A few years ago I stumbled over an album I liked the look of. That was Starquake’s previous album Times that Matter – retro old fashioned prog/heavy platter harking back to the good old days. If you’d like to check that out – review here.
Now we have Starquake’s next offering – Time Space Matter. The band is Mikey Wenzel’s project. A bloke who, like me, misses they heyday of heavy/prog and even elements of NWOBHM here too.
Time Space Matter is an enjoyable romp through progginess featuring lots of swirling hammond organ, driving chunky riffs, solos which fit well and a throbbing bass/drum sound not unlike a mash up of period Uriah Heep/Deep Purple with some other influences apparent such as Rush, Yes, Jethro Tull and (for those who remember them from the NWOBHM early days) White Spirit.
Mikey isn’t afraid to stretch out into long, complicated arrangements such as A Never Give Up Suite (which tackles a difficult subject) and Goddammaddog with the folksy bits in there. Also Jack which is another ambitious piece of progressive hard rock al-la 1975 or so.
The opening (and title) track sets it up very well. The organ intro leading in to a fine retro-rocker which blasts away. Have a listen:
STARQUAKE - Starquake - official Lyric Video (PURE ROCK RECORDS) - YouTube
The aforementioned Goddammaddog comes next followed by Jack – a couple of long ones which show the versatility of the song writing and arrangements always retaining that retro-prog feel and “galloping” bass/riffage reminiscent of NWOBHM.
A Never Give Up Suite (seventeen minutes) is the album’s centrepiece – a sprawling epic – though if I have a gripe it’s that it’s the penultimate track and for me doesn’t quite sit right in that position.
The long cuts and interspersed with some short instrumental interludes such as Space and Off to Pastures New.
Mikey Wenzel is a man who wears his influences on his sleeve. For blokes like myself who grew up on 1790s/1980s heavy/prog/NWOBHM then Starquake is for you. Do check the band out. Time Space Matter more than worthy – and probably a little more instantly accessible from a listening perspective than their previous album.
UFO’s “last orders” tour hit Leeds. If this really is it for the band and their final tour they went out here with the proverbial bang and a fine, finer performance indeed.
A sad night for many – your reviewer included. I first saw UFO way back in 1978 and have been with them through thick, thin, drama, highs and (occasional) lows ever since. How many times have I seen them in concert over those four decades – too many to remember.
My thanks to Mr Mogg and cohorts for so much listening and watching pleasure.
Anyhoo – to the show.
A pre-gig dinner in Nando’s just down the road from the O2 probably not the nest idea. Tasteless chicken brought to our table suspiciously quickly after ordering. Seemed like only seconds after sitting back down the food arrived. The cider was nice though…….
Entered a well-attended venue just before the support came on. An American guitarist by the name of Tara Lynch. She’s enthusiastic and certainly can play very fast. However, the consensus amongst us was that it all sounded rather “samey” and generic. Nothing memorable. Sorry Tara.
The place filled up some more during changeover and a buzz of anticipation gathered in the atmosphere. As the lights went down (not out – deliberate pun!) and the familiar intro of Faith Healer sounded out, the time had come…………….UFO!
Straight in to a pulsating Mother Mary. Out of the traps with a classic “blast from the past”. Then a storming We Belong to the Night (yeah – a Chapman era song nice and early) as the band hit their stride with Messiah of Love from Conspiracy of Stars. Four decades in three songs. Great!
Aint No Baby is a surprise inclusion (can’t recall last time I saw them play that) as is Baby Blue. Sandwiched in between is a phenomenal Lights Out with Vinnie really ripping it up. We’re really at the races now.
Burn Your House Down slows things temporarily with its rather laid back bluesy feel – though that lull doesn’t last as it’s a prelude to a slew of classics which continue to sound fresh and are oh so well delivered.
The unmistakeable throbbing bass riff of Cherry. Love to Love with Vinnie excelling again. Makin’ Moves (two Chapman songs – wunderbar). Too Hot to Handle then the usual set closer of Rock Bottom and another example of how good Vinnie Moore is.
Well, the whole set evidences what a fine band UFO is. Watching them as “on it” as they were tonight is one of the finest sights in music. And with such a rich back catalogue of classics it’s impossible to fit them all in – though we all know there are songs they “have” to play and in Leeds they served up some surprises with, for example, Makin’ Moves.
Talking of songs they have to play – the encore is what else but Doctor Doctor and Shoot Shoot.
A truly excellent performance and they will be much missed if this really is the end of UFO. It was like saying farewell to old friends.
Mogg’s pipes are in fine working order for a bloke around 70 years of age who has been belting it out for fifty years. Andy Parker must be one of the most solid drummers out there. Hits hard, doesn’t miss a beat. Paul Raymond so essential as ever beefing things up with muscular rhythm guitar and the keys. Rob de Luca fits in well on the bass. And Vinnie – what can one say. World class.
They don’t make bands like UFO any more. Rock music is a little poorer without them if this really was “last orders”.
Here’s another cracking lost gem form the original New Wave of British Heavy Metal days unearthed by Sonic Age Records. This time it’s a short-lived band from Essex named Trial by Fire.
They were not around for long – about three years at the turn of the 1980s – and made a couple of demo tapes consisting of seven songs.
Those seven cuts now see the light of day for the first time – and we can add Trial by Fire to the burgeoning list of NWOBHM-era bands that had the talent but not the breaks.
TBF appear to have limited themselves to their home ground of Essex mostly. The CD liner notes (an interview with bassist Neil Freeman) suggest that the band members perhaps did not possess the business sense or ambition to push things in that direction or land a serious manager to handle that side of the business.
That is a shame as the seven songs here are of a high quality and most enjoyable. Overall thing a style along the lines of period UFO/Scorpions/Rush/Thin Lizzy in various combinations. Some meaty chords chugging away overlaid by some excellent lead guitar with some “twiddly bits” too.
Night Journey being a fine example. That simple driving chord structure pushing things along interspersed with brief drum breaks and some of that excellent guitar.
The brooding slow-burner of Requiem shows a wider range of song writing ability and arrangements as it crackles in to life at various points throughout whilst retaining something of a darkly atmospheric feel.
Eastern Sun, Against the Night and Broken Flag provide the ears with more enjoyment of well-constructed, powerful rockers with well-placed lead breaks.
The final two – Chasing the Dragon and Eclipse arguably the finest songs.
Chasing the Dragon has a nice gently-strummed intro and a soulful vocal before the big guns break out. BOOM! Then it fairly rattles along reminding this listener somewhat in places of the Lizzy classic Emerald given the guitar work.
Have a listen now:
TRIAL BY FIRE (NWOBHM) "Chasing The Dragon" - YouTube
Eclipse being a more “punchy” style with a tasty melodic chorus.
Trial by Fire had the chops sure enough. Yet alas not the drive to push forwards. The CD is a most recommended addition to your collection – though act fast because as is the usual Sonic Age Records way it’s limited to 500 copies.
Here’s another “lost” band from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal days rediscovered with their output on CD. The band in question is Montreax.
The appeared at the start of the 1980s and were based in the Wolverhampton area – which was at the time home to many a NWOBHM act. As well as the likes of Black Sabbath et-al.
Montraux would have a fairly brief career, though not for want of trying. Gigging hard around the Black Country they’d attract a healthy local following and did bag some profile support slots here and there.
Although they’d call it a day in 1984 with little to nothing in the way of a recording legacy.
They were at the more melodic end of NWOBHM with a good use of keys/synths to add another dimension to the sound and complement the otherwise general “heaviness” and guitar work.
They cut a three track demo in 1982 which apparently was never released. Other than that, a live performance at Wolverhampton Polytechnic was captured. That appears to be the entire extent of Montreaux’s output – and it’s now available on CD in a limited run of 500 copies.
The demon is pretty good. Flashlights trots along nicely with a nice hook. Timezone Love Affair and Two Worlds Collide show plenty of promise as to what could have been.
Check out the band performing Flashlights below.
Montreaux - Flashlights NWOBHM - YouTube
They arguably came more in to their own in a live setting. That’s certainly evidenced in the seven cuts here from that Wolves Poly show in 1984.
An enthusiastic and tight performance again evidencing the talent was there.
Goodbye Hollywood and Last Train to London could easily have been aimed at a singles release. Catchy as well as chunky rockers.
Night of the Hunter, The Masters Plan and What’s gone wrong show the more traditional NWOBHM leanings with Taking No Chances and Just the Other Day both fine songs in their own right.
So whilst Montreaux fall in to the “obscure but could have made it” category amongst the myriad of NWOBHM-era bands back then, we can treat our ears thanks to the CD release.
As mentioned earlier, it’s a limited 500 run. As usual for these limited numbers I bought mine through Sonic Age Records.
The late 1970s/early 1980s was a glorious time for “proper” music. Not only was the New Wave of British Heavy Metal at its height – we were also spoiled with a glorious era for prog/pomp style rock too.
Rush, Yes, Kansas, Styx, Boston and plenty more. How I miss those days. Though thanks to Presto Ballet its 1980 again!
This is Metal Church axeman Kurdt Vanderhoof’s “side project”. It’s been a while since the wonderful Relic of the Modern World.
But now Presto Ballet is back with The Days between. Another excellent slab of retro rock/prog/pomp yet with a fresh modern feel about it.
Everything fits together so well. Clean cutting chords merging in with the keys/synths, some deft, crisp drumming, a throbbing bass and soaring vocals/harmonies. A recipe which cooks up a proper retro-modern sound of pompsih progginess.
The Days Between is a more easily accessible listen that some of Presto Ballet’s previous work too. Your reviewer’s (arguably) more discernible ear detecting a change to a more traditional rockier element running through everything.
Check out the opener – Out Of Mind (It’s Outta Site). A marvellous intro piece with Kurdt’s guitar peeling away like church bells joined by the synth before the big chords start chopping away accompanied by a Yes-style drum/bass powerhouse. Superb. As are the vocals – clean, powerful, well-paced.
Brilliant retro-style with an up to date twist. What’s not to like. Have a look and listen:
Presto Ballet "Out Of Mind (It's Outta Site)" Official Video - YouTube
The rest of the album follows a similar vein all the way to the last note. Perhaps the stand-out in an album of such a high standard is The Man with the Plastic Face. Seven minutes of concise yet meandering arrangements which sum up what Presto Ballet is all about.
For old farts like me who are stuck in the NWOBHM/prog/pomp hey day – this is mana from heaven. For you younger types who may be reading – listen and learn. They don’t make ‘em like this any more. Two words – buy it.
After being generally unavailable on CD for years (unless willing to my daft money) – Number the Brave has been re-issued at a normal price. Hurrah!
Why Hurrah? OK – speaking as a long-time fan, for me this was the last “proper” Wishbone Ash album. Sure – arguably they’d started to fall apart a bit with the controversial banishing of Martin Turner. For Number the Brave, John Wetton arrived – and it would be a short stay for him.
So what about the album? It’s something of an under-rated effort which is worthy of higher praise. Arguably more of a “straight ahead” rock style than their previous work yet the melody, hooks and signature guitar work remains in place.
Loaded is a nice start. Monster chorus. Where is the Love not too dissimilar with a punchy beat as it throbs along. Then we have the beautiful, haunting Underground a proper stand-out cut. Chilled out with a “jingle-jangle” type of guitar. Top stuff.
In Kicks on the Street, Open Road and Rainstorm we have a tasty trio of catchy tunes well delivered and understated (yet effective) lead breaks before the album starts to draw to a close.
And what a close-out. Wetton’s sole writing credit is That’s That. Short, tight, bass-driven, no messing about. Roller Coaster has a bit of a funky feel to it – then it’s the title track, Number the Brave.
A real “classic” Ash song. Wetton’s complex bass lines are all over it as is the famed twin guitar interplay with Andy Powell and Laurie Wisefield putting in some memorable licks to boot. Wunderbar. Have a listen.
Wishbone Ash - Number The Brave - YouTube
Hearing Number the Brave again after many, many years is a proper treat. And as I mentioned earlier in this post, it’s arguably the last “proper” Wishbone Ash album. Wetton left and the band sort of went NWOBHM (which was at its zenith at the time) afterwards with Twin Barrels Burning and Raw to the Bone.
Sure, Number the Brave is no Argus – though it’s more than a worthy effort from a band starting what we’ll call a transitional period. Check it out.
After their remarkable debut album Heroes Saints and Fools (review here), Saracen disappeared for a bit, underwent a wholesale line-up change and re-appeared in 1984 with their second album – Change of Heart.
Crucially, the Bendelows’ had gone, however some of Rob’s songs appear on the album. Perhaps it was the line-up change or perhaps it was a distinct decision by the band to move in to more “mainstream” New Wave of British Heavy Metal territory (or perhaps both) – Change of Heart loses most of the spacey/proggy elements of the debut and is, overall, more of a straight-ahead style with AOR tinges.
A re-worked version of We Have Arrived opens it up (also the opener on Red Sky). Bettney’s vocals are as usual sharp, powerful and clear. Love on Sight is a no frills rocker. Julie – hmmmmm – not good. Could have been a misplaced attempt to shoot for a radio-friendly hit single. Doesn’t work for me. Seabird is quite good though.
Next up we have Meet Me at Midnight (credited to Rob Bendelow) and things step back up. A fine cut which drives along well. And would later appear in slightly different shape on the band’s storming Vox in Excelso album.
Jekyll and Hyde (also on the debut) shows up again slightly reworked. Just over three minutes of “in yer face” rifferama and an excellent solo. Powerful stuff.
Cheatin’ is not too far away from what Judas Priest used to score with Take on the World with the thumping drums and Hot Love is fun evidencing the more mainstream NWOBHM approach referred to earlier. Have a listen to Hot Love and see what you think. Rocks along well wouldn’t you say?
Hot Love - SARACEN - YouTube
However – to demonstrate Saracen had not turned in to predictability, they came up with Seabird and Bridge of Tears. Emotional, sensitive ballad types with feeling and well-constructed.
Whilst Change of Heart is a different style to the debut album, Saracen overcame the leaving of Rob Bendelow to come back with a second album which does hit the spot, shows versatility and an ability to switch between the proggy epic to straight ahead NWOBHM to soulful ballad.
It’s fine stuff and a recommended listen – though it may take a few spins to sink it. Afford it that courtesy and enjoy.
Saracen originated in the fertile NWOBHM region of Derbyshire out of which would emerge other great bands such as Witchfynde and others.
And their debut album – Red Sky – is arguably one of the finest examples of the genre given the expansion in to prog/pomp territory and the remarkable guitar of Rob Bendelow and voice of Steve Bettney.
No mistake, Red Sky rocks hard a-la NWOBHM did/should. Though such is the expanse of song-writing and musicianship on display those forays in to prog/pomp/melody make for a heady mix and epic songs.
Red Sky was a success for Saracen breaking in to the top 50 album chart. The opener – We Have Arrived – is a hard paced “spacey” rocker bringing all elements in to play. The synths give it a spooky feel. Quite fitting given what the song is about.
Other cuts such as the title track, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Heroes, Saints and Fools, Jekyll and Hide etc. all serve to show what a phenomenal debut album Red Sky was back in 1981.
Bettney’s vocal range is wide. He can do the lot. Bendelow’s guitar is crisp, clear, powerful. His solo work is measured without wasting a note or being flashy for the sake of it. Keys/synths complement the guitar with the proggy drums/bass completing the mixture.
Check out Heroes, Saints and Fools as a prime example of how great Saracen’s debut was.
Saracen - Heroes Saints and Fools (1981) - YouTube
You’d have expected Red Sky would catapult Saracen to the top of the tree, Alas not. Line-up changes ensured and it fell apart for them somewhat. A second album – Change of Heart – would follow a few years later (will be reviewed separately) then Saracen went off the grid.
That featured reworked version of some songs off Red Sky together with some new stuff. And how good was the new stuff – very, very good. The mighty Crusader starts it off. Classic Saracen sound, epic delivery, driving riff. Brilliant. Rock of Ages a punchy rocker and No More Lonely Nights sounds like a heavier Foreigner.
Ready to Fly the highlight as the band cut loose in an extended effort with Bendelow making his guitar work hard effortlessly as is his style.
Both Red Sky and Heroes, Saints and Fools are, thankfully, available in a double-CD package. Seriously not to be missed. Red Sky sounds as fresh today as it did in 1981. A superb album from a band who surely should have been massive. Don’t think about it – BUY IT!
Macaxe was a short-lived project by ex-Silverwing guitarist Stuart MacFarlane all the way back in 1981 as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was at its peak.
It had looked good for Silverwing after bagging a profile support slot with Diamond Head. Add that to the “not quite worked out” tab as the ‘Wing wanted to go pop and Stuart did not.
Thus he put together the Macaxe project which also included his brother on drums and the recording studio owner Ian Bone on bass here and there.
The style is a little rough and ready due to “budgetary constraints” generally being short, sharp and to the point. Up-tempo rockers with some meaty chords, riffs and soloing. All done with a sense of fun and a general “feel good factor”. Highly enjoyable.
Take for example Hot in my Chevy, Havin’ a Good Time and the gloriously tongue in cheek Satin and Spandex which must surely be a bit of a humorous swipe at Saxon’s Denim and leather.
Have a listen to Satin and Spandex and you’ll get a flavour of what Macaxe was all about.
Macaxe - Satin And Spandex - YouTube
Apparently the recordings were not intended to be released, however legendary Sounds journalist Geoff Barton championed the band prompting a hastily put together (i.e. cheap…….) cassette release on a limited basis which sold out rapidly but was not added to given those aforementioned “budgetary constraints”.
Some further demos were cut – known as “egos in the studio” though not released. Those five songs are in the same vein as the cassette and equally as enjoyable. Perhaps Headin’ for the USA is either unrequited ambition or a bit of a dig at the Silverwing situation.
Macxe went nowhere and MacFarlane would re-join Silverwing.
Now with further thanks to those nice people at Skol Records we can hear for ourselves how good Macaxe could have been with a little more money behind them. The label has put the original cassette songs and “egos in the studio” on to CD.
So good to have a “lost” promising NWOBHM band with a sense of humour and with songs which stand up today well almost four decades later.
I bought my copy via Sonic Age Records. Why don’t you do the same?
Sonic Age Records have been somewhat prolific recently with their re-issuing of lost/obscure bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal early days.
This time it’s the turn of Voltz to get the treatment.
Voltz originated from Hampshire forming towards the end of the 1970s. Not your usual NWOBHM. The hard riffage was there sure enough though the band had a more creative style which included elements of melody, folk and a bit of darkness about it too.
A varied delivery with plenty of talent behind it.
The usual pattern of the time was followed. Lots of gigging, build a following, get enough cash together to record an album. That effort saw the recording and release of their debut album – Knight’s Fall – on a smallish label.
It’s excellent stuff too. A bit raw around the edges (probably due to budget restraints) but a proper listen and one which grows with each spin and the different styles and intricacies of the songs make it in to your brain.
Check out in particular Badon Hill and Years. Here’s a video of Years. An slow-burner to start the intro before the breakout in to the hard stuff leading to an extended jam-style outro with some fine guitar work all over it. Excellent.
VOLTZ (UK) "Years" NWOBHM - YouTube
Knight’s Fall went down quite well at the time and Voltz snagged a deal with a French label on the back of it.
A second album was recorded though did not see a release. And that was about it for Voltz. What a shame.
That debut album over the years has become impossible to find achieving almost mythical status amongst NWOBHM circles.
However thanks to Sonic Age Records getting things together on CD for the first time you can enjoy not only Knight’s Fall but also the unreleased second album.
As it the usual from Sonic Age, the CD has a limited run of 500 – so get your skates on and click over to https://sonicagerecords.com and treat yourself.