In his Life of Theseus, the ancient Greek historian Plutarch asks whether a ship which was restored by replacing each and every one of its wooden parts remained the same ship. Shit, don’t run away, I swear this is an interesting piece of NWOBHM philosophy, don’t be scared! The point I’m making is you could apply the Ship of Theseus paradox to quite a few bands from the NWOBHM era, including the fantastic More…

They were the only NWOBHM band (aside from Saxon) to play the Donnington Monsters of Rock festival before 1983 when Diamond Head played (I swear this is a far grander achievement than it sounds). Their two well loved albums, ‘Warhead’ (1981, an undisputed masterpiece of the era) and ‘Blood and Thunder’ (1982, the follow up that polarises fans of the original) have completely different line ups aside from Brian Day on bass, and the heroically slightly overweight and alluringly mulleted Kenny Cox. I know I’m a flatterer aren’t I? Well here is a picture of him in all his no bullshit glory, on the hilariously misguided cover of ‘Blood and Thunder’…

To quote Andy John Burton in the booklet for the awesome 2011 reissue of that record, I was given a copy and lo and behold, all it had on the cover was this rotten picture of Kenny Cox! All I could say was ‘’what the fuck is this, so we’re the Kenny Cox band now are we?’.

It was clearly not plain sailing in the More camp, and it’s amazing how good ‘Blood and Thunder’ turned out. Their relationship with Atlantic suffered a real lack of support from the label, who dropped them after not even releasing the album in the UK, leading the band to just call it a day less than a month after the limited release of their second album. Over the last 30 years or so, a number of attempts have been made to put More back together again. However, the main ‘mad axe-man’ Kenny Cox suffered a series of strokes in 2000, right in the middle of a pretty convincing comeback, meaning a few more shuffles needed to be made (making More a true ‘Ship of Theseus ‘ band). So seeing as I find lists of names and roles so goddamn fascinating, let’s take a look at who’s in More now… Well, the longest serving members are Baz Nicholls (who has stuck around in More since Brian Day’s mysterious departure during the recording of ‘Blood and Thunder’) and Andy John Burton (who’s been drummer in More since 1981, surviving hepatitis B just weeks before going on tour with Iron Maiden!). Actually, Burton is only on drums sometimes due to illness, the rest of the time its Steve Rix, drummer in Dangerous Breed (a band who would appear to be releasing an album called ‘Reprogram Yourself’ soon, more about them later).

So now we’re already bored shitless by this Schindler’s personnel list, I’ll put up a song just to make us all feel a bit less suicidal. You know how much I love Lancaster’s Frenzy? Here’s what Frenzy were doing before they became Frenzy in 1980, three of them were in this amazing band Juno’s Claw…

Pretty fucking amazing, huh? OK, back to More, so who’s responsible for the twin guitar attack of the ‘new’ More?

Well we’ve got Paul Stickles, Who’s also in that Dangerous Breed band. Who are produced by the other guitarist… who is…  wait for it…. ONLY CHRIS FUCKING TSANGARIDES, the funniest, coolest old guy in the universe! This is where this post stops being a depressing list of names and dates, and regains its life and enthusiasm, because it’s impossible to talk about this amazing man without feeling pleased to be alive…

You know in that film ‘Anvil, the Story of Anvil’, that cool old guy who produced their early records, and gets them to come to the UK to record their new album? Well that’s Chris Tsangarides, and he made such an impact on the general atmosphere of NWOBHM bands lucky enough to have a record produced by him, you could argue the movement would sound somewhat different without him.

Look at some of the amazing shit this guy has done…

One of his earliest jobs was co engineer on Judas Priest’s ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’. Yee-ha! In the ‘sensible guitar widdler’s’ category we have Gary Moore’s Parisienne Walkways 1979 from ‘Back on the Streets’. Here is something from that record featuring Phil Lynott that’s a bit less delicate…

OK, so it’s a live version meaning you can’t hear the Tsangarides production, but look how NWOBHM they’re being. Ooh, controversial, suggesting Gary Moore has anything to do with NWOBHM is a surefire way to get headbutted!

Anyway, Tsangarides was helping Money out on the side prior to producing Gary Moore. Here’s the first song on their 1979 debut…

This was Tsangarides’ first solo production job. Money’s story is a quite a frustrating one, it’s the oft told tragedy of a band getting shafted by the industry that should earn survivors of our era a badge of honour. I should have talked about them when I was going off on one about NWOBHM prog last week actually. They were so prog RUSH wanted to take them on tour, but the record label (Gull records who were notoriously bollocks to their signings ((they put out the first 2 Priest albums which the band still doesn’t get royalties for apparently))) wouldn’t put up the £7000 to buy them onto the tour, shameful behaviour! Some of the stuff on the album sounds like they’re trying to be a non-camp version of Queen with financially themed lyrics. Doesn’t sound good on paper does it? Still the album has it’s moments (‘Finale’ is a fantastic song full of twists and changes, which feels infinitely longer than 3 minutes 20 seconds, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ style!), but this Tsangarides produced single is a far better swansong in my opinion, ‘Fast World’ (1980)…

He also produced ‘Sheer Greed’ by Girl (1980) a legendary band who are strangely overlooked despite being one of the more interesting groups of the era. ‘Hollywood Tease’ is a masterpiece. Spider deserve a mention, he produced ‘Rough Justice’ in 1984.

What else… he produced two Tygers of Pan Tang albums, basically, the two good ones ‘Wild Cat’ (1980) and ‘Spellbound’ (1981), which featured one John Sykes on guitar, who  I’ll throw in a tangent about here…

One of my first favourite NWOBHM recordings was Streetfigter’s ‘She’s No Angel’. It’s an absolute corker, a dirty but clear production (certainly not a Tsangarides effort)  with so much variety and progression for one seemingly simple song.

The galloping bass and pulverising drums are so inventive, boasting more subtle but confident hooks and tricks than any lesser band could ever dream of… The vocals are in intense choir of chest beating power, there are so many different voices, no obvious half assed harmonies and everyone is singing their asses off! In some ways it feels like an angry song (the best variation on the ‘heartbroken hero who’s too manly to cry cliché I’ve heard) but sung with such feeling, you can tell they’re really enjoying themselves, the lead vocal being quite punkish but powerful. And what does ‘Stick this in your boot’ mean?! I love it, and what about that dual guitar attack?! Crazy isn’t it? Well that’s John Sykes just before he was drafted into Tygers of Pan Tang to fill out their sound a bit more (the other’s some guy called Dave Westrop apparently). This is the only known recorded version, from the New Electric Warriors compilation (my favourite NWOBHM compilation, so rough round the edges in the right way, and the block of writing on the back sleeve perfectly sums the era up for me). I was working on a giant painting (one of my jobs) a few years ago, and I literally spent days listening to this song on repeat, and I could never get bored of it, ever.

Ok back to Chris Tsangrides, he did two Thin Lizzy albums, one that lots of people are critical of, ‘Renegade’ (1981) and their most fun and ridiculous album, the NWOBHM tinged ‘Thunder and Lightning’ (1983) which turned out to be the last. This album has John Sykes (who I was worshipping in Streetfighter earlier, before he joined the Tygers for ‘Spellbound’ ((he was later in Whitesnake))) on one of the guitars (the other one being Lizzy veteran Scott Gorham, shit I hate personnel lists), and is definitely an album that some Thin Lizzy fans find hard to stomach (I sometimes joke that Lizzy are the heavy metal band for people who don’t like heavy metal, aren’t I a comic genius?). This song from that album (along with ‘Cold Sweat’ which is the only Lizzy song that Sykes has a writing credit for) has the same kind of driving power as the Streetfighter song, it’s a shame this was the end of the road for Lizzy. I feel that this record was a good one to go out on, because it’s dark in a comical way, but just so upbeat and life affirming…

OK, let’s look at some of the stuff Tsangarides worked on in the early 90s. Two albums that make me very happy, ‘Painkiller’ by Judas Priest (he actually co wrote ‘Touch of Evil’, which for me is a highlight on that album) and Helloween’s ‘Pink Bubbles Go Ape’. Oh, don’t jab me with your leather spiked wrist-bands, it’s a fun record that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet succeeds in shredding. You can hear that they enjoyed making the album and it stands up really well today, arguably it’s dated better than ‘Keeper of the 7 keys part 2’ (OK I deserve to be spiked wrist-band stabbed for that one!). However ‘Chameleon’ is their genuine descent into non-metal, and well deserving of a spiking…

This is quite an abridged Tsangarides biography, he’s worked with bloody everyone, and is still doing it and giving a shit about the people behind the music (if you need evidence see the Anvil film, where he kind of mentors the struggling Canadians back from the gutter. It’s such a masterpiece, and if you keep your eyes peeled and look in the background in the wedding scene you can see John Gallagher from Raven!).

Now he’s shredding the shit out of the More back catalogue. He got involved when he bumped into bassist Baz Nicholls at a festival, and on hearing about Kenny Cox’s inability to carry on, felt the songs deserved to be played live and offered to do it, just because he was a fan. We’re so lucky, isn’t life fantastic?!

On vocals you’ve got Mike Freeland (previously of Praying Mantis) who I think suits both of the voices from the two albums (no mean feat when you consider how different the styles of Paul Mario Day and Mick Stratton were). Hey, does anyone out there know what became of the enigmatic Mick Stratton by the way? From the notes in the CD booklet of ‘Blood and Thunder’ it suggests he was much older than the other guys. What had he done before? Where did they find this front-man who no one appears to know anything about? What did he do after? I want answers! Does anyone out there know anything? Please post in the comments below!

Here is the only early 80s live footage of More I could find. It’s ‘Depression’ with Paul Mario Day on vocals, it’s got a bit missed off the beginning, but we should feel lucky to have this much… This song manages to fit the ‘NWOBHM doom’ style that I’m so fond of, dark, emotional, but upbeat enough for me to be able to happily walk around whistling it… They’re not shoe-gazing and giving 110% in this performance.

So, can a band which was restored by replacing each and every one of its human parts remain the same band? I reckon yes it can. I think for a band to be successful, it has to develop and progress, allowing the baton of ideas to be passed as the group evolves. I think some people mistaken consistent personnel with authenticity, I guess because when a band has the financial incentive to keep making records it becomes easier for personnel to remain consistent. In the rock world, it’s the ones who shift the most units who are more likely to remain stable; hence the idea of The Beatles reforming with anyone other than the original Fab 4 being totally unimaginable. I think this is the origin of the delusional ‘stable line up = authenticity’ theory. People who are new to NWOBHM sometimes take a while to understand that bands with few personnel changes like Iron Maiden were very rare (the most consistent line up in NWOBHM existence is Hollow Ground, who have been the same four chaps since 1978, although their entire back catalogue does fit on one CD ((buy Warlord now))). The baton has been passed, and the ship of Theseus is still floating.

Anyway, I can’t wait to experience the current incarnation of More. They seem to do festivals mainly, so book them, put them on the high pedestal they deserve and let me worship them! Look at their website here http://more2012.com/ and buy both ‘Warhead’ and ‘Blood and Thunder’ (the reissues on Rock Candy are pretty damn good).

To play us out, here’s Reincarnate from Stoke On Trent, a band who managed to have an underlying complexity that can really take you by surprise…

This is the B side to ‘Take it or Leave It’ (1982), which was produced by Les Hunt from Demon!