REVIEW: DIAMOND HEAD – “Diamond Head”
“Diamond Head looked like they were going to be the next Led Zeppelin for a while” – Steve Harris, Iron Maiden
If you succeeded in catching the attention of the man whose band would go on to serve as the poster boys for the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal in the early ‘80s, your riffs ooze genius. If you had a 17 year old Danish tennis prodigy make a pilgrimage from Los Angeles to London, manically following you like a shadow and living on your couch for six weeks, your music has made an impact. If this kid went back to the States and formed a band that would engender a passion for heavy metal in every kid from Timbuktu to Mars, your music has successfully completed the tumultuous trajectory from underground anonymity to cult status.
Diamond Head were in the lead to be crowned as the champion purveyors of British heavy metal in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and Brian Tatler in particular was considered to be the one who would carry the torch that Ritchie Blackmore lit. Unfortunately, bad management took them down the shitter and Diamond Head disappeared into obscurity, only to be resurrected by ‘the biggest heavy metal band of all time’ that is Metallica, who have paid homage to them on multiple occasions.
Diamond Head’s current line-up consists of Brian Tatler (lead and rhythm guitars), Karl Wilkox (drums), Eddie Moohan (bass guitar), Andy Abberley (rhythm guitar) and Rasmus Anderson (vocals). They went into studio earlier this year in January to record their self-titled seventh album, ‘Diamond Head’. The album starts with “Bones” which opens with a haunting guitar riff that continues through the song, carrying the vocals along with it. The song changes textures during the pre-chorus into a clean guitar section, with the solo arpegiatted in the structure. Songs like “Wizard Sleeve”, “Speed” and “Shout at the Devil” scream NWOBHM-like riffage, with “Wizard Sleeve” having a blues-filled acoustic guitar section for a short while in the middle. “Blood on My Hands” has a slow riff structure very reminiscent of Slayer’s “South Of Heaven” before going into a passage akin to “Sucking My Love”, which is preceded by an acoustic breakdown. “Our Time Is Now” kaleidoscopically rotates between a bluesy riff structure and a haunting chorus, and gathers pace in the middle with a lot of fast palm-muted chugs for a short while.
“See You Rise” opens with an acoustic strum pattern. Tatler incorporates a rock ‘n’ roll structure in the song as opposed to heavy metal, and this song sticks out like a sore thumb on the record. He also incorporates the same chord progression in “All the Reasons You Live” as the one in the pre-chorus of “Bones”. “Diamonds” is thrashy in nature, but I have to say that there are certain parts of the song that do not go with its flow, and that the track lacks continuity. The record comes to an end with “Silence”, which is the darkest song of the album and has a very Ishmael -ish vibe. It starts with a psychedelic Arabic-influenced intro and then kicks into distortion with a strings background.
I honestly feel that ‘Lightning To The Nations’ is an album that can never be replicated again, and I did not expect to find songs of that quality in this record. It is astonishingly obvious that Brian Tatler listened to the NWOBHM trailblazer a gazillion times before writing songs for this record, as there are a lot of licks and chord progressions that have been lifted from the album and presented after being rewashed and dry cleaned. ‘Diamond Head’ does not contain the same fire that ‘Lightning to the Nations’ or ‘Borrowed Time’, but having said that, I can categorically say that Tatler has made a decent attempt to get back to his roots.
Tatler has made an attempt to frankenstein the classic Diamond Head sound with the sounds of the bands that he influenced, as I detected a tinge of Megadeth circa ‘Countdown To Extinction’ in the record. Sure, this album might not contain the hooks of their classic debut, but in comparison to the travesties that the band churned out during the ill-fated Nick Tart era, this album is a gigantinorbulous improvement.
I should add that Diamond Head have succeeded in finding a vocalist that is capable of doing justice to Sean Harris’ legacy. Rasmus Anderson has got an exemplary vocal range, and his voice is nothing short of enchanting. I felt that the sound could have been better as the guitars are a bit fuzzy and it is difficult to understand the lyrics in certain parts, but hey… for all you know, this is a deliberate attempt by the band to give the album a raw, unpolished vibe, again similar to that of their legendary debut.
With Lars Ulrich and his cohorts glorifying Brian Tatler and his group of conspirators as their heroes, Diamond Head’s music is an integral part of the curriculum of any kid with an inclination towards music in general, never mind heavy metal. “Am I Evil?” is one of the most recognizable riffs of all time (thanks to Metallica, of course) and is only second to songs like “Smoke On The Water”, “Whole Lotta Love” and “Iron Man”. It is extremely exciting to see the band returning back to form with ‘Diamond Head’, and musically speaking, I would place this album in-between ‘Borrowed Time’ and ‘Canterbury’. Let’s see what these titans have in store for their eighth album!