Hello, the reason why there is not a full post this week is simply because I have been away. I got back on Sunday and started putting together about 3 posts simultaneously, but rather than put out a half baked version of something that would have otherwise been a good contribution to the world of NWOBHM I’ve decided to just do a very short piece about Cheshire heroes Aragorn.
Because I’m suffering from ‘Metal Fatigue’…
What is metal fatigue? Here is a quote from the king of NWOBHM scholarship, Malc Macmillan, from an article in the introduction to his NWOBHM Encyclopaedia (published by Iron Pages, available through Amazon, if you enjoy this blog you really should buy a copy, it’s worth every penny)… ‘it’s often a fundamental mistake to over-analyse certain aspects of cultural phenomena’. This is immediately followed by ‘…but for what it’s worth, I’ll give you my own view of how and why it all happened’.
This is why I love Macmillan’s writing so much, he is totally aware that extreme passion for the era is in some ways comical. Those of us who are obsessed enough with these bands to actually write about them need to have a certain amount of self awareness in order to stay sane. This is probably also true of the people who play this music and keep the dream alive, which in my opinion is what this amazing song is about.
Because I was alive during the NWOBHM era but unable to participate due to the fact I was a toddler, I experience even more joy in discovering new bands and archive recordings. You could argue that my obsession is a kind of nostalgia, but my pleasure in collecting and supporting this music takes such commitment (getting to far away gigs alone ((due to none of my associates being interested in them)) has sometimes been quite depressing) that my fascination for it is definitely elevated above a sentimental desire for comfort.
Metal is exhausting. It takes your brain over and is so addictive you just can’t put it down. In short, this music is worthy of obsessive over analysis, and I’ve become even more invested in this blogging project as it has progressed, like an unforgiving parasite on my already busy life. Metal Fatigue!
Back to Aragorn. I reckon they sounded ‘different’ enough to have made a significant impact on the world. I love every track on their Noonday Anthology (you can get a second hand copy here) and would love to see a reformed version of the band playing again if that was in any way possible. The main thing I love is Chris Dunne’s distinctive vocals. To my ears they are really sleazy sounding, although his voice has a punk-like rawness (which helps the listener to feel taken away and involved with the punchy but well crafted songs) his delivery manages to elevate them to an almost baroque level of decadence without sounding like they’ve been watered down by years of sensible vocal training.
Look how he moves in this video…
He has such a presence (they all do!). I still think Germany’s The Hand of Doom is a good reference point. Their vocalist Andreas “Iggi” Rössner sounds angrier, but both bands trigger the same kind of violent hazy dream-state. Yes I’m still implying that Aragorn (and many other NWOBHM groups) were proto stoner/doom. I blab on and on about all that in this post…
All members of Aragorn went on to other projects, notably John Hull, who played in Touched, who put out a pretty amazing single called ‘Dream Girl’ in 1984 (would anyone agree with me that the A side sounds a bit like how Rainbow would if they were slightly pissed?) before releasing their first album ‘Back Alley Vices’. Here’s the B side, a song that also pops up on the Aragorn Noonday anthology called ‘We’ll Fight Back’.
All Touched stuff seems to feature the typical ‘Ebony sound’ (which generally sounds like the recording studio was a giant biscuit tin) and have that hard working back street charm about it. Apparently Touched (it’s a terrible name isn’t it? Made all the more special by the fact they all look like people who you wouldn’t want to be touched by) all held down day jobs throughout their heroic time in the dim post NWOBHM limelight. As someone who works in the arts, I know that dedicating ones life to contributing something to the world of popular culture is a challenge, but to do this collaboratively with other people who are also struggling to earn their crust is god-damn heroic. Hail to those who gave us such idiosyncratic documentations of that time, on a tight budget for the love of the music, the fans and the sublime ridiculousness of heavy metal music!
This is currently my favourite Aragorn song…
So raw and sleazy, but with a real backstreet virtuosity. I love the way all the Aragorn material was produced, it’s got such balls.
This is my favourite example of ‘doom’ Aragorn.
Both of these songs were intended for their album, which was recorded in full but never got released, which I think is a real tradgedy. Maybe it was ‘too different’ to all the other stuff out there? Which of course is what I think makes it stand out so much, it just sounds so… eccentric!
One final point, Malc Macmillan appears to not be a fan of Aragorn, and lists Sacred Alien and Traxx as being their superiors… Each to his own, but he must be missing something… Do yourself a favour and have a look at their website (which has been kicking around for a while, please reform, guys!) I’ve also noticed they mention their ‘Night Is Burning’ compilation on Hot Food records (which appears to have been re-released last year) so perhaps buying this compilation will get more money into the pockets of these freaks of the NWOBHM. There are more good interviews with the band in John Tucker’s ‘Neat and Tidy, the story of Neat Records’, which is also well worth a look.
Back to normal service next week!