It was a drizzly, grey Saturday morning sometime in 1982 and I was being dragged around the shops by my parents. At some point, we ended up in a WH Smiths record shop. I wasn’t even into music then, of any description, but I flicked idly through the vinyl anyway just to pass the time. By chance, two tall, long-haired cavemen clad in denim and leather came and stood next to me. When one of them leaned over and picked up something called The Number of the Beast it grabbed my attention instantly, my ten-year-old face transfixed by the artwork on the front. As he lifted it out, I noticed more artwork, this time on the back of his jacket. Iron Maiden – Purgatory. It looked magnificent. I’d never even heard of Iron Maiden before then and I certainly didn’t know who or what a Purgatory was, but I knew I wanted to see more. Grabbing the next record in the section, my eyes didn’t leave the intricately painted sleeve until my parents came and literally pulled it out of my hands. Killers.
After releasing two albums and an EP under the Witch Hazel moniker, the York, Pennsylvania quartet has rebranded as SpellBook. Their first album under this new moniker, Magic & Mischief (Cruz Del Sur Music), doesn’t deviate too far from their established Occult Rock style. There are a multitude of Seventies Rock grooves fitted with a slight Doom crunch that is quick to recall their contemporaries in groups like Lucifer, Demon Eye, and Icarus Witch.
Unashamedly 1980’s in their approach to Metal, Enforcer were formed in Sweden in 2004 but it could just as easily have been LA in 1982. All leather, spandex, studded belts and dodgy haircuts, the Scandinavian four-piece tend to unfairly get lumped in with novelty acts such as Steel Panther, but are easily one of the better exponents of the retro Metal movement.
According to The Sun newspaper in the UK, a lawsuit is being brought against Iron Maiden by their former singer Dennis Wilcock. The case alleges lyric theft for early classics ‘Prowler’, ‘Charlotte The Harlot’, ‘Phantom Of The Opera’, ‘Iron Maiden ‘ and ‘Prodigal Son’ from their first two albums 1980’s self-titled effort and 1981’s Killers. An Iron Maiden spokesperson told The Sun: “This is outrageous. Absolutely ridiculous.” More details about the suit can be seen below. Continue reading
In those glorious/hideous (delete as applicable) years before the inexorable rise of the internet, compilation albums used to be the staple of many record buyers collections. Those of a certain age might remember such collections as Masters of Metal (K-Tel), the superb (and newly reinvigorated) Speed Kills (Music For Nations) series, the Metal Killers Kollection (Castle Communications) series, Axe Attack (K-Tel), Time To Rock (WEA), and the magnificently titled Metal Treasures and Vinyl Heavies (Action Replay).Continue reading
You’d be forgiven for thinking The Dagger, a band featuring former members of Grave and Dismember, might be a bit scuzzy. A bit riffy. A bit, denim-jackety. And, well, a bit Death Metally. You’d be forgiven, but you’d be very wrong. The Dagger (Century Media) swims in a different pool of influences to the past escapades of its protagonists, swinging its pants at Classic Rock and proto-NWOBHM with plenty of Deep Purple, Sin After Sin era Priest and The Who prevalent in the sound.
The first thing to note is the astonishing attention to detail. The Dagger doesn’t just reference these bands or that period, it has been painstakingly crafted to sound like it was recorded in the 70’s, finding those classic warm Fender guitar tones, that fuzzy bass groove and that thick Ian Paice pound and tickle on the skins. Vocalist Jani Kataja could well be singing on Very ‘eavy… Very ‘umble both in terms of his own delivery, but also in terms of the meticulously recreated rock sound playing around him.
But life is not all aesthetics, and while The Dagger has the tones, does it have the tunes? Opener ‘Ahead Of You All’ suggests so, as does the Mott The Hoople inspired ‘1978’ with its tales of weekend warriors and the Iommi worshipping Mob Rules of ‘Dogs Of Warning’. Elsewhere ‘Electric Dawn’ could have been one of the songs Iron Maiden left behind at the Ruskin Arms as they strode towards a recording contract, and ‘Call Of 9’ is all Blackmore stomp and swagger.
But for all the smiles it induces, for all that it is an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes, you can’t but think that while the sounds can be replicated, for all the homage being paid, one thing that can’t be copied or magicked out of nowhere is greatness. Where are the distinctive, iconic riffs, and timeless choruses of the Purples, Rainbows, Mountains? The Dagger are a good band, losing the listener in a bygone age, but this album holds no ‘Speed King’, let alone a ‘Child In Time’. (Try and) sound like the true legends and you will invariable come off the worse for the comparison.
But, when the twin guitars bring in ‘Inside The Monolithic Dome’ like Saxon’s ‘Strangers In The Night’, or ‘The Dark Cloud’ dances like it belongs on a Di’Anno era Maiden album, The Dagger can be forgiven their indulgences in paying reverence to their forebears.
Former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Jake E. Lee got his newest band, Red Dragon Cartel, together last year and their eponymous debut album (Frontiers Records) shows that there is some great potential. The album features others who are well-known to metalheads such as Maria Brink of In This Moment and former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno on some of the tracks.
The second track ‘Shout It Out’ could very well be the next anthem at sports games. If not that, it can certainly get the crowd going as an opening song. It has the crunching guitar sound that many metalheads desire as well as singer Darren James Smith yelling “Who’s your master?”
Brink on ‘Big Mouth’ is a welcome change in the male dominated sound of the album. Her singing style goes well with the band’s sound. It is a song that both fans of Jake E. Lee and In This Moment are sure to enjoy.
The finale of the album, ‘Exquisite Tenderness,’ is a bold move for a heavy band. It shows that Lee is more than just a talented guitarist. He had written the piece at the age of six when he was being trained as a classical pianist. It’s a perfect way for someone who has been praised for his guitar work to give listeners a bit of a surprise.
The bonus track on this edition of the album is an acoustic version of ‘Feeder’. This version is better than the one that actually made it onto the album. It is more interesting to listen to the acoustic guitar solo because it is a break from most of what the album sounds like. There is also more of Lee’s piano chops to be heard here.
Overall, the album seems to suffer from sounding a little too generic. It is disheartening to say that about a guitarist who has played with some big acts. However, ‘Exquisite Tenderness’ and the acoustic version of ‘Feeder’ prove that Lee and the rest of the band still have a few tricks up their sleeves.