• Diamond Head - Lightning To The Nations 2020 (Silver Lining Music) Album Review

    Released by: Silver Lining Music
    Released on: November 27th, 2020.
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    Re-recordings by bands of their classic albums/songs has always been a dicey prospect at best. And yet it remains a perennial move for many bands in the hard rock and metal world. It’s right up there with the other classic lazy move - the covers album.

    The reasoning behind these things tends to primarily focus on cold cash - with many acts having lost control of their vintage catalog, it’s a way for them to finally earn some coin for past accomplishments. Sometimes, as with TWISTED SISTER’s Stay Hungry, the band claim that it is a way to rectify an initially weak production. But the cold, hard truth is that they rarely work. Though often not actively awful, re-recordings tend to fall into the completely unnecessary or tepid camps. Often what makes a great record work is the naivety and passion of young guns taking their first shots. We don’t mind the scrappy productions - it’s all part and parcel of an often magical era.

    So here we have DIAMOND HEAD having another go at their first masterpiece - the infamous White Album aka Lightning To The Nations. Of course the new wrinkle here is that original vocalist Sean Harris - he of the uncanny Robert Plant-y howl, is long gone making DIAMOND HEAD a sort of NWOBHM BLACK SABBATH with guitarist Brian Tatler singlehandedly running the franchise with a little help from 90s drummer Karl Wilcox. Latest vocalist Dane Rasmus Bom Andersen is really the star here - he handles the Harris tracks admirably with range and passion. Of course DH, long having attained cult royalty status amongst the NWOBHM fetishists, are mostly known to the more general metal crowd as METALLICA’s favorite covers hope chest - and a full 4 of this album’s original tracks have been covered on vinyl and CD by the Lars and James show.

    A quick history of the original album. Self produced and released, it was made by four naïve but gifted British lads in the late 1970s. It achieved such cult status over the years due to the rather astounding level of musicianship displayed on the record. Though barely out of high school, these guys had a grasp of dynamics and LED ZEPPELIN moves that were unique in their peer group. The dramatic Holst-lifted classical opening of Am I Evil, the fleet-footed proto-speed metal of “The Prince” and the sexy swagger of the nearly 10 minute Sucking My Love marked the band as real up and comers. Of course, despite being later signed to a major label and, ironically in the context of this review, re-recording a number of songs off this album for their major label debut, DIAMOND HEAD basically broke up after being crushed by incompetent record labels. They were only rescued in the 1990s by their longtime fans METALLICA who had covered a couple of their songs and ended up making the band relevant again.

    The original versions had a rough, though amateurish but powerful, production and these ones don’t. It’s slick and tidy. So the only reason for someone to spend the time to listen to this is to hear the current vocalist tackle some old classics and hear the heated up, more digital, modern production afforded the songs. It works reasonably well. Guitarist Tatler was always a master at riffs and he hasn’t lost a step in playing ability over the years, so on that front you are least guaranteed a quality experience. Am I Evil sounds particularly strong as does Sucking My Love.

    Frankly, The re-recordings aren’t the most interesting thing on this album. That would be the four cover versions that end the record. These show more creativity than the bulk of the album. First up is a blazing go at METALLICA’s No Remorse which gives you an idea of what that song would sound like with a real traditional vocalist with some range. Immigrant Song stretches out the ZEP classic’s middle section with interesting results. Sinner by JUDAS PRIEST is the album’s second best track with a barnstorming performance by the entire band. The fact that this song is over six minutes and filled with twisty and winding riffs suits the band perfectly. Then comes my favorite - a stunning take on obscure DEEP PURPLE chestnut Rat Bat Blue - a song so obscure I’m unaware of any other band covering it. This version strips out the original’s keyboards and adds some more guitar work to turn the track into a sprawling and epic rocker with lots of bruising groove.

    Final verdict? An unnecessary but interesting curio rescued by some creative cover versions. Approach with caution.