Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Live: A Week at the Bridge E16 (1978 Bridge House Records)

This week's episode of Metal Lessons Radio is focusing on metal clubs. I will be on briefly, though I did not record an official segment of The Keir Factor for this show. Anyway, I thought I'd do a quick review of this album which was recorded live at a rather famous English pub. The album consists of one full length LP and one 12" record with 3 tracks on it, and was released in a gatefold sleeve.

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Most of the music is blues rock or classic rock covers, but there are two bands which stand out. First is Dennis Stratton's old band, Remus Down Boulevard. Sounding a bit like Thin Lizzy, it is not exactly NWOBHM (call it proto-NWOBHM if you will). There is an interesting interview with Dennis here where he talks about this album and his days with Remus Down Boulevard. Iron Maiden played at The Bridge House many times from 1976 – 1979 (despite what Dennis says in the interview) and Steve Harris used to go there to watch RDB play. That is how he met Dennis and asked him to join the band. Listening to these two tracks with their excellent guitar harmonies and solos, it is easy to hear why.

The other, less interesting, band are the Roll Ups who feature Lea Hart (later of Fastway) on vocals. They play a funky brand of 70s hard rock that reminds me a bit of Angel. Here is the complete tracklist:

1-1. Roll Ups – "Everybody's Gotta Have a Hero"
1-2. S.A.L.T. – "It Hurts Me Too"
1-3. S.A.L.T. – "Hipshake"
1-4. Filthy McNasty – "Move Over"
1-5. Filthy McNasty – "Fire Down Below"
1-6. Gerry McAvoy Jam – "Walking in the Sun"
1-7. Remus Down Boulevard – "Only for You"
1-8. Filthy McNasty – "Can't Get Next to You"
1-9. Roll Ups – "Hand Shandy"
2-1. Jackie Lynton's Happy Days – "You Don’t Have to Pay"
2-2. Gerry McAvoy Jam – "Walkin’ the Dog"
2-3. Remus Down Boulevard – "Gunrunner"

Available Formats: Originally vinyl only, reissued on CD (and still available from The Bridge House online store).

Value: $20-30

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Northwest Metalfest (1984 Ground Zero Records)

Since my last review sparked some discussion about Northwest Metalfest, I suppose I should review it. Better late than never, right? This was also put together by Jeff Gilbert (the same guy that did the Pacific Metal Project compilation) but it was released on his own short-lived label. After releasing this and Metal Church’s debut LP, Ground Zero Records would change to C.O.M.A. Records who released a few records including some by bands Mace and Strike below.

I don’t think LP this is as good as Pacific Metal Project, but it is still an important part of the NW scene (I tend to lump the Seattle and Portland scenes together, though as someone pointed out before that is not entirely accurate). One thing that has always puzzled me is this: According to the Virgin Encyclopedia of Heavy Rock by Colin Larkin, Sanctuary had 2 tracks on the Northwest Metalfest compilation but they aren’t on my LP. A few websites also state this, including this Polish site which even goes as far as saying that the 2 tracks are "Battle Angel" and "Soldiers of Steel". Could there have been another Northwest Metalfest? Or perhaps these are cassette only bonus tracks? If anyone has any information please let me know!

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All tracks are exclusive except where noted.

1. Lipstick – "Daily Ground": Lipstick’s only release is a heavy Motley Crue inspired song. I like the singer’s eccentric vocals, though he does grunt a bit too much. They would relocate to Hollywood soon after this release and disappear amid the crowd of similar sounding bands.
2. Open Fire – "Cry for the Nations": Very good hard rock like 80s Rainbow, with a little bit stolen from Judas Priest’s version of "Diamonds and Rust". They changed their name to Phoenixx in 1986, but never released anything else under either name. Guitarist Phil See has a site here.
3. Koda Kahn – "Fantasy & Science Fiction": Kind of an interesting track, but not great. No other releases.
4. Overlord – "On the Edge": Exclusive track from the band that recorded the Broken Toys EP, which was released in Canada in 1983. It’s a decent sleaze song even if the singer seems like he’s trying a bit too hard (then again, I guess that keeps it interesting).
5. Rottweiller – "Intense as Hell": Rottweiller’s first release starts with a poppy melodic intro, in contrast to the title. It soon transforms into some NWOBHM inspired proto-thrash (sort of like Metallica’s debut). A different version of the song appeared on their 1985 Screams of the Innocent LP. There is a very interesting interview at Metal Forever.
6. Bondage Boys – "The Loser": Their only release, this song features singer Taime Downe (under the alias Vaun Hammer, real name Gustav Molvic) in a surprisingly metal role. Unfortunately, that doesn't make it good. The following year he would leave the band and travel to L.A. to form Faster Pussycat.
7. Sato – "Leather Warriors": One of my favorites from this album (along with Metal Church). This is a great early power metal song with a bit of a German feel (think Gravestone).
8. Strike – "Deadline": Typical rough US metal that was also on their 1984 self-titled LP, though possibly in a different version.
9. Mace – "Marching Sacrifice": This could have been a decent song but it’s a bit too raw for my taste, coming off as crossover when it really shouldn’t. Confusingly, the song is titled "Marching Saprophytes" on the sleeve, but correctly on the center label. This same song was also on Metal Massacre V, but was misnamed again as "Marching Saphroyites". They would go on to release 2 LPs, the first on C.O.M.A. Records.
10. Metal Church – "Death Wish": Metal Church’s first official release, taken from their 1982 Four Hymns demo. They display a somewhat different sound here than on their first 2 LPs. It’s a great song but, as is often the case with major bands on compilations, this does not really compare to their album material.

Available Formats: Originally released on vinyl and cassette only. Also licensed to Steamhammer and released the following year in Europe, and then in 1989 on CD.

Value: $8-10 (vinyl), $5 (cassette), $20-25 (CD)