Friday, June 30, 2017

Tygers of Pan Tang - "Spellbound" [1981]

Artist: Tygers of Pan Tang
Title: Spellbound
Country: UK
Release date: 1981

Track List:
  1. Gangland
  2. Take It
  3. Minotaur
  4. Hellbound
  5. Mirror
  6. Silver and Gold
  7. Blackjack
  8. The Story So Far
  9. Tyger Bay
  10. Don't Stop By
Tygers of Pan Tang, while nowhere near as successful as such their compatriots as Iron Maiden or Judas Priests, were and still are one of the most important NWOBHM bands. Not all their albums are equally good, but at least the first two ones can the safely considered to be classics of NWOBHM.

Here's their sophomore release "Spellbound" that's rightfully viewed as the best in their discography by many critics. Like most their other albums, it's more on the "glam" side of things than many other NWOBHM classics, but it isn't a bad thing in this particular case. My personal favourite track on this album, however, is the ballad "Mirror" that stands out of the whole album. I also absolutely should mention the cover art. While most ToPT albums feature cats and tigers on their covers, this one is particularly cool, and I really would like to see a cartoon movie drawn in this style :)

Black Sabbath - "Heaven and Hell" [1980]

Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Heaven and Hell
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: UK
Release date: 1980

Track List:
  1. Neon Knights
  2. Children of the Sea
  3. Lady Evil
  4. Heaven and Hell
  5. Wishing Well
  6. Die Young
  7. Walk Away
  8. Lonely is the Word
This album is very well-known and already was reviewed multiple times before by much better reviewers than me, so I can only say that I consider it a masterpiece and by far the best release in the whole Black Sabbath discography (especially in contrast with several rather weak albums from the second half of 1970s). While the side B is slightly weaker than the side A, I still like nearly everything about this album, apart from its rather stupid cover art. Just like the subsequent release "Mob Rules", this album features Dio (R.I.P.) on vocals, but that's not the only thing that makes it quite different from all early Black Sabbath albums.

There was much debate if "Heaven and Hell" can be considered NWOBHM. While Black Sabbath formally are one of the founders of the "old" wave of British heavy metal, I personally think this album in particular very much fits the overall NWOBHM sound, and can be safely recommended as a great example of the genre:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pegasos - "A Night in the Cold World" [1991]

Artist: Pegasos
Title: A Night in the Cold World
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: Finland
Release date: 1991

Track List:
  1. A Night In The Cold World
  2. Angel
I discovered this very obscure Finnish band via the now-defunct Servile Insurrection blog, whose owner described their one and only EP as one of his all-time favourites. While I was initially surprised to see an EP described as "traditional melodic heavy metal" on a blog dedicated mostly to much more brutal stuff, it turned out as good as the author on SI made it out to be. Feels like I'm listening to some really nice EP from the NWOBHM era, but released a decade later than it's supposed to be...

Oz - "Fire in the Brain" [1983]

Artist: Oz
Title: Fire in the Brain
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: Finland
Release date: 1983

Track List:
  1. Search Lights
  2. Fortune
  3. Megalomaniac
  4. Black Candles
  5. Gambler
  6. Stop Believin'
  7. Free Me, Leave Me
  8. Fire in the Brain
Well before Finland became a country with the highest percentage of metal bands per capita in the world, Oz were a very important band in the early Finnish metal scene. Nowadays they're largely forgotten, even though they have reunited and recorded a new album in Sweden a few years ago. Anyway, here's their second (and the best) LP, released in 1983.

Unlike their pretty boring debut album, this one is very energetic and recommended to everyone who likes fast and catchy songs in the early 80's traditional metal style. The opeing track is especially good, as well as the closing one. And a little fun fact: like many other metal bands, Oz have "flirted" with the occult lyrical themes in the beginning of their career, but stopped doing that after they received a 666 SEK royalty check for their EP "Turn the Cross Upside Down" in 1984.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stormtrooper - "Armies of the Night" [1985]

Artist: Stormtrooper
Title: Armies of the Night
Genre: Heavy/Thrash Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1985

Track List:
  1. The Reaper (intro)
  2. Armies of the Night
  3. Steamroller
  4. Search and Destroy
  5. The Beast Within
Again, a very obscure band that I discovered thanks to Vibrations of Doom, which released only one short EP more than 30 years ago and then disappeared. The only info I could find about them is that their vocalist was the narrator for the shockumentary series "Traces of Death" for volumes I and II. Their one and only EP, however, is a killer release that certainly shouldn't be missed. The title track in particular is one of the catchiest songs I've heard in 80's metal (and it strongly reminds me of the track "Tyrant's Reign" by the eponymous band, which is also one of my biggest favourites).

Coven 13 - "Worship New Gods" [1987]

Artist: Coven (13)
Title: Worship New Gods
Genre: Heavy Metal (with Doom & Gothic overtones)
Country: USA
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Riddle of Steel
  2. Wicked Day
  3. Ruler
  4. Kiss Me with Blood
  5. Burial Ground
  6. General's Eye
  7. Jail House
  8. Threshold of the New
  9. Loki
Another obscure yet great classic metal album which I discovered via Vibrations of Doom. It was highly recommended by the editor of VoD, but he wasn't sure about the year it came out. Well, turns out it was released in 1987 when the band was known simply as Coven (later they changed it to Coven 13 to avoid confusion with a couple of other bands under the same name). While the band (which has reformed in 2011 after 20 years of inactivity) has never received much publicity, their debut release "Worship New Gods", with a concept largely inspired by Nordic mythology, is indeed awesome. I especially liked the apparent doom metal influence that can be heard on tracks like "Wicked Day".

Fifth Angel - "Time Will Tell" [1989]

Artist: Fifth Angel
Title: Time Will Tell
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1989

Track List:
  1. Cathedral
  2. Midnight Love
  3. Seven Hours
  4. Broken Dreams
  5. Time Will Tell
  6. Lights Out (UFO cover)
  7. Wait for Me
  8. Angel of Mercy
  9. We Rule
  10. So Long
  11. Feel the Heat
This band was already mentioned on here a couple of times when the topic of the 1980's US melodic metal scene was brought up, but I haven't posted any of their two albums yet. "Time Will Tell" is their second album, released in 1989 shortly before many 80s metal bands (including Fifth Angel) have split up and faded into obscurity. While it's more on the "pop" side of things than their debut self-titled album, I'd still definitely recommend it to the fans of other bands of this kind (i.e. early Queensryche, Hittman, Shok Paris). Like in case with "Steel & Starlight" by Shok Paris, some people might find the second half of this album boring, but the two opening tracks are undoubtedly awesome.

Shok Paris - "Steel & Starlight" [1987]

Artist: Shok Paris
Title: Steel & Starlight
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Go Down Fighting
  2. Steel and Starlight
  3. Tokyo Rose
  4. Rocked Outta Love
  5. Castle Walls
  6. On Your Feet
  7. Fallin' for You
  8. Exhibit A
  9. Lost Queen
  10. Hot on Your Heels
Regardless of what you might have thought after looking at the cover art and the track list, this is not glam/hair metal, but a very good example of American melodic heavy/power metal from the 1980's. Shok Paris, formed in Cleveland in 1982, have released three full-length albums over that period. "Steel & Starlight" is their sophomore LP which is widely considered to be their best. While the second half of this album may seem to be a bit boring, at least the first three tracks are great:

Queensrÿche - s/t EP [1983]

Artist: Queensrÿche
Title: Queensrÿche EP
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1983

Track List:
  1. Queen of the Reich
  2. Nightrider
  3. Blinded
  4. The Lady Wore Black
To be honest, my knowledge of Queensryche discography isn't much better than this: "Outside of great albums like Operation: Mindcrime and Rage for Order, I never really paid much attention to their albums into the 1990s and 2000s, though I did hear that there was a huge drop in quality on those albums, especially the ones released into the 2000s".

The two aforementioned albums are, however, some of my all-time favourites in the 80's US melodic metal as well. Their debut EP may be not as interesting as these two ones, being more traditional heavy metal from the early 80s rather than progressive metal, yet it definitely shouldn't be missed if you like their later releases from the same decade. My personal favourite is the closing track - which, I think, is one of the best metal ballads from the 80s - and it looks like I'm not the only one thinking so:

"The. Lady. Wore. Black. Who the hell wrote this. Clearly not Geoff Tate, the asshole responsible for American Soldier could never write this. DeGarmo? If so, why the hell has he resigned himself to flying planes in Seattle. Possibly one of my favorite Power Metal ballads..."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Upper Echelon - "Surface Tension" [1984]

Artist: Upper Echelon
Title: Surface Tension
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1984

Track List:
  1. Drivin' Mean
  2. Evil (Songs)
  3. Teaser
  4. Winter
Upper Echelon were a very obscure band from Seattle who released only one EP in 1984 (and one more demo the next year), and then disappeared without a trace. Long time ago, when I discovered this album via the classic metal archive of the Vibrations of Doom zine, I managed to find the personal site of one of their former members who didn't play in any bands anymore, but I can't remember its address now. Either way, they were awesome, even if they couldn't get much publicity back in the time. The acoustic ballad part in the closing track ("Winter") is especially great:

Omen - "Warning of Danger" [1985]

Artist: Omen
Title: Warning of Danger
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1985

Track List:
  1. Warning of Danger
  2. March On
  3. Ruby Eyes (of the Serpent)
  4. Don't Fear the Night
  5. V.B.P
  6. Premonition
  7. Termination
  8. Make Me Your King
  9. Red Horizon
  10. Hell's Gates
The sophomore release by Omen isn't as interesting as their debut "Battle Cry", yet it still contain some pretty good music. The first three tracks, for instance, sound quite nice, although the album overall is more boring than "Battle Cry" despite better quality of production. The lyrics have become much more simplistic, even to the level of being primitive at times, although sometimes this "primitivism" is working quite well:

"March on metal warrior
March to battle
To battle with all your might
March on metal warrior
You can't lose
You can't win without a fight..."

...Well, some other lyrics on this album aren't as simplistic, but still lacking in quality - i.e. "Red Horizon" (Cold War era propaganda, unfortunately) or "Termination" (re-telling the plot of the first Terminator movie wasn't a very good idea), but, all these flaws considering, "Warning of Danger" is still an album worth listening to.

Omen - "Battle Cry" [1984]

Artist: Omen
Title: Battle Cry
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1984

Track List:
  1. Death Rider
  2. The Axeman
  3. Last Rites
  4. Dragon's Breath
  5. Be My Wench
  6. Battle Cry
  7. Die by the Blade
  8. Prince of Darkness
  9. Bring Out the Beast
  10. In the Arena
A true classic of the 80's US melodic metal scene, "Battle Cry" is the first (and the best) release by Omen. The sound on this album is a direct continuation of the early 80's NWOBHM scene, yet Omen did it in their own unique and easily distinguishable way. Nearly all songs on this album are extremely catchy, but my personal favourites are "Death Rider", "Battle Cry", "Prince of Darkness" and "In the Arena".

The lyrics are very stereotypical for a traditional heavy metal band at a first glance, with its heavy use of words like "fight", "warrior", "sword", "dragon", etc., etc., yet they are nowhere near as ridiculous as the lyrics for many songs by Manowar, for example, and they actually portray a quite historically accurate picture of life during the medieval times, without glamourizing it too much as many heavy/power metal bands do in their lyrics. Overall, this is an awesome release which is undoubtely a classic of early US heavy metal scene, and it definitely shouldn't be missed. Enjoy:

Cities - "Annihilation Absolute" [1986]

Artist: Cities
Title: Annihilation Absolute
Genre: Heavy Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1986

Track List:
  1. Stop the Race
  2. Fight for Your Life
  3. Burn Forever
  4. Not Alone in the Dark
  5. Cruel Sea
  6. In the Still of the Night
  7. Innocent Victim
  8. Shades of Black
  9. Deceiver
This is the one and only full-length album from Cities (not the best name choice for a metal band, to be honest), a side project of Twisted Sister drummer A.J.Pero (R.I.P 2015). Despite the ridiculous cover art, the music is pretty good - maybe not the best of what I heard on the Vibrations of Doom archive of classic metal albums, but still not to be missed if you like 80's melodic metal. My personal favourite is "Fight For Your Life", a quite inspiring song for all sorts of diffucult life situations. A more detailed review of "Annihilation Absolute" can be found here, and the whole album is available for a listen on Youtube:

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tyrant's Reign - "Year of the Tyrants" [1987]

Artist: Tyrant's Reign
Title: Year of the Tyrants
Genre: Thrash/Speed Metal
Country: USA
Release date: 1987

Track List:
  1. Tyrant's Reign
  2. Jack the Ripper
  3. Untamed
  4. Deadly Eyes
  5. Reign of Terror
  6. Fadeaway
There were many obscure American thrash metal bands during the second half of 1980s, but, in my opinion, very few of them are worth attention. This one, however, is an exception. Like many other early thrash metal bands, Tyrant's Reign never received much publicity, and they had to disband in the early 1990s when thrash metal fell out of style, after releasing only a couple of demos and one EP.

This EP, however, is one of the best thrash metal releases I've heard, even despite its poor quality of production. Like in case with many other obscure gems from that era, I discovered it via the Vibrations of Doom classic metal collection. My personal favourite is the opening track, which is extremely catchy (and I love this vocal style), yet the rest of the release is pretty good too. First two songs from it also appeared on the 2004 compilation of Tyrant's Reign early tracks re-recorded in much better quality - yet I think the re-recording killed quite a lot of charm that was present on the original release.

Surprise - "Assault on Merryland" [1977]

Artist: Surprise
Title: Assault on Merryland
Genre: Symphonic Prog Rock
Country: USA
Release date: 1977

Track List:
  1. Eve Of The Assault / Merryland
  2. The Acrobat Between The Stars
  3. Palace Of King Ferris
  4. Tyrangatang
  5. Dance Of The Tarantella
  6. Tournament Of Love
  7. March Of The Squatamaudars
  8. A Day Without Light
  9. The Wonderful Sunshiner / Grand Finale
Rick Bess - acoustic 12 string & electric guitars, bass
Blair Blake - hammond organ, grand piano, mini moog synthesizer, moog taurus bass pedals, arp string ensemble, celeste
Dave Kelly - drums, typani, orchestra bells, gongs, triangles, gyro
Mark Biehl - vocals, flute, trumpet, piccolo

Recorded at Technisonic Studios, St.Louis, Missouri.

Another interesting yet very obscure American prog rock band from the second half of 1970s that released only one full-length album and then disappeared. While it definitely isn't metal, it sounds quite heavy for its time, and the range of instruments used on this album is quite impressive. Some people who reviewed this album on Prog Archives have complained about the lyrics on this album and its overall concept, which they found ridiculous; however, I haven't read the lyrics, so I don't know much about its concept except that it's based on a fantasy story of some sort. Anyway, the music is pretty good. Enjoy: