album, 36 years after their debut release. They won’t set the world on fire with this release. However, they are an important band in the history of our much loved style of music and deserve respect. A solid if unspectacular return. 6/10
Texas Hippie Coalition: Dark Side Of Black (Carved Records)
Back in late 2014 I reviewed Ride On, the fourth release from rednecks Texas Hippie Coalition or THC. At the time I commented “This is decent, honest, American heavy metal delivered with quality and a vocal style from Big Dad Ritch which merges the grit of Anselmo with the balls of Ryan McCombs.” Well, roll on 18 months and THC are back with a quite superb follow up. Dark Side Of Black is 40 minutes of aggressive, gritty and passionate Southern rock which once again has a massive range of influences. The Southern Skynyrd style sound remains, especially in the slightly slower Knee Deep. However, the band have merged even more styles with a huge chunk of Clutch, a splash of Monster Magnet and even the hardened edge of Hatebreed evident; take a listen to Gods Are Angry for aural confirmation. Once again the vocal delivery of Big Dad Ritch dominates. This man has a huge sound, a voice that convinces you that he walks it as he talks it. Opener Come And Get It once again has the Coombs flavour, albeit with a hint of Neil Fallon.
As on their previous release, the sound is massive, with the same line-up delivering the goods from every angle. Angel Fall erupts into a track that would cause huge pit action in the live arena before a measured chorus and hook level it out whilst Shakin’ Baby has the Godsmack edge. THC may not challenge too much with the lyrical content, sexual innuendo and straight forward sexual intent all present, but the drive and sheer addictive style allows you to immerse yourself in the driving riffs, powerhouse drumming and rampaging bass lines whilst BCH stomps a mud hole with his quite fantastic voice. It’s addictive stuff and impossible not to nod the head to. I defy you to listen to the hook on Into The Wall and sit still. Penultimate track Hit It Again screams Wyndorf, a seven-minute beat that would sit comfortably on a monster magnet release. I gave Ride On a 7/10. Well, the boys have upped their game with their latest offering. Top quality stuff. 8/10
Savage Master: With Whips and Chains (High Roller Records)
Whether it was William Booth or Charles Wesley who said “why should the Devil have all the best tunes” is open to much debate. Whoever it was, they were both fortunate not to have been around to listen to the complete antithesis of that statement in Savage Master, a female fronted occult metal outfit from Louisville, Kentucky. Amazingly this is their sophomore release, following on from their 2014 debut Mask Of The Devil and 2015’s EP Black Hooves. Now, if you want a band to demonstrate why heavy metal is still mocked in certain quarters, just take a look at their promo shots. Whilst I fully support a person’s right to dress and express themselves in whatever way they wish, singer Stacey Peak does her gender no favours at all, clad in minimal leather, all eyes front and centre on her cleavage. Much like the awful Butcher Babies, it is hard enough for female singers to be taken seriously in this male dominated genre; conforming to every stereotype does them no favours at all. I don’t see Doro or Christina dressing like this. The rest of the band wear hoods! Yes, fucking hoods. Although this was clearly intended to provide a sinister effect it actually just makes them look like total dicks
Anyway this would be a slightly academic debate if Savage Master were any good but alas, they are dreadful. I can’t work out if the band are tongue in cheek with their lyrical content but I have my doubts. Satan’s Crown, Black Hooves, Ready To Sin and the dire Path Of The Necromancer all have the typically occult themed lyrical content: mention of covens, witches, Satan and the like. The title track is a plodding dull affair, routine heavy metal at its most average. Whilst the core of the band can play their instruments perfectly well, everything is destroyed by Peak’s appalling voice. It came as no surprise to read that Savage Master had supported Grave Digger in the States. Another band with a singer who could be sued under the Trade Descriptions Act. Peak’s vocals are just awful, out of tune and screaming like a wounded cat all over a collection of pretty ponderous tracks; Burned At The Stake and Vengeance Is Steel are particularly bad. For fans of Cirith Ungol, Bitch and early Mercyful Fate says their web page. Well, they’ve certainly captured the production feel of 1984 on this release. All the acoustic quality of a Wetherspoon’s toilet. Luckily their forthcoming European tour doesn’t stop in the UK. Long may that continue. 3/10