A premiere on Goodbadmusic: A guest contribution!
Akshay Ganesh describes himself as “a music fiend and a grumpy New Yorker”. I can absolutely confirm the first and maybe he just had a good day when we met in Devember of 2010, as he was anything but grumpy. We decided to meet in front of the Empire State Building. I was still on the top level of the building, contemplating why the sight on this man-made landscapes is so much more impressive then that on the dumb mountains I usually see, when I received Akshay’s text message, saying that he’s waiting at the main entrance. I rushed down, hectic and excited to finally meet the guy who I got to know via goodbadmusic – so hectically that when I finally reached the revolving door and spotted him outside, I managed to get stuck inside the revolving door as my bag got caught. He from the outside just looked at me and laughed. That’s how I met Akshay, who studied sociology (means: he cares about masses of people) and not psychology (that’s why he laughed at my mishap).
Erich once referred to the cover photo of the great Scene of the Crime compilation as maybe the strongest visual link between punk and heavy metal in the fertile musical setting of late 1970s/early 1980s Britain. Well, the writing that accompanies this NEW ELECTRIC WARRIORS compilation provides perhaps the strongest textual link between the two.
But first, some history: the comp was the brainchild of Nigel Burnham (alias “Des Moines,”) a freelance rock journalist and occasional columnist for Sounds who had, just 3 months earlier, organized the more famous Hicks From the Sticks compilation, which was an attempt to give exposure to some of the underappreciated New Wave (in the old sense) bands of northern England. The idea here is the same, but this time, he convinced Logo records to finance a compilation of northern heavy metal.
And now, the writing. A glance at the unique and totally awesome text reveals not so much notes as a militant manifesto. Unlike some (most?) who present the NWOBHM as an attempt to preserve hard rock, prog rock, and metal against the suffocating tide of punk and new wave (and maybe accidentally absorbed some of the new energy in the process,) the comp makes it clear that the heavy metal “dinosaurs” should be left to rot, and that the newer bands should want to align themselves closer to the “new wave” of music. But new doesn’t equal good, either- the entire machinery of the music industry that encompasses journalistic hype, advertising and major label operations is taken to task for encouraging stagnation and “production-line” conformity. As the insert says, this comp aims to deliver “heavy metal for punks” (and not the factory-brand mohawk brigade, either!) Everything about this compilation, from the rough and earthy selection of songs, to the incredible cover (one of the best and most English metal album covers ever!) is totally unpretentious and has a “local,” near-to-the-ground feel, which Burnham associates with the punk label, but it also has a warm, even friendly, honest quality that’s somewhat at odds with the confrontational writing that attempts to frame it.
Burnham is totally right, of course; the best stuff has always been delivered spontaneously, by those who “seize the time”- in Nietzsche’s words, they are “untimely,” signaling a serious break in history, the eruption of the new, not necessarily in form but in power and energy, and by associating this music with his ideal of punk, he wants to suggest that it achieves all that. Is he right? Well, maybe not quite. In fact, most of these bands don’t seem particularly new for the time at all, as a band like Venom did. There’s still a lot to appreciate here, though- plenty of energy, toweled necks, knuckle-dragging, and 70s-style boogie to be found! It’s also one of those detail-oriented records- you really have to let the subtle imperfections and idiosyncrasies sink in over a few listens.
Buffalo– Battle Torn Heroes. Reminds me of an older, steadier, hairier Battleaxe. Strangely charming in its insistent old-ness.
Stormtrooper– Grind N’ Heat. Fuzzy, unusually lo-fi guitar and a strange harmonica solo helps this stand out.
Dawnwatcher– Firing on All Eight. Maybe the most nimble, virtuosic number in here.
Vardis– If I Were King. Fast, driving, and very spare (most of this song is even more minimal than many punk numbers!) and yet still “old,”if you know what I mean, with lyrics about wearing a crown made of leather and studs and forcing people to wear tight jeans.
Rhabstallion– Chain Reaction. Ok, I’m not sure why, but this one’s strangely catchy.
Jedediah Strut– Raspy, spirited vocal performance and energy elevate a generic riff, and working class laments about horrible night shifts, made somewhat ironic by the fact that the band’s real-life namesake, the cotton miller Jedediah Strutt, employed children as young as 7 in his mills, apparently even on night shifts.
Kosh– The Hit. This song features maybe the WORST, phoned-in singing I’ve ever heard in a NWOBHM song, clunky rhythms, and strange lyrics about being a hitman. High level cretinism here!
Race Against Time– Bedtime. This is the heaviest and meanest-sounding song here, by the band that would later become Hell (their eccentric, lone single is posted elsewhere on this blog,) featuring some very demented singing about desperate lust.
Download the entire NEW ELECTRIC WARRIORS compilation here.