Review by Ritchie Birnie for MPM
November is all about nostalgia for The Almighty and their fans. With three gigs announced earlier this year which we have been told will be the final hurrah for the band and to promote these two re releases, it is a very exciting time for the fans who have already sold out two of the three shows and with these two albums for the remainder who cannot make it.
Since we are talking nostalgia lets go back to 1989 when the Blood, Fire & Love album came out, with Glasgow being my gig hometown it is hard to underestimate the impact of this album. The Rock and Metal lovers had some lean years with hometown bands that were going to make it.
We had Heavy Pettin who had grasped the hair metal wave but were short lived and after that the bands that were breaking were all on the softer side with Simple Minds, Hue & Cry, Wet Wet, Wet, The Eurythmics and Orange Juice some examples but Glasgow is a bit dark, gritty and sleazy and we needed something to reflect that and with three local boys and an angry long haired, ginger Irish boy named Ricky we found it.
Blood, Fire and Love was released and appealed to Rockers, metal heads and punks in equal measures and very quickly the boys began to own the town.
Luckily I still have (and play) my original vinyls and that debut was everything I have described in Glasgow already and as much as people moan about the production this was The Almighty, it was how they sounded live and how many times have you said an album does not capture how a band sounds live? Well this done what is said on the tin and just like another debut album from Iron Maiden it hit the nail on the head.
I can still remember my first Almighty show and it was ferocious, it was raw, it was filthy and it was glorious and this is encompassed in the very first song “Resurrection Mutha”. Listen to those drums, the guitars and Ricky straining his voice with beer, fags and hatred.
On Track two it is slowed down to a formulaic beatdown with Stumpy forcing drums through your speakers trying to shatter your eardrums and at my age now with tinnitus I think I should maybe have some words with him at the Barras later this month. “Destroyed” is just class.
“Wild & Wonderful” was the anarchic answer to having parents as a teenager. That opening guitar with Ricky salivating and doing his best Lemmy impersonation is etched in my brain and to this day an anthem and it sounds incredible all these years later.
The title track was a bit different from the boys, this was where they tried to polish some dirt of the top of the turd by shoving in some strings and slowing it down to dangerously ballad closeness but this is a banger. The song always settled a crowd down during its hectic throes and Ricky’s growl kept the grit.
After having all those brutal numbers that stayed in the set lists for years we got “Gift Horse” which is a song that just did not get enough love at the time and it was a joy to revisit.
“You’ve Gone Wild” had the swagger but leaned heavily on the punk. A quick fix that kept the momentum going and the head banging.
You can tell the boys didn’t really know who they were on the debut. They could see The Almighty highway in front of them but were just not sure what stops they would make and what turns they needed and “Lay Down the Law” was a jumble of influences from Thin Lizzy to Judas Priest that didn’t sit quite right with the feel. “Power” also scaled back on the brutality and I am sure this was pushed by the label to get in the charts which it did.
From one extreme to the other with the beast that is “Full Force Lovin’ Machine”. This is a monster live and thrives with its own energy that these four boys dragged out of each other and laid down on tape like an audio snuff movie.
The debut album closed with “Detroit” and I wonder if any of these young lads had even visited that city and I wonder if they realised what they were doing would propel them to that city in the future?
Blood, Fire & Love was the soundtrack to my 90s, The Almighty were the band that put Scotland on the map again for us filthy mouthed, long haired muthas and we loved every minute of it.
Two years later and after the excellent and intellectually titled live album Blood, Fire and Live came studio album number two in Soul Destruction. In those two years the band had honed their skills and the production value was increased but the rawness was still there. With the opening of “Crucify” it was obvious that Stumpy was not about to take it easy, he was blistering the whole way through and this song became a fan favourite immediately. The guitar work was on a different level and this was proof that the band were meant for greater things.
Anthem time on track two and “Free’n’ Easy was classic Almighty and it also smashed into the UK top 40 singles at number 35. This had all the ferocity of the debut album but the crisp production tied in with the harmonies took the band to a new level.
It was back to sleazy heaven on “Joy Bang One Time”. The subject matter was as straight forward as the rhythm but it saw the band trying out time changes and master melodic rock mixed with hate, anger and a good old kicking in a dark alley.
By the time you got to “Love Religion” you realised that The Almighty had taken that rough sound and moulded it to songs for the masses. I instantly knew that Glasgow was far too small for the boys now and being able to see them every few months was in the past as the world was waiting and as to accentuate that I saw them open Monsters of Rock that year and they blew the crowd away so the gates were open and the horses had bolted.
The Almighty became a band on Soul Destruction and tracks like “Love Religion” showed exactly the promise that those early shows held. A brilliant track that to this day kicks fucking ass!
From here we move onto what is most probably my favourite Almighty track in “Bandaged Knees”. You would never have picked Ricky to pull off one of the best ballads of the 90s and based on the bands previously simple sex, drugs and alcohol based lyrics you would never have chosen them to write such a stirring song but they did and it still gets me to this day.
“Praying to the Red Light” took us back to those sex driven lyrics and the outcome was the same…awesomness. The band are on fire and the introduction of Pete Friesen definitely changed the band. The guitar sound was completely new and you could tell he was a well rounded live monster.
The barraging drums and guitar opened “Sin Against the Light” and again you feel the page of The Almighty being turned as the song composition was turned on its head for full effect. The chorus was more well rounded but the heart and soul still intact.
The composition was at work again on “Little Lost Sometimes” and this song was obviously a look into Ricky’s future. The slow intro makes the song and pushes the power of the song when it breaks in, it is as close as the boys got to Guns’n’Roses and as catchy as it was it was probably my least liked number as in those days all I wanted was fast and furious and my main pastime was Bon Jovi abuse.
Slide guitar? What is this hells fire is this but what a song in “Devil’s Toy”. Those teasing ballad sounds make way for a song that is there to kick down walls, smash faces in and engage in angry, drunken sex.
“What More Do You Want” was a real left field number as it started but like the previous track the band are just toying with us as they still want to beat us senseless and at the end of four and a half minutes they succeeded.
From slide guitar to mouthy we are opening so many new doors but this all tied into the original Almighty mantra and “Hell to Pay” may also have been a look into the future but in the here and now back then it was just one more awesome track on what for me was the album of that year.
It was back to straight forward chaos again on album closer “Loaded” and back then this was a very literal soundtrack to what was The Almighty but it was the fuel that made this band. It did not matter if you banged into the guys on a show night, another bands gig or just in one of the many rock bars in Glasgow this track was where they were going and I was not far behind them with my pints of Diesel.
Playing these albums again and trying to keep my excitement at bay for the gig at the end of the month has been a hard job. On the night of the show I will be exhilarated at the thought of seeing them again and gutted that it will be the last time.
These re releases are a time machine taking you back to one of the most exciting bands to ever come out of Glasgow. You can feel the urgency the band had to take on the world and although like burning candles at both ends the journey is short it is very, very bright and in The Almighty’s case very fucking loud.
The London and Glasgow dates are now SOLD OUT; tickets for Manchester can be purchased at www.myticket.co.uk
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