First of all, here is the strangely named Badger, an obscure entity from North Wales.
Hopefully that’s a suitable distraction while I apologise for not posting last week, I’ve had very little time on my hands but can now promise to be regular again, although probably fortnightly for the time being. Of course this means I can sustain the dedicated research and keep up the high standard of writing you’ve hopefully come to expect from me…
Speaking of writing, in this post I want to explore how the penmanship of journalists or perhaps more accurately, critics strangely influenced the way people talk about some of the bands of our era, allowing a strange series of inaccurate mythologies to develop.
My intention is to dispel some of these myths, as lazy journalism has often negatively changed the course of NWOBHM bands’ careers. Despite this being a big part of the glorious frustration of being a NWOBHM fan it gives us a legitimate villain to vent our rage at I guess.
Let’s start with Newcastle’s Hellanbach. ‘A poor man’s Van Halen’ apparently! This one really bugs me. Big Van Halen fans insist that all they can hear in Hellanbach’s sound ‘blatant plagiarism’ of their American gods’ party anthems. I just don’t see it! I have always felt fond of the darker side of heavy rock, utilising a pessimistic realism backed up by an ingenious horror show marketing strategy pioneered by Black Sabbath. Van Halen has never grabbed me in the same way, always sounding like a less creative American version of Led Zeppelin to my ears. Hellanbach on the other hand are really raw. Guitarist Dave Patton is amazing, just hear how his axe gymnastics really raise the atmosphere on this 1980 debut single.
The production is trash and their singer Jimmy Brash really does sound… kind of brash! But this is NWOBHM, and this song displays the raw power we should all doff our caps to. Their 1983 debut album ‘Now Hear This’ is a really strong piece of vinyl. How can reviewers have wasted the criminally minuscule length of column inches put aside for Hellenbach during the NWOBHM heyday comparing them to an American band that had nothing to do with their gutteral boogie at light speed dynamics, when they could have been praising the wacky whistle solo in ‘Full Scale Emergency’?
This version of that song is from the 1982 Neat Records compilation EP ‘One Take No Dubs’ and is even rawer than the album version. Buy the album right now, you won’t be disappointed.
Next I want to say more about Raven, as I loved the opportunity given to me by last week’s post to talk about the best metal 3 piece on the planet. According to many people writing about them since the mid to late 80s, an important thing to mention is that they are ‘sell outs’. Grrr! I briefly covered this unfair accusation last week and think it makes sense bitch about it in a bit more detail here. First of all, ‘All For One’, which most people with common sense consider to be one of the greatest NWOBHM albums was actually recorded in the US.
Post script: This isn’t true it turns out, I have no idea why I believed this to be true, but it’s probably that the quality production job made the record do better in America. 1000 apologies!
Neat were notoriously tough to deal with, so the hard working, dedicated band had no choice but to break with their unprofessional business practices (read John Tucker’s book for the full story). They released my favourite live album of all time ‘Live At The Inferno’ in 1984 to fulfil a contractual obligation with Neat, then they were finally free from all that nonsense.
When they recorded ‘Stay Hard’ they probably just wanted a bit of a change. Fair play, it’s less extreme than anything they had done before, but it featured ‘On And On’, which is one of the great singles of the era.
‘The Pack Is Back’ is the one people should be critical of, but it came after 3 years of being in New York City, and wasn’t given the budget or creative freedom a band like Raven needs to be on top form.
I recently rediscovered this interview, which demonstrates how much of a good story teller John Gallagher is. Like many great songwriters he weaves a fascinating tale and keeps it upbeat and lively.
Seeing it again reminded me that the Gallagher brothers appear in ‘Anvil! The Story Of Anvil’ (2008) Jon Gallagher hangs out in the background while Mark has a starring role as the best man!
To paraphrase John, music and business are not happy bedfellows most of the time. You’re going to lean towards glam or death metal, and because it was more melodic Raven went more towards the glam side.
‘The Pack is Back’ happened in 1986. In the same year they released the ‘MAD’ EP, which demonstrated what they actually wanted to be doing. Kicking serious ass. Two more very extreme albums followed, and tours with the thrash bands like Kreator, who quite rightly acknowledged how important Raven were to the evolution of their sound.
So calling them sellouts just for one weak album amongst 13 masterpieces is more than a little bit disrespectful!
Ok, one band I don’t talk about enough is Tank. Now one thing about Tank is their very talented frontman played with two very significant punk bands (The Saints and The Damned) before the NWOBHM explosion. Many (rubbish) journalists use this as evidence to refer to them as a punk band. Now, have a listen to this armour plated monster as it’s caterpillar tracks crush your skull (sorry I’m going into clichéd metal fanzine speak just to highlight my point)…
You’ll notice some pretty metallic elements like guitar solos and, well, just the fact that its metal. Like Motorhead, Tank probably hung out with hippies and other outsiders until they developed a style, but you don’t often hear people calling Motorhead a punk band do you? And Lemmy taught Sid Vicious how to play bass!
Toad the wet Sprocket are more punk, their first song is called ‘Pete’s Punk Song’. It makes me want to get all Steve Harris about it and pretend there was no punk/ metal crossover at all. But the truth of the matter is punk burned itself out and that helped to trigger what we refer to as the new wave of British heavy metal. I often refer to all post 1978 punk as being ‘half assed NWOBHM’. Take all the elements that make a band metal and you’re just left with lazy distorted garage rock. Oh dear, please don’t head but me skinheads!
Here’s an early obscurity that despite being a typical example of the more ‘punk’ side of NWOBHM, in my opinion still is a prime example of metal, which demonstrates how NWOBHM rose from the ashes of punk in a variety of ways, not just distorted twin guitar and boogie at break neck speed. Behold Christ Child with ‘Let Them Eat Rock’, the A side of their 1978 single.
This band is a bit of a mystery and very little is known about them (I can’t even track down a line-up) however I find their repeated guitar patterns quite hypnotic. I’d classify them as metropolitan stoner blues with a rough, minimal edge. Loads of people will complain about this being ‘punk not NWOBHM’, however in my opinion it’s early NWOBHM, our genre is diverse!
(Postscript- It turns out Christ Child definitely are not NWOBHM! I tracked down a copy of this record, and on the back it says they are from the hills of Malibu and Topanga Canyons in California. Whoops!)
I’d love to hear what you think about anything I’ve brought up in this post in the message box below!