The really big London show coming up is Garage Dayz Revisited featuring Tygers of Pan Tang, Tokyo Blade, Witchfynde, Desolation Angels, Savage, Jaguar, Tysondog and The Deep. I’ll set the scene with a version of a song by Witchfynde that’s been my wake-up alarm for a few years, a pretty early (1977) demo recording that’s (in my opinion) far superior to the album version from a few years later. Give some patience to this epic masterpiece, made even more special in my opinion by the strangely ‘untypical for heavy metal’ production and be rewarded with a weird, obscure earworm by one of the more capricious acts of the era.

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! It’s a really special piece of work and is worthy of your attention, but since this video’s been taken down I guess you’ll have to take my word for it that it’s amazing and consider buying it here

Apparently they once played this drunk and accidentally substituted the main riff for the theme tune from Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’. Easy mistake!

I was well impressed with Desertfest this weekend (the traditional acts were on top form and went down a storm) and seeing as there was a real buzz about the place for both Angel Witch and Quartz I was really pleased to be there. The whole event was supported by a really strong visual image from the easy to navigate website to the beautifully designed £1 programme… Which brings me to a small negative gripe that I want to get out of the way early on. Ahem, could we stop putting Union Jacks all over NWOBHM fliers, websites and t-shirt designs please?

Our national flag may have been an uncontroversial source of innocent patriotism in the 60s, but these days it can be a symbol of contention and high emotion which totally gives out the wrong message. If you look at the poster for a second and don’t register what it says, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was for a BNP rally. These flag bearing letters unintentionally convey a message that retains dark echoes of our colonial past

Union Jacks aren’t ugly, but over the last 50 years they have been used inappropriately by a small minded minority (when it was co-opted as the emblem of the racist far right), meaning this flier could project the wrong message to ‘leftys’ like myself. Big respect to anyone who resists letting the Union Jack be a focal point on NWOBHM fliers in future designs; it will get more of the right people showing an interest in our music. The fact that in February the organisers of Brofest had to put up this message to warn festival attendees of a Pegida demonstration happening on the same weekend ‘we would like to make it known we are NOT supportive of any kind of intolerance towards any race/sex/creed/religion, we’ve heard comments towards our use of the Union Jack, we AREN’T nationalist in anyway whatsoever’ should be a timely warning of how this imagery can be mis-interpreted.

I’m really excited about seeing so many important bands in the capital, and want them to be acknowledged by a crowd as big as they deserve. Anything that helps this and future shows to increase in attendance is worth ranting about in my opinion. Rant over!

Right, in this post I want to talk mainly about the bands lower down on the bill, let’s start with Tysondog. Here’s ‘Eat the Rich’ from 1983.

The debut album that followed in 1984 ‘Beware of the Dog’ is a bona-fide classic; it’s heavy, full of good ideas and has a high level of musicianship. It’s regarded as one of the best examples of northern NWOBHM put out by Neat Records in Newcastle, and with Tysondog being a relatively obscure name it has become a convenient example of the ‘Neat sound’. Unfortunately this appears to have lead to them suffering from more than their fair share of lazy journalism over the years, with many contemporary reviewers referring to them as ‘typical NWOBHM’, and a band this talented and likable definitely deserves more respect.

They put out a pretty good follow up a few years later called ‘Crimes of Insanity’, which was pretty damn brutal, almost along the lines of ‘Chasing The Storm’ by Tröjan. Here’s ‘Street Thunder’ from that record.

The whole record is pretty wild (aside from the ill advised Alice Cooper cover. Sigh!). All three of their albums are good, so it seems unfair they have never been given the respect they deserve in this country.

These guys are national heroes and you should definitely buy ‘Beware Of The Dog’ if you don’t already have it and also check out the recently released ‘Cry Havoc‘, which was produced by Jeff Dunn (the artist formerly known as Mantas from Venom).  Interestingly, the artist still known as Cronos from Venom produced ‘Beware Of The Dog’ all those years ago; this is a nice example of how mutual support continues to strengthen the Newcastle scene.

OK, I’m in a Venom mood so I’ll just throw in this early version of ‘Live Like An Angel’ from the B side of the ridiculous ‘In League With Satan’ 7’’ (I laugh whenever I hear that particular song and picture the early Norwegian black metal militia listening to it with a straight face. Venom are fun and ridiculous, and a gloriously comical choice of record to trigger the Black Metal Inner Circle’s soundtrack to right wing world domination!).

Faster and actually better produced than the ‘Welcome To Hell’ Version isn’t it? Venom will always have a very special place in my heart… Anyway, back to Tysondog…

The only review that came up when I Googled ‘Cry Havoc’ was a terribly half-assed slagging off from Metal Temple. It had all the typical hallmarks of lazy journalism by someone who makes no effort to hide the fact they don’t really understand the recent renewed interest in the NWOBHM era. This reviewing style generally begins with slagging off early 80s British heavy metal, moves onto saying the band they’re writing about ‘are typical’, followed by a list of ‘problems’ with the movement exemplified by said band. The review I read ended with ‘their recent album is perfect for younger Metal fans to start exploring the genre and its roots with a band that’s still relatable.’ (sic) This underlines the fact that the reviewer didn’t do any research and appears to have never been voluntarily involved with the NWOBHM scene. If you can’t be assed to listen to the album don’t write a review!

It’s a damn good record actually, which develops their sound and works as a stand-alone piece. I’d say all three of their albums are quite different to each other, which really underlines the amount of care this band has always put into their writing. Here’s ‘Shadow of the Beast’, let this blow your mind then buy ‘Cry Havoc’…

Another band who has made some incredible albums in their reformed state is Jaguar. They are well known for releasing the quite rightly respected proto-thrash masterwork ‘Power Games’ in 1983 (they went to Newcastle to record it at Impulse Studios for Neat, despite being from my part of the world ((Bristol))) and following it up less than a year later with something that really disappointed the fans by making a surprise transition into AOR tinged hard rock territory. Whoops!

Let’s have a listen to them before the fall… Here’s ‘Dutch Connection’ from the ‘Power Games’ album.

They played in Holland a fair bit, so this song was written to acknowledge this support. It’s been reported that audience reactions to the follow up material was given a thumbs down in the live environment, so the release of ‘This Time’ must have been a bit baffling at the time. As a record it’s really not THAT bad, I actually quite like it, but (so I don’t get assassinated for crimes against true metal) I agree that it’s a totally inappropriate follow up to ‘Power Games’ and the transition was too sudden.

Here’s what I consider to be the heaviest song on the album believe it or not!

‘This Time’ was met with universal indifference and fans of the debut were pretty upset too by all accounts… OK, so looking at it with the benefit of experience we can (with great effort) find some method in the madness. Due to there being a significant delay in releasing Power Games, the transition appeared more sudden than it had been in reality. Also, the vocal parts to all the material on Power Games had already been written before vocalist Paul Merrell (previously in Stormtrooper) joined, so he had contributed more to the songs on ‘This Time’.

The song writing is the main thing going for Jaguar during this low ebb, and since reforming in the 90s and returning to their metal roots it has become the main thing I respect the band for. Do yourself a massive favour and check out the three albums Jaguar released with Jamie Manton on vocals, they are raw, powerful and truly amazing. In their reformed state they didn’t just deliver what they thought the fans wanted, and approached the song writing process with playfulness and wit, which in my opinion makes ‘Wake Me’ (2000) one of the best comeback albums around…

Here’s the title track…

I’m not bullshitting when I say ‘Run Ragged’ (2003) pushes this even further. Jaguar’s trademark sound continues to be brought crushingly to life with a solid production and intelligent, playful lyrics, which contribute to the high pedestal I tend to put Jamie Manton on. Check him out here…

These performances demonstrate why I consider him one of my favourite British vocalists of all time.

All three albums walk the ‘we write lyrics about real life’ tightrope, the way Fist did in their strongest moments. They’re humorous without being vulgar and interesting without pandering to typical metal buzzwords, which gives them an edge that few NWOBHM bands have the progressive mentality to successfully pull off.

What is even more remarkable is the fact they manage to do this without sounding clichéd. Jaguar have always demonstrated the ability to take risks and challenge bands who make obvious choices. This brings us to the new album ‘Metal X’.

A truly great record, which strangely sounds more traditionally NWOBHM than ‘Run Ragged’ thanks to a rawer production that suits the development in style perfectly. Jamie’s voice sounds more downtrodden in the mix this time, giving it a self reflective edge. Lots of the songs seem to actually be about writing songs and laying your soul on the line… When they make songs about subjects that would sound trite from other bands (‘Warts and All’, ‘X Wing’, Day of the Triffids) it’s done with almost ironic self awareness.

So I’m looking forward to seeing them at Garage Dayz, but there’s a fair bit of suspense mainly because Jamie has left and they have been advertising for a new vocalist (his NWOBHM covers band Hot Flex are well worth checking out, they filled in for Jaguar at the Rock Diabetes festival last year, which was confusing at the time but on reflection was a pleasant experience). I’m wondering who could fill those hefty boots. I’m hoping it is someone who at least has good stage presence and can bring a similar level of self awareness and humour to the role, although I can’t imagine anyone else bouncing up and down on a microphone pogo stick!

You can get tickets to Garage Dayz here, and let’s face it, you’d be insane not to.

Seeing as I started this post with some early material with the distortion dial turned to minus figures, I’ll play us out with something that suits a similar mood but with that 70s distortion still intact, Charlie ‘Ungry from Middlesex with a (supposedly) 1978 obscurity, from ‘The Chester Road Album’ released in 2003 on a small Greek label, that should blow your mind…