Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Rock, as we knew it, changed forever in 1980 with the arrival of ‘Lightning to the Nations’, the first album by Midland metallers Diamond Head.
The seven-track release had a seismic effect on the music scene and both contributed to the growth of the NWOBHM movement and to the thrash metal bands who, inspired by its heaviness and raw edges, would eventually supersede it.
A mix of brilliant songwriting, the superb guitar work by Brian Tatler and the Robert Plant inspired vocals of Sean Harris that dripped pure animal lust, it was an instant hit and soon the majors came knocking. The rest, for better or worse, as they say, is history.
Whilst the band never reached the heady heights that were promised and despite splitting twice, they have continued to produce a string of great new albums and continue to play to ravenous crowds all over Europe.
Following on swiftly from last year’s acclaimed ‘The Coffin Train’ album, Tatler took the latest line-up of the band into the studio to recreate their legendary debut to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
There will be some who prefer the raw and exciting DIY ethic of the original and that’s as it should be, but this new, revamped version sounds sonically light years in advance and highlights the power of music, the sound fuller and harder.
Irrespective of which version you prefer, it’s the songs that really grab you and it’s easy to see just why it made jaws drop and the band name was sewn into the back of legions of denim jackets all over the country.
The titular ‘Lightning to the Nations’ opens with a rush, as heavy and striking as anything Black Sabbath have released but adding the extra dynamics of Led Zeppelin and a pinch of Thin Lizzy harmonies.
The supercharged ‘The Prince’ follows and rattles along with the locomotive abandon of Motorhead and the pure filth and killer rhythms of ‘Sucking My Love’ sound huge.
There is an undeniable excitement hearing these classics once again, the weight and energy not just threatening to break loose at any second but actually tearing the place apart.
To say that ‘Am I Evil?’ is a stone-cold masterpiece would be a total understatement.
This, along with Budgie’s ‘Breadfan’, were the building bricks that built the foundations of all that Metallica became and was the blueprint of a thousand bands that followed.
With these new versions, the production gives an extra heft to proceedings, the slamming muscle matched by a crispness and edge that should reach way beyond those brought up with primary recordings and excite new generations.
A galloping ‘Sweet and Innocent’, the rambunctious ‘It’s Electric’ and the machine gun fire rapidity of ‘Helpless’ bring things to a close with a all killer, no filler hat trick that seals the deal.
Whilst Rasmus Bom Andersen might not have Harris’s feline sensuality, his vocals sound huge and perfectly suited to the sheer heaviness of the material, the perfect accompaniment to the guitar attack of Tatler and Andy Abberley and the rhythmic firepower of Dean Ashton’s bass and the splintering drums of Karl Wilcox.
The album is completed with the addition of four covers that tip the hat to influences Led Zep, Judas Priest and Deep Purple and a nod of thanks to Metallica for keeping the flame alive.
The Bay Area’s boys ‘No Remorse’ is a fine example of the link between the two bands and ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Sinner’ and ‘Rat Bat Blue’ are very nicely done but maybe live versions from any of ‘Lightning to the Nation’s wealth of material may have better served.
It’s a small point though when an album is this good. Just as exciting as it was 40 years ago, this new imagining of the classic will blow you head off. Absolutely stunning.
Lightning To The Nations 2020, set for release on November 27th 2020! Pre-order now: https://smarturl.it/DHLTTN2020
Diamond Head talk to Fiona D from MPM at HRH 2019