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Archive: Sunday Old School Columns

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Sunday Old School: Angel Witch

Although the most famous city in the United Kingdom, London itself hasn't seemed to have made a large contribution to heavy metal in the grand scheme of things. Of course, there was Iron Maiden, who were hailed as the leaders of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement, but many of these movements bands came from the Midlands and the North of England, rather than the capital itself. That being said, there was another metal band from London during this era that would prove to be hugely inflential on young bands around the globe, from Celtic Frost to Metallica, namely Angel Witch.

The band was formed in 1977 and originally used the moniker Lucifer, but decided to change their name after parting with several members, leaving vocalist/guitarist Kevin Heybourne and guitarist Rob Downing. The two recruited bassist Kevin Riddles and drummer Dave Hogg but before long, Downing also made the decision to quit the band, leaving Angel Witch as a three piece outfit. They recorded a demo and quickly found some success in the metal mainstream, after their song, "Baphomet" was featured on the Metal For Muthas compilation. The attention the band received from the song led them to signing a record deal with major label EMI, though unfortunately the deal was cancelled soon afterwards as a result of manager Ken Heybourne refusing to hand the band over to professional management, along with the bad performance of their single "Sweet Danger," which stayed in the British Singles Chart for only one week. More...

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Sunday Old School: Raven

Arguably, without Venom, thrash metal would never have been as fast and ferocious as it was. But many of the genre's best musicians state that Venom wasn't the only band to influence them in such a way, but another band from Newcastle had just as big an impact; a group by the name of Raven. Although Raven was classed as part of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, the band's formation predates the movement, as they were founded in 1974 by the Gallagher brothers Mark and John (not Noel and Liam) and guitarist Paul Bowden, before adding drummer Paul Sherrif to their ranks. Even in their early days, the band was known for their energetic live performances and taking musical risks, but it was to be some time before they received a record deal. Eventually, they landed such a contract with local label Neat Records, which is now regarded as one of the most important labels in British heavy metal as a result of them signing so many N.W.O.B.H.M. acts, including Raven's fellow Geordies, Venom.

Under Neat, the group released their first album, "Rock Until You Drop" in 1981, which found critical success straight away and is considered by some to be Raven's best album. Commercial success was also found with the record, as it entered the British albums chart at number sixty three. The album is also remembered for it's fantastic front cover, which shows a trashed stage with the band's members buried beneath the rubble of amps and instruments.The band then wasted no time in recording a follow up, which came in the form of 1982's "Wiped Out." Although it didn't chart in the United Kingdom, it was just as highly regarded by fans and the music press alike and did well enough to attract the attention of record companies in the United States, resulting in Megaforce Records offering them a deal. Their next album, "All For One" was released the following year and, like the two albums before, was cited as another heavy metal masterpiece. The album allowed them to perform in America for the first time, giving support slots to such young American bands as Metallica and Anthrax. More...

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Sunday Old School: Witchfinder General

Sometimes in the world of heavy metal and hard rock music, one band can prove to be a major influence on hundreds, if not thousands of future fans of the genre. We have already seen how this is true when we looked at Geordie noise merchants Venom and the influence they had on black metal, so now shall we see how another band from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement would make their mark, this time on the doom metal genre. The band in question is Witchfinder General, who, like many other heavy British bands before them, including Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, came from the Midlands area of England. The group was founded in 1979 by the duo of Zeeb Parkes (vocals) and guitarist Phil Cope and settled on the name Witchfinder General, which they got from the classic Vincent Price movie. Before long the lineup was completed when the pair recruited Cope's cousin Steve Kinsell on drums and bass player Toss McCready. After writing material, the band released their first single in 1981 entitled, "Burning A Sinner" (sometimes jokingly reffered to as "Burning A Singer") through Heavy Metal Records. The next year, the group released an EP entitled, "Soviet Invasion," which while only featuring three songs (one of which was a live track,) clocked in at thirty minutes long.

The next step for the band was to release a full length album, which was finally unleashed in 1982. The album was entitled, "Death Penalty" and immediately became notorious as a result of it's album cover, which featured topless model Joanne Latham with hooded figures in the yard of a church in Enville, Staffordshire and had not been approved, nor even granted permission to be taken, by the church's reverend. Despite the controversy however, the album received positive reviews and has since gone on to be recognised as a true classic in the doom metal genre. A second album would follow the next year, in the form of "Friends Of Hell." Once again, the album contained a controversial front cover, with the band posing with semi-naked models in front of a church. However, the controversy had proved less beneficial than "Death Penalty," with some seeing it as almost a parody of themselves. The album itself received some backlash from fans for attempting to expand the group's fanbase to a more mainstream audience with the single, "Music," which ultimately failed to achieve it's primary goal. After being unable to grow the way they had wanted to and the band called it a day in 1984.

Like many New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands however, they eventually returned to the music scene, although this time without vocalist Zeeb Parkes. They announced teir reformation in Novemeber 2006, with Cope bringing back bass player Rod Hawkes, who had played on the "Friends Of Hell"record and drummer Dermot Redmond, who had joined the band after the second album's release, along with new member in the form vocalist Gary Martin. The band's first move as a regrouped unit came the next year when they released a compilation entitled, "Buried Amongst The Ruins," which featured both the A and B-Side to the "Burning A Sinner" single, the "Soviet Invasion" EP and four live tracks, among which was a live version of a previously unreleased song entitled, "Phantasmagorical." In 2008, the band released their first album of all new material in twenty five years entitled, "Resurrected." Though the band has repeatedly stated they will not perform live again, the possibility of another album could well come true and their influence and mark on the doom metal genre cannot, and nor should it be, ignored or overlooked. More...

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Sunday Old School: Agnostic Front

For many people, when they think of hardcore, the first place they think of is New York. And with good reason too, the N.Y.H.C. scene is perhaps one of the most well known in the world of heavy music, right up there with the Bay Area thrash scene. New York has produced dozens of hardcore bands that have gone on to become legends in the field and the now sadly defunct CBGBs club hosted more hardcore shows than a Red Light district in Amsterdam. One of the absolute top dogs from the New York scene, is a band that has been around longer than most and arguably played CBGBs more than anyone, Agnostic Front.

Agnostic Front was formed by guitarist Vinnie Stigma, formerly of The Eliminators in 1980 and went through a few singers before settling on Roger Miret, himself the former bassist of The Psychos. Before long, the band recruited bass player Adam Moochie and drummer Ray Barbieri (aka Raybeez) on drums and released their debut EP, "United Blood" in 1983. The EP was well received by fans and the group recorded their first full length, "Victim In Pain" soon after, releasing it in 1984. The album pushed them to the top of the New York hardcore scene and earned them a tour with Scotish hardcore act, The Exploited. More...

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Sunday Old School: Armored Saint

Often in the Sunday Old School articles, we tend to focus on the sub-genres of heavy metal such as thrash, death and black metal, amongst others. This week we take a look at a great example of traditional heavy metal in the form of California's Armored Saint. Armored Saint was formed in 1982 by brothers Phil and Gonzo Sandoval, who played guitar and drums respectively,along with friend Dave Prichard who also played guitar, whilst students at South Pasadena High School. Soon after their formation the band recruited bass player Joey Vera and lead singer John Bush. The name of the band was suggested by Gonzo while the band were watching the movie Excalibur and a five song demo was recorded not long afterwards, that included the song, "Lesson Well Learned," which was featured on the Metal Massacre II compilation. After releasing a self-titled EP through Metal Blade Records in 1983, the band signed to Chrysalis Records the next year. Their debut album, "March Of The Saint" was released that year and earned the band a minor hit with the song, "Can U Deliver?," as well as critical praise. A second album entitled, "Delirious Nomad" was released in 1985 and, like the first album, earned the band critical acclaim.

Soon after the release of "Delirious Nomad," Phil Sandoval decided to quit the band, leaving Armored Saint has a four-piece. The quartet began work on their next studio album, which resulted in 1987's "Raising Fear." The album did not sit as well with critics as the past two albums had and many believed that Phil Sandoval's exit had shaken the band's confidence. The album did however garner the band another minor hit with the song, "Isolation." After "Raising Fear" was released, a live album named, "Saints Will Conquer" hit the shelves the next year but sadly these would be the final albums to feature guitarist Dave Prichard. Although Prichard participated in the writing and demoing of their next album, he unfortunately passed away from leukemia during the sessions. The resulting album, "Symbol Of Salvation" was released in 1991 and used the guitar solo Prichard recorded for the song, "Tainted Past." The album also featured the return of Phil Sandoval, as well as new guitarist Jeff Duncan. The record was seen as a return to form and perhaps their best yet by critics and fans alike but ultimately the band were unsure of a future without Prichard. During this period of uncertainty, John Bush was asked by Anthrax if he would be interested in becoming their new vocalist, replacing the recently departed Joey Belladonna. Bush's decision to accept the job proved to be the final straw for Armored Saint and they decided to call it a day. During the band's inactivity, other members kept themselves busy with various musical proects. Bassist Joey Vera found success as a producer, whilst also performing in bands such as Fates Warning and Lizzy Borden and the Sandoval brothers formed a new band together entitled Life After Death, which was more inspired by the likes of Thin Lizzy than the heavy metal influences of Armored Saint. More...

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Sunday Old School: Sacred Reich

The thrash metal movement in the eighties saw bands all over the world adopt the new approach to heavy metal, and the United States were arguably the champions of the genre. Although it was California and New York that were credited with some of the biggest and best names in thrash, other states produced some of the heaviest hitters of the bunch. A great example of this, would be the state of Arizona, which produced the politically minded Sacred Reich. The band formed in 1985 by vocalist and bass player Phil Rind and signed to Metal Blade Records, one of the biggest labels for thrash metal at the time, soon after. They released their first album, "Ignorance" in 1987 and was extremely well received by thrash fans all across the globe. An EP entitled, "Surf Nicaragua" followed the next year and featured a cover of the Black Sabbath classic, "War Pigs," as well as a passage from the song "Wipe Out" in the EP's title track.

After another EP, this one recorded live at the Dynamo festival in the Netherlands, Sacred Reich released a second album named, "The American Way" in 1990. The album saw a departure somewhat from their thrash metal sound, without discarding it completely and once again, was loved by fans and critics alike. Their next album, "Independent" did not find as much favour as their first two releases, but contained some stellar material, such as the title track. This album would also introduce drummer Dave McClain, who later went on to join Machine Head. Three years later, Sacred Reich released their fourth, and to date final studio album, "Heal," which regained the critical praise that "Independent" did not receive. After an absence of six years, the band's original drummer Greg Hall rejoined the group and they subsequently released a live record entitled, "Still Ignorant" in 1997. Sadly, this would prove to be the final release from Sacred Reich, as they decided to call it a day in 2000.

In 2007, the band decided to reform with the lineup of Phil Rind, Greg Hall and guitarists Wiley Arnett and Jason Rainey, peforming live around the world, most noticably at European festivals such as Wacken Open Air and Graspop Metal Meeting. Although the band has showed no sign in ending these performances any time soon, Rind has repeatedly stated that the band will not record another studio album. More...

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Sunday Old School: Hellhammer

Very few bands are able to amass a cult following having never released a proper album. Fewer still can be credited with being a key influence in not one, but two genres. No ordinary metal band could achieve such praise, but then Hellhammer were not an ordinary band. The band formed under the name Hammerhead in the Swiss capital of Zurich by guitarist and vocalist Tom G. Fischer (aka Tom Warrior) and bassist Urs Sprenger (aka Steve Warrior,) along with drummer Pete Stratton and took influence from many British bands such as Black Sabbath, Venom, Angel Witch and Raven. Before long, Stratton had left the band, to be replaced by drummer Jörg Neubart (a.k.a. "Bruce Day") and the group changed their name to Hellhammer. This lineup of the band recorded two demos, "Death Fiend" and "Triumph Of Death," but only released the latter initially, sending it to record labels and magazines, finding little to no positive feedback at first.

After the recording of the first two demos, bassist Urs Sprenger left the group to be replaced by former Schizo bass player Martin Eric Ain. Ain and Fischer began working together to break away from the confines that they felt Hellhammer imposed on them, taking the band in a more radical direction and recording one more demo entitled, "Satanic Rites," before their first commercial release, the "Apocalyptic Raids" EP. The release was not very successful initially, but ultimately proved to be a huge influence on many metal bands, especially in the black and death metal genres. The band decided to call it a day three months after this release, with Fischer and Ain resurfacing in Celtic Frost, another hugely influential band.

Although Hellhammer was widely slated in their time, they have since been regarded as one of the most important bands in the history of extreme metal. Many bands have covered Hellhammer in the past, including such big names as Sepultura and Napalm Death, as well as Tom Fischer himself during his time with Apollyon Sun, the band he formed after the first Celtic Frost breakup and in 2008, a compilation album was released entitled, "Demon Entrails" which featured all three demos. More...

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Sunday Old School: The Exploited

The relationship between punk rock and heavy metal has been one containing as much respect as it does rivalry. While many fans of both genres have criticised the other for varying reasons, there's no doubt that without punk, the variation that we enjoy in today's metal music wouldn't exist. After the first wave of punk in the seventies, a harsher, angrier form of the music would begin in both the United States, and the United Kingdom. Of all the bands in the U.K., Scotland's The Exploited were regarded as one of the best and their influence can be heard as much today in metal, as it can in punk.

The band was formed in 1979 in the Scotish capital of Edinburgh and began gaining more of a following when vocalist Terry Buchan was removed from the band, being replaced by his older brother Walter aka Wattie, who had just returned home after serving in the British army. The band quickly formed their own label and released their debut EP, "Army Life" soon after, which spent more than 18 months in the top 20 of the British independent charts. They gained more independent success afterwards with such singles as "Barmy Army" and "Dogs Of War," which have since gone on to become staples of the band's live shows. The Exploited then proved that they were not just a singles band in 1981, when they released their first album, "Punk's Not Dead." With it's iconic title and vicious attitude, The Exploited captured the minds of frustrated British youths and spat in the face of journalists who had dismissed punk as a flash in the pan. Another outstanding album followed the next year in the form of "Troops Of Tomorrow," which featured the song, "UK82." The song was featured in the Tim Roth movie "Made In Britain," as well as being so important, that the British hardcore punk scene of the time, featuring such other bands as Discharge and G.B.H. was named after it.

After two more albums, "Let's Start A War (Said Maggie One Day)" and "Horror Epics," the band changed musical styles somewhat with their fifth album, "Death Before Dishonour," which featured a sound much more in the vein of crossover thrash. The album cover itself seemed to capture the band's crossover appeal brilliantly, as it featured British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher holding hands with the Grim Reaper, blending the 80s heavy metal imagery with their continued punk beliefs. Ever since then, the group has carried on this musical style, reaching the ears of both punks and metal fans with their aggressive message of anarchy and anti-authoritarianism that's as true today as it was thirty years ago. The Exploited are currently writing material for a brand new album, which will be their first since 2003's, "Fuck The System." More...

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Sunday Old School: Pestilence

Since today marks the first time the Netherlands have appeared in the FIFA World Cup final since 1978, it seemed a good idea to revisit the country's contributions to the realm of metal, and probably one of the best contributions they made, was Pestilence. The band formed in 1986, originally adopted a thrash metal sound and was able to gain the attention of Roadrunner Records after releasing two demos, "Dysentry" and "The Penance." The signing with Roadrunner allowed them to release their first full length album in 1988, "Malleus Maleficarum." Guitarist Randy Meinhard quit the band soon after the album's release, and was replaced by Patrick Uterwijk, with whom the band recorded their next studio album, "Consuming Impulse," which followed a much more death metal orientated sound. The album was well received in the extreme metal crowd and helped the band to achieve an international fanbase.

Although they found some success with "Consuming Impulses," vocalist/bassist Martin Van Drunen left the band to become the frontman of Asphyx, leaving the rest of the group to find new members. They filled the gaps in the band by enlisting Cynic bassist Tony Choy and vocalist Patrick Mameli, and recorded a new album of original material named, "Testimony Of The Ancients" in 1991. Although the album wasn't considered as harsh as previous records, the band demonstrated an obvious growth in musical ability and skill, as well as much better production. They would record one more album in the 1990's, this time with Jeroen Paul Thesseling on bass and incorporating jazz fusion into their sound. The resulting album, "Spheres" was released in 1993 and earned the band an even bigger fanbase, but unfortunately, tensions within Pestilence also grew, and the band decided to call it a day in 1994.

However, after fourteen years of inactivity, vocalist Patrick Marmeli decided to resurrect the band as a three piece, with him performing vocal and guitar duties, bass player Tony Choy and Darkane drummer Peter Wildoer. The new lineup of the band recorded a brand new album entitled, "Resurrection Macabre," which saw a release in 2009 through Mascot Records. That same year, bassist Tony Choy once again left the band, to be replaced by Jeroen Paul Thesseling, who is also the current bass player for Obscura. The reformed band are currently working on their next album, tentatively entitled, "Doctrine" and plan to release it in 2011. More...

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Sunday Old School: Carcass

Last December we took a look at Napalm Death, the British band who is credited with the invention of grindcore, and saw how they were related to a number of other highly recognized names in extreme metal. This week we examine one of those bands, who may very well be just as acclaimed as Napalm Death, Carcass. Carcass was formed by guitarist Bill Steer and drummer Ken Owen under the name of Disattack. The band recorded one demo entitled, "The Bomb Drops..." before deciding to hire new members in the form of vocalist Sanjiv and former Electro Hippies frontman Jeff Walker on bass. Not long after these two joined the band, Steer was recruited as the new guitarist of Napalm Death and recorded the second side of their debut album, "Scum" in March 1987, with Jeff Walker designed the album's front cover. Shortly after recording "Scum," Disattack changed their name to Carcass and the group recorded their first demo under the new moniker, entitled "Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment." This would prove to be the only recording the band made with Sanjiv, who left the band soon after, leaving Walker and Steer to share vocal duties, with some help from drummer Ken Owen.

This lineup of the band released their first album, "Reek Of Putrefaction" in 1988 and despite being very unhappy with the end result, received a positive fedback from many crtics and fans of extreme music, with legendary British DJ John Peel claiming it was his favourite album of the year and inviting the band to perform a coveted "Peel Session" on his show. Carcass would expand on this success with a second album in 1990 named, "Symphonies Of Sickness," which moved away from their previous grindcore sound somewhat, into a more death metal orientated territory. While touring in support of the album, the band decided to recruit a second guitarist in the form of Michael Ammott, who would later go on to form the popular band, Arch Enemy. After recording another Peel Session, the band recorded their first full length album as a four piece, "Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious." With it's better production and catchy title, Carcass would expand their fan base some more with this album, along with a mandatory schedule of heavy touring, including the Gods Of Grind tour with Cathedral (which includes former Napalm Death singer Lee Dorrian), Entombed and Confessor. Carcass also released an EP to coincide with the tour called, "Tools Of The Trade" which featured a new song, as well as re-recorded versions of other songs and the track "Incarnated Solvent Abuse" from the previous album. More...

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Sunday Old School: Stuck Mojo

Rap metal is a genre that has long been the subject of much criticism within the heavy metal community. Most fans when thinking of the term, tend to be reminded of the late '90s/early Century nu-metal genre and bands like Limp Bizkit. However, before the nu metal phase came into effect, there were a handful of bands that dared to mix heavy metal music with hip-hop frontmen, following the example set by Anthrax and Public Enemy.

One of the earliest of these bands was the Atlanta based Stuck Mojo, who could shred with the best and featured influences as wide as Black Sabbath to Run D.M.C. The group was formed in 1989 by guitarist Rich Ward and continued for a further six years before they were able to release their first full length album, "Snappin' Necks" in 1995 through Century Media Records. The band wasn't well received at first, with some critics labelling the band as Rage Against The Machine clones and even facing prejudice as a result of their African-American frontman Bonz. However, they were better received in Europe, where they won the MTV Europe Award for Best Live Act. The band released a second album the next year entitled, "Pigwalk" which, while not receiving many more favourable reviews, helped to expand their fan base across the globe. More...

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Sunday Old School: Onslaught

When one thinks of thrash metal, the two countries that come to mine are the United States and Germany. However thrash had it's scenes all over the world. From Canada to Australia to Brazil and beyond, there was no country that thrash didn't touch and of course, Great Britain was no exception. Although the British thrash scene is largely overlooked, those who bother to explore it will find some of the best thrash of it's time and most were in agreement, that the best of these was Onslaught. Onslaught was founded as a punk band in the vein of Discharge and The Exploited by Nige Rockett in Bristol, England in 1983, being quickly joined by drummer Steve Grice. The band released a demo later that year before releasing an EP entitled, "What Lies Ahead" in the same year, which featured new members Jase Pope and Paul Hill.

Hill was soon to be replaced by Jase Stallard and the group took on a more metal orientated approach to songwriting and signed to Children Of The Revolution Records, under whom they released their debut album, "Power From Hell" in 1985. The album contained lyrics which were satanic in nature and also featured a song entitled, "Death Metal," leading to some metal fans crediting the band with coining the term, along with Possessed. That same year, vocalist Paul Mahoney moved to the position of second guitarist, when the band hired vocalist Sy Keeler. This lineup travelled to London to record their second album, "The Force" in 1986, which is now regarded as one of the genre's true classic albums, containing such thrash anthems as "Let There Be Death" and "Flame Of The Antichrist." After the release of "The Force," the band signed to major label London Records for their next album, though things did not go as well as they had hoped. Under pressure from the label, the band let Keeler go and hired Grim Reaper vocalist Steve Grimmett, in an attempt to help the band reach a more mainstream fan base. The subsequent album, "In Search Of Sanity" was released in 1989 but proved to be a disappointment for hardcore fans, oweing to the change in vocals and more polished production. Grimmett left the band soon after and the band was dropped from their label, before deciding to call it a day in 1991.

Key members Steve Grice and Nige Rockett remained good friends throughout the inactivity of Onslaught, and upon finding out that a record label had been selling Onslaught albums without permission, the two decided to reform the band. They contacted Sy Keeler who soon agreed to rejoin the band, along with bassist Jim Hinder, who had performed with the group during the "In Search Of Sanity" era. The band performed some low key gigs, along with supporting slots to the likes of Venom, before releasing a new studio album entitled, "Killing Peace" in 2007. The album was regarded as a natural follow up to "The Force" and was extremely well received from fans and critics alike. Since the release of the album, Onslaught have been touring relentlessly to take their rightful place as one thrash metal's true greats, performing all over the world and releasing a live album entitled, "Live Damnation" in the process. The band are currently working on their fifth studio album, which is expected to be released later this year. More...

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Sunday Old School: Les Légions Noires

The LLN. The Les Légions Noires. The Black Legions. By whatever name, they were an infamous group of underground black metal artists/bands that emerged from France in the early 90s in response to the newly born Norwegian second wave of black metal (bands like Mayhem, Burzum and Emperor). With a penchant for prolific demo output, next to no full lengths, rough and raw material, barely audible/listenable recordings, obscure naming conventions, true satanic piety and rabid anti-commercialism - the LLN made a name for themselves by intensifying almost every black metal stereotype known to the metal community. More...

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Sunday Old School: Rose Tattoo

When thinking about Australia's contribution to hard rock and heavy metal, 99% of people will instantly think of AC/DC, which is fair enough, but many of these same people tend to overlook another of the country's best exports, Rose Tattoo. Rose Tattoo were undeniably one of the hardest rocking bands to ever plug into an amp and they proved it by not just writing some fantastic songs, but by taking the stage with a ferocious attitude that bands like Guns 'N Roses would later be known for. The band was formed in 1976 in the city of Sydney by guitarist Peter Wells, who was formerly a member of the heavy metal band Buffalo. The original lineup also featured vocalist Tony Lake, guitarist Leigh Johnston, drummer Michael Vandersluys and bass player Ian Rilen, who taught himself the instrument while he was in prison. Johnston was soon to be replaced by Mick Cocks however, and shortly afterwards, more lineup changes occured, most notably the new addition of notorious frontman Gary "Angry" Anderson. The band released a single on Albert Productions named "Bad Boy For Love" after being recommended to the label by AC/DC. This would mark the only recording with Gilen, who left soon afterwards to form the punk rock band X.

Rose Tattoo followed the single by releasing a self-titled album in 1978, which entered the Australian Top 40 and began to become involved in social issues when they released a single supporting the legalisation of marijuana entitled, "Legalise Realise." A short while later, the band began to achieve success in foreign markets when their debut album, (re-released under the name Rock And Roll Outlaw) entered the British charts at number 60, the German charts at number five and the French charts at number two. They released a second album in 1981 named, "Assault And Battery" which entered the Australian Top 30 and topped the British heavy metal charts, just like the band's previous release. After gaining a following in Europe and the United Kingdom, the band recorded a third album, "Scarred For Life" and set their sights on the United States, supporting the likes of ZZ Top and Aerosmith. While the tours didn't prove to be the groundbreaking introduction they needed, they left a resounding impression on some audiences, particularly in Los Angeles, with many bands from the area later citing Rose Tattoo as an influence. Several lineup changes occured soon after they got back from the States and Anderson recorded what was intended to be a solo album named, "Beats From A Single Drum," however due to contractual issues, it was released under the Rose Tattoo moniker. The band split soon after and Anderson earned himself a hit single with the song "Suddenly" after it was used in the popular soap opera, "Neighbours."

A brief reunion happened in 1993 when Guns 'N Roses asked them to support the group on their Australian tour. Although the reformation didn't last as long as fans hoped, a second reunion occured in 1998, eventually resulting with the album, "Pain" in 2002, their first studio album in sixteen years, along with a live album entitled, "25 To Life." Although the band would suffer a set back when guitarist Peter Wells passed away in 2006, they soldiered on and released a new album, "Blood Brothers" in 2007. Sadly the band has been mainly inactive in recent months, owing to the death of guitarist Mick Cocks in December 2009. Though not as largely known by fans of heavy metal and hard rock audiences of today as they arguably should be, Rose Tattoo have undoubtedly carved a place in music history as one of the most aggressive, though simultaniously fun bands to ever emerge from Australia. More...

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Sunday Old School: Saxon

Some bands play heavy metal. Other bands embody it. And nobody embodies heavy metal quite like Saxon have been doing for over thirty years. Whilst the band appear to be somewhat overlooked these days, to a die hard fan of metal, there's no denying that Saxon are one of the greatest bands to ever emerge from the United Kingdom. The group was founded in the Yorkshire town of Barnsley back in 1976 under the name Son Of A Bitch but wisely decided to change the name to Saxon, which represented a long-time lyrical theme of the band, namely it's fascination with British history. The band quickly built up a following, becoming one of the leading bands in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and gained support slots with the likes of Motorhead before releasing their self-titled debut in 1979. While the first album didn't fare too well commercially or critically, the 1980 release "Wheels Of Steel" earned the band two hit singles with the album's title track and the song, "747 (Strangers In The Night)" along with the future fan favourite, "Motorcycle Man." The album itself proved successful too as it hit the British album charts at number five. The band released a third album, "Strong Arm Of The Law" only four months after "Wheels Of Steel," which also did well critically and sales wise and featured some of the band's best known work including, "20,000 Feet," "Dallas 1PM" and the title track. After this, the band completed the third album in what is regarded as their "classic album trilogy" and released "Denim And Leather" in 1981. The album also entered the British album charts, this time at number nine and once again featured future live staples such as "Princess Of The Night," "And The Bands Played On" and the anthemic title track.

Saxon then released "Power & The Glory," which, while not being their most acclaimed album in their catalogue, is their best selling. As a result of the record's success, the band were able to embark on a headlining run of European arenas, taking a little known German band by the name of Accept along with them. Saxon continued their streak of commercial success when they released "Crusader" in 1984 and took two struggling bands on the road with them named Krokus and Motley Crue, allowing these bands to reach wider audiences. The band were to experience a backlash of sorts however, when they released "Innocence Is No Excuse" in 1985, with many European fans accusing the band of "selling out" to try and reach a more commerical audience in America, though in recent years it has earned a place in the hearts of fans. The group continued to do well throughout the rest of the decade, but found major success in America somewhat hard to find, resulting in the band being released from EMI Records after the "Destiny" album was released in 1989. They then signed to Virgin Records and released a string of albums which went largely unnoticed by the media.

A career resurgence of sorts began to happen in the late '90s however, with the band being invited to headline such festivals as Bloodstock and Wacken Open Air. Commercial success reared it's head once again in 2007 when they took part in Harvey Goldsmith's "Get Your Act Together," where Goldsmith attempted to restore the band to the popularity it had experienced in the 1980s. He did so by bringing in two new producers to oversee the band's new single, "If I Was You," from their album, "The Inner Sanctum." The single entered the top ten in countries all around the globe. Their most recent album, "Into The Labyrinth" has seen them continue to gain critical acclaim and tour with the likes of Anvil and Doro supporting them. Although "Into The Labyrinth" was only released last year, there is reportedly already plans to record a new album, along with a new documentary movie on the way entitled, "Heavy Metal Thunder." Whether you're a fan or not, no-one can dispute that Saxon have earned their place in heavy metal history by being one of the hardest working and most dedicated bands in the business, with a loyalty to their genre that is unquestionable. More...

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Sunday Old School: Tommy Vance

After the death of heavy metal icon Ronnie James Dio was confirmed seven days ago, it made me think about the true pioneers of the genre, which Ronnie certainly was, and how we never expect them to leave us. In the United Kingdom, one of the men who helped define heavy metal and hard rock as we know it wasn't a musician, but a radio DJ and occassional television presenter by the name of Tommy Vance. Whilst it may seem strange to dedicate this weekly segment to a DJ and not a band, ask any of the older metal fans in Britain about Tommy Vance, and they'll tell you he was just as essential to the genre as Ozzy, Lemmy or Rob Halford.

Perhaps a little background information would be useful however. Tommy Vance was actually born with the name Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston in Oxfordshire, England in 1940. He began his radio career in the United States, using the alias "Rick West" but took the "Tommy Vance" moniker from a DJ who failed to show up to a show on Seattle's KOL station. He was forced to return to the United Kingdom in 1965 as a result of immigration difficulties. When he did return, he worked with the infamous pirate radio station, Radio Caroline before eventually being signed to BBC Radio 1, where he worked with equally revered DJ John Peel on the Top Gear programme, which specialised in "progressive" music.

His crucial role in British heavy metal would be kick started in 1978 however, when he began presenting the "Friday Rock Show" (which is currently hosted by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson.) He presented this show for fifteen years and gave headbanging Brits a place where they could not only hear their favourite bands, but also discover many new ones that wouldn't have been known otherwise. Vance was a particular champion of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and would often feature interviews and performances from bands within the movement, as well as talking with the rock and metal stars of the day including Black Sabbath and AC/DC. He was also a regular fixture at the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, where he would DJ the event inbetween bands, as well as introduce them. However, after writing a critical report of the 1986 edition of the event, he was dropped from the next festival and banned from even attending.

In his later years, Vance appeared on several television shows including Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Dumber And Dumber, Brass Eye and The Eleven O' Clock Show (which featured a young Ricky Gervais) where he allegedly encouraged people to call TV's Handy Andy and "tell him he's a twat." He hosted a revived Friday Rock Show on VH1 which featured interviews and music videos from the biggest and best names in metal and rock and made one last big contribution to the British rock scene by co-founding the popular internet radio station TotalRock. He sadly passed away from a stroke on March 6th, 2005 and his memory and work was celebrated with a 15 hour tribute show on TotalRock as well as a tribute concert at the famous Royal Albert Hall in London, which featured the recently reunited Judas Priest, along with the Scorpions and Deep Purpler singer Ian Gillan, along with special appearances by Bruce Dickinson and The Who frontman Roger Daltrey. More...

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Sunday Old School: Anthrax

Given the news this week that Joey Belladonna would be returning to Anthrax, sparking off another round in the never ending war of words between Joey Belladonna fans and John Bush fans, it seemed like a good time to take a look at New Yorks most popular thrash metal band. Anthrax was formed by guitarists Scott Ian and Danny Lilker, taking the name from a biology textbook. A few members came and went before they settled on the lineup of Charlie Benante on drums, Neil Turbin on vocals and guitarist Dan Spitz, prompting Lilker to switch to bass. They recorded their debut album, "Fistful Of Metal" in 1983 and released it in January 1984, achieving some international success when the album reached the top ten in Britain. However, the band fired Lilker soon after the release, replacing him with Benantes nephew, Frank Bello. Neil Turbin would also be released from the group after a while, which led to guitarist Scott Ian handling vocal duties for a short time, though these performances mostly consisted of covers of hardcore songs.

The band would eventually find a new permanent singer in 1985 and released an EP named "Armed And Dangerous" soon after. Later that year, the band released "Spreading The Disease," followed by "Among The Living" in 1987. Both of which garnered much critical acclaim and saw a dramatic change in personality for the band, who had decided to ditch the traditional leather and studs look of such bands as Judas Priest and wear clothing they felt more comfortable such as shorts. The band also introduced a more pop culture influence into their lyrics, writing songs about the comic book Judge Dredd ("I Am The Law"), comic actor John Belushi ("Efilnikufesin") and other movies and books. They followed with another highly praised album called "State Of Euphoria" in 1988, which featured a cover of the song "Antisocial" by French band Trust, earning them a minor hit single in the United Kingdom. They also gained some more mainstream notoriety when they appeared on the hit comedy show, "Married... With Children." They released their final album with Belladonna, "Persistence Of Time" in 1990, which was also well received, before collaborating with legendary rap group Public Enemy in 1991 for the "Bring The Noise" single and tour, which also featured Primus and Ice-T. More...

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Sunday Old School: Crowbar

Many cities across the world have become known for producing many great metal bands. Birmingham, New York, San Francisco are just a few, but one that frequently gets forgotten is New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans produced arguably the greatest bands in the sludge metal genre, and perhaps the greatest of these bands was Crowbar. Crowbar was formed from the ashes of hardcore outfit The Slugs, with the original lineup consisting of bass player Todd Strange, drummer Craig Nunenmacher, guitarist Kevin Nooger and frontman Kirk Windstein. They released their debut album, "Obediance Thru Suffering" in 1991 which was well received but failed to sell well. However, the band was helped tremedously by Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo when he produced their next album and gave the band a support slot on one of Pantera's national tours, as well as wearing a Crowbar shirt in the video for "I'm Broken."

Crowbar drummer Craig Nunenmacher decided to leave the band in 1996 and was replaced by Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod. This lineup released the albums "Broken Glass" and "Odd Fellows Rest" in 1996 and 1998 respectively, before the band briefly recruited drummer Sid Montz for the 2000 album, "Equilibrium." Montz was replaced soon after with original drummer Nunenmacher, though once again his tenure would be brief, as he left to join Black Label Society soon after. The band then went on a hiatus for a while as Windstein concentrated on working with Down, the band which also featured Pantera members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown, along with Corrosion Of Conformity leader Pepper Keenan and long-time friend Jimmy Bower, before returning with a completely new lineup in 2004, which included Rex Brown and guitarist Steve Gibb, former guitarist of Black Label Society and son of Bee Gee, Barry Gibb. This incarnation of the band released the album, "Lifesblood For The Downtrodden" in 2005, though new members were recruited soon after in the form of bassist Patrick Bruders (of Goatwhore fame) and drummer Tommy Buckley (best known for his work in Soilent Green.)

The band has continued to tour since 2005 with the promise of a new album in the near future. Crowbar's continuity has been disrupted several times in recent years, owing largely to frontman Kirk Windstein being involved in Down, as well as Kingdom Of Sorrow, the band he founded with Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta in 2005. The band replaced guitarist Steve Gibb last year with Kingdom Of Sorrow guitarist Matthew Brunson and have since been touring steadily, most recently as special guests to Sepultura in Europe. Their influence on modern metal can be heard today, with many bands citing them as an influence and they remain one of the greatest acts to ever emerge from the legendary city of New Orleans... along with Fats Domino of course. More...

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Sunday Old School: Iron Maiden

Where would heavy metal be in a world without Iron Maiden? Love them or loathe them, there's no denying that Iron Maiden is one of the most important bands in the world today; not just in metal, but all of music. They have influenced countless bands and sold millions around the globe and remain as relevant today as they were 30 ago, if not moreso. The band was formed in Leyton, East London by bass player Steve Harris in 1975 and struggled for a good five years before releasing their debut album. They began their success by securing a residency at The Cart and Horses pub where they would attract fans of hard rock that were bored of the popular prog rock bands at the time, but weren't attracted to punk. The band joined forces with a young singer named Paul Di'anno in 1978 and from there began their rise to the top of the emerging New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. They recorded a demo on New Years Eve of that year named, "The Soundhouse Tapes" which sold out within a few weeks and by December the next year, they had signed a major deal with EMI Records. They released their self-titled debut in April 1980 which went straight in the British album charts at number 4 and capitalised on this success by touring with big name hard rock and heavy metal bands such as KISS and Judas Priest (who had just released their classic album, "British Steel" at the time.) Maiden quickly followed this with a second studio album named, "Killers" which featured former Urchin guitarist Adrian Smith, who had replaced guitarist Dennis Stratton. Although "Killers" did not do as well as the previous album in terms of chart success, it did well enough for the band to be booked in the United States, where they were just as well received as they were in England.

The band made another change in the lineup after finishing their tour of America, this time it would be Paul Di'anno who was to find himself sacked. The group hired Samson vocalist Bruce Dickinson after he met with their manager Rod Smallwood at the Reading Festival and the band recorded the album, "The Number Of The Beast" which is considered today as one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever made and propelled Iron Maiden from being a succesful band to rock superstars, topping the charts in the United Kingdom. From there, the band recorded a string of albums which continued to sell well and garner critical acclaim, including "Piece Of Mind" and "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son." Another lineup change was to occur in 1989 when guitarist Adrian Smith quit the band was replaced by former Gillan axe man Janick Gers. This lineup of the band recorded the album, "No Prayer For The Dying" which not particularly well received by fans, though it did earn the band their first chart topping single in Britain with "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter." They followed by releasing "Fear Of The Dark" in 1992 which was better received by fans, but not by much. Following this release and two live albums, singer Bruce Dickinson quit to pursue his solo career and was replaced by Wolfsbane vocalist Blaze Bayley. The "Blaze era" of the band produced several outstanding songs but was not met with great enthusiasm from fans of Dickinson's voice, though both albums recorded with Bayley entered album charts around the world.

Blaze Bayley left the band by mutual consent in 1999 and Maiden shocked fans by announcing that not only was guitarist Adrian Smith returning to the band, but so was singer Bruce Dickinson. After a "greatest hits" tour, the band recorded a brand new album named, "Brave New World" which was well received by fans and entered the top ten in the United Kingdom. The band continued to tour relentlessly being supported by such bands as Halford and Queensryche along the way, before releasing another studio album in 2003 entitled, "Dance Of Death" and hitting the road hard once again. Both of these tours supporting these albums received the live album treatment, in the form of 2002's "Rock In Rio" album and 2005's "Death On The Road" set. After a break from touring the band released another album in 2006 entitled, "A Matter Of Life And Death." Although it proved well receieved, the band angered several fans by performing the entire album on the subsequent tour, with only five classic songs in the set list. After touring in support of the album, the band embarked on the "Somewhere Back In Time" tour which saw them focusing on material from their mid 80s catalogue. After a well earned break, the band entered the studios last to record their fiteenth studio album, which recently revealed to be named, "The Final Frontier," fueling rumours that this is to be their last album. Whether it is or not, the legacy that Iron Maiden carved out for themselves is one that rock superstardom is made of and they will forever be considered one of the greatest bands in the history of heavy metal. More...

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Sunday Old School: Suffocation

The New York death metal scene may not be quite as revered as the New York hardcore scene, but no-one can deny that it has produced some great results. One of the most acclaimed bands in death metal emerged from this scene, namely the grindcore-influenced Suffocation. Suffocation was formed in 1989 by vocalist Frank Mullen, guitarists Guy Marchais and Todd German, bassist Josh Barohn and a friend of his, though lineup would prove to be brief, as Mullen formed a new version of the band shortly afterwards with guitarists Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs, along with drummer Mike Smith, all previously in the band Mortuary. The band took influences from the likes of British grindcore pioneers Napalm Death and Brazilian thrashers Sepultura and released their first EP, "Human Waste," in 1991 through Relapse Records, with a full length debut, "Effigy Of The Forgotten," following later that year via Roadrunner Records. The album was well received and the band went back to the studio to record their second album soon after. "Breeding The Spawn" was released in 1993 through Roadrunner, which was not quite as praised as the bands previous effort.

Drummer Mike Smith left the band after this release and was replaced by Doug Bohn and the band recorded their third studio album, "Pierced From Within," which has since become an extremely influential album in the field of extreme metal. After an EP in 1998 named "Despise The Sun," the band decided to call it a day. The band was not to remain inactive for long however, as Mullen decided to reform the band in 2003, being joined by original guitarist Guy Marchais, as well as guitarist Terrance Hobbs and drummer Mike Smith, in addition to new bass player Derek Boyer, who was formerly a member of Decrepit Birth. They quickly released a new album, entitled "Souls To Deny," the next year and set about making their mark in the world of metal once again by touring relentlessly, before releasing another well received album in 2006, which was self-titled. The band gained exposure to a completely different kind of audience in 2007, when they appeared in a commercial for The History Channel's documentary on The Dark Ages before splitting from Relapse Records to sign with German label Nuclear Blast for their next album, "Blood Oath," which was released in 2009 and earned the band their first entry into the Billboard album charts, when it reached number 135.

Suffocation is currently touring in support of "Blood Oath" and plans to release a documentary film entitled "Legacy Of Violence" this year, along with many other projects including a comic book and a video game. They are regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of death metal and many young bands today can be seen wearing Suffocation merchandise and praising the individual members as well as the band itself, with drummer Mike Smith being credited as one of the best drummers in the genre and AllMusic.com naming Frank Mullen as one of the best vocalists in death metal. More...

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