I’ll start this post with something from Weapon UK. Their reformed manifestation had to adopt the ‘UK’ suffix after a legal wrangle with an American band who adopted the (admittedly unoriginal) name after them. Annoyingly their American counterparts aren’t still a going concern, so Weapon have to deal with having UK stuck to them like a parasitic growth for all eternity! To quote our London based heroes ‘It’s a Mad Mad World’.

A Metallica vs Napster-esque turn of events appears to have inspired this band or their management to withdraw this video, which is a shame! Enjoy the frustration caused by following this link that declares the ‘Set the Stage Alight‘ compilation ‘currently unavailable’. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s bloody amazing…

This story of ‘amazing band gets screwed over in a mildly comical way’ is a regular feature in the pantheon of unsung heroes that is the NWOBHM movement, a fitting way to start this week’s post where I’ll be exploring a small (only two in fact!) selection of these groups that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. I’ll be having a bit of time away after this post and will be back in exactly 9 weeks (on Wednesday September the 16th) so this will be the last post until then I’m afraid!

I’d like to take this opportunity to say how pleased I am with the way the blog has been received, not only from those already initiated into the world of early 80s British heavy metal but also newcomers, who have approached this underground cultural phenomenon with an open mind and expressed surprise at finding something engaging and entertaining. It’s great to feel that the (approximately) 30’000 words I have written since March have safely landed in your hearts and minds and have found a comfortable home there. Thanks for your kind comments directly to the posts through cyberspace and face to face in the real world, it’s absolutely staggering to hear evidence of how the blog has allowed me to share my love and fascination/obsession with the natural soundtrack to my subconscious, simultaneously making this outsider cultural landscape a more comfortable place for me to inhabit.

Back to Weapon… Here is ‘Midnight Satisfaction’, a piece from their fantastically entertaining ‘Set The Stage Alight’ compilation (which was once quite easy to get hold of on spamazon or eye-tunes).

A Metallica vs Napster-esque turn of events appears to have inspired this band or their management to withdraw this video, which is a shame! Enjoy the frustration caused by following this link that declares the ‘Set the Stage Alight‘ compilation ‘currently unavailable’. I guess you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s bloody amazing…

I chose this song mainly because it reminds me of their hilarious initial title Fast Relief. Wow, they didn’t have much luck when it came to band names did they?

Anyway, Weapon were one of the bands lucky enough to have been featured on Lars Ulrich and Geoff Barton’s legendary 1990 ‘NWOBHM ’79 Revisited’ compilation. This album was vital in introducing me to some of the less obvious (i.e. not Iron Maiden or Def Leppard!) bands that in my youthful ignorance I hadn’t heard of. I absolutely love Lars for investing in this project as a 10 years later celebration of the NWOBHM movement that had been a big influence on his band Metallica’s sound while they were developing their fast, technical style. While a heavily populated metal community quagmire enthusiastically criticises his every move, I have huge admiration for him, finding his talent, enthusiasm and focused, open mind somewhat inspiring. Perhaps this happy go lucky miniature drum wizard’s ability to rise above nonsense from Manowar problem afflicted metal-heads is part of what I like about him? Let’s put all the nonsense to one side and face facts, he’s a fine ambassador for our movement, and this compilation needed his ‘drummer of Metallica’ status in order for it to appear commercially viable. Geoff Barton on the other hand, despite being a journalist who hasn’t consistently been a kind supporter of the NWOBHM movement and helping to popularise that ridiculous acronym right at the start of the era sometimes appears to have more supporters in the metal world. Go figure!

Weapon’s new album ‘Rising From the Ashes’ is worthy of your time. Although their sound has become more subtle in places, there are also some pretty raw pieces on offer such as ‘Fire From The Skies’…

…which adds a fair bit of depth to the record. This has made me even more enthusiastic about getting out to see them whenever that’s possible. So get ‘Rising From the Ashes’ to hear a band making a comeback with dignity on their own terms, and ‘Set The Stage Alight’ just to have your mind blown by a great band that deserves to be remembered for making ears bleed with raw, galloping, channelled aggression (but bear in mind both are considerably more expensive from their otherwise really excellent website for some reason, so get it at the usual places).

I’m also hearing good stuff about how great they are live , and can’t wait to see them at some point. Original members Danny Hynes (vocals) and Jeff Summers (guitar) are joined by  bassist PJ Phillips who during the era was in Metal Mirror and Xero (one of my favourite bands, get the ‘Unfinished Business’ compilation from No Remorse records right now) spending some time with Christian Death in the 90s then doing session work with all sorts including Dolly Parton! Do yourself a massive favour and go and see Weapon as soon as you can.

This NWOBHM renaissance I mentioned earlier has gained some impressive momentum if what I have experienced so far this year is anything to go by. Remember the ‘Garage Dayz Revisited’ gig I started getting very excited about some time back? When I arrived at that gig there was actually a line of people outside. A line! Consisting of more than 3 people! Furthermore I had managed to get some friends to attend who hadn’t previously experienced NWOBHM in the live environment, so the fact other humans had attended gave them a bit more confidence about the event I had dragged them to. I was excited enough to see the day kicked off with The Deep, who played a blinder (I finally got the opportunity to get hold of their incredible ‘premonition’ CD too). Then Tysondog were every bit as amazing as I expected them to be. The day just flew by, and I was delighted with both the variety and quality of acts on offer, all playing with undeniable skill, enthusiasm and perhaps most importantly, pride. Our movement hasn’t always been perceived as being worthy of comment in the media, but from start to finish that gig championed a cultural phenomenon that has survived unfair criticism, ridicule and so much ignorance over the last 35 years that seeing these bands playing so convincingly not only made me very proud to be a follower of this era, but lead to the friends who I had forced to attend to quite honestly say they were blown away by the event and wanted to see more NWOBHM in the future. Success!

My personal highlight was Desolation Angels, they are a force to be reckoned with and totally blew my mind. Expect me to write a fair bit about them after my break.

One other band who I want to discuss are so significant I’m almost embarrassed to not have mentioned them yet over the last three months (or however long I’ve been doing this!). The band in question is Hull’s Salem, who never got the attention they deserved when they first emerged out of the ashes of the well loved Ethel The Frog, who are best known for ‘Fight Back’ from the first ‘Metal For Muthas’ compilation in 1980.

Seeing as this blog has developed a tradition for exposing connections between NWOBHM and classic British comedy, I may as well put up this Monty Python clip from 1970, featuring a current affairs show called ‘Ethel The Frog’…

Lots of people claim the other NWOBHM group with a notoriously strange amphibian themed name ‘Toad The Wet Sprocket’ was a Python reference too, but it actually came from an (ex-Python) Eric Idle show called ‘Rutland Weekend Television’ aired in 1975, which did an Old Grey Whistle Test pastiche where the house band was called that ridiculous name, which a successful American post punk band also used. Wouldn’t it have been hilarious if the British version of Toad had continued with some degree of success and ended up with their own ‘UK’ suffix a la Weapon? Toad The Wet Sprocket UK anyone? Eric Idle doesn’t want ‘Rutland Weekend Television’ released on DVD because it’s really not up to Python standards, thus making the ‘Toad’ title even more gloriously obscure. So now you know!

Returning to Salem’s predecessors, I quite enjoy their very groove orientated self titled album (which was actually released after the band had split up) this sinister song about incest has a kind of disturbing prog atmosphere that in some ways reminds me of a more laid back version of Legend from Jersey.

Vocalist/guitarist Paul Tognola and drummer Paul Conyers formed Salem following the breakup of Ethel. They can be heard on the early material on their ‘In The Beginning’ compilation (every home should have a copy) which shows a band bravely pushing into heavier heavier more metallic territory, whilst still making interesting, wonderfully structured music. In the hostile environment of the dreaded post 1980 NWOBHM backlash this showed real conviction. Here is an early version of ‘Coming For You’ with Paul Tongola still on vocals, not only to demonstrate the Ethel connection, but to demonstrate how each phase of the band’s career showcased in the compilation has its own charm, meaning the album never gets boring despite a number of tracks appearing more than once as the subtly different styles gives the collection some variety.

(Postscript- This collection has recently been re-released. Re-mastered and rearranged so the 17 songs are in a strict chronological order, get a copy here.)

A Metallica vs Napster-esque turn of events appears to have inspired this band or their management to withdraw this video, which is a shame! Use this link to buy the ‘In The Beginning’ compilation… In The Beginning

When Tongola left in 1981 he was replaced by Simon Saxby, who I consider one of the greatest vocalists in rock of all time. Such a powerful voice  and commanding presence, kept in balance by humour and charm. Here’s their 1982 single version of ‘Reach For Eternity’.

A Metallica vs Napster-esque turn of events appears to have inspired this band or their management to withdraw this video, which is a shame! Use this link to buy the ‘In The Beginning’ compilation… In The Beginning

One question that comes up time and time again in the world of NWOBHM is ‘were you annoyed that you weren’t chosen to appear on the ‘NWOBHM ’79 Revisited’ compilation?’. Although it generally triggers relatively interesting responses that stir up memories of that ’10 years after’ phase in the evolution of our movement, I find it a frustrating question. Unless it’s asked to Salem! They are so significant, so genre defining, their absence almost makes me feel like history is wrong. Still, although Salem would have fitted in really well, Lars and Geoff’s compilation is still more or less perfect as far as a NWOBHM compilation released through official channels can go…

‘In The Beginning’ was originally a 2009 two disc vinyl release on High Roller which was then put out by Pure Steel on CD. You can get it on MP3 with ease, and I strongly advise that you do that immediately.

Check out the 1982 ‘Keeper Of The Keys’ trilogy, which was demoed but never made it onto vinyl, that elusive record deal never materialised. I love how this three part song (although parts 1 and 2 were on the 1982 demo, part 3 appeared on the 1983 one) starts with a minimalist fade in, slowly building layer upon layer…

A Metallica vs Napster-esque turn of events appears to have inspired this band or their management to withdraw this video, which is a shame! Use this link to buy the ‘In The Beginning’ compilation… In The Beginning

Their return in 2010 has been a success thanks to their consistent gigging and willingness to use social media. They have risen to a healthy pedestal, and I hope that they continue to develop a following in the UK (it’s embarrassing how crap we are at acknowledging our home grown geniuses sometimes when they are getting a heroes welcome overseas).

I remember rocking my ass off to them at a not amazingly put together festival last October. There were a number of people in this giant hall (which was a bit like a community centre) but everyone apart from me was sat on plastic chairs. The band did some kickass posturing around me, it was like being given a throne at Valhalla or something… You owe it to yourself to go and see Salem and stand up and show them that you care about their contribution to the world of rock. Behold their indisputable authenticity augmented by a great, classic line-up; they will blow your mind.

Here’s ‘High Stakes’, which is from ‘Forgotten Dreams’, an amazing come-back record if ever I heard one, which is also worthy of your time…

I just realised that they will be playing at the Rock Den in Hatfield on August the 29th, which is the day I get back from my anchorite retirement from the civilised world so I may go and see them to realign myself with society before I go back to my job a few days later. Despite the poster for the event looking like a BNP rally I’m really up for it and looking forward to the damn fine re-awakening that could only be delivered by Salem, the best, hardest working band you could hope to see this summer.

If I don’t see you there I’ll be back writing NWOBHM Dimension again on September the 16th.

I’ll be making paintings in the Eastern European wilderness. Whenever I’m feeling isolated or in need of a pick me up it’s more than likely I’ll spend some of my exile listening to Salem and Weapon, feeling proud of the rich, weird and heavy heritage of our strange little island. I’m out of here, now’s the time for you to invest whatever you can into the thriving classic metal underground, whether that be time, money or just a tendency to brainwash the NWOBHM uninitiated, have a great summer!