Posts Tagged ‘Rock’
Recorded in a basement studio, Ghosts is a manifesto of work spanning a five year period.
The band were in no hurry to produce your average throw away sing along but, rather hell bent on making a record that would stand the test of time. The four piece group from Portishead, near Bristol in the UK, definitely contributed to shaping what is now known as the Bristol sound with their domineering live presence and stellar reputation as professionals in their field.
Airbus take you on a vivid dream-like journey through unpredictable, surreal twists and turns to arrive at ultimate clarity and realization.
Yes, guitars, bass and drums tastefully back the velvet vocal tones to create melancholic harmony but, like the chameleon, the band’s multi instrumentation is also ever present as they push and pull the boundaries of contemporary British rock music.
They had cut their teeth in Bristol’s blooming music scene during the early and mid 1990′s and were fortunate to be invited to reconstruct a song by their critically lauded and commercially successful contemporaries, Portishead, for a USA release showcasing the band’s unique style.
Having spent a lifetime’s career, at that point, of playing live shows, Airbus then embarked on what would become a five-year marathon in the studio. They were meticulous about preserving the original ideas for each song written. There were several studio engineers that came and went but, Airbus’ attention to detail resulted in them becoming four very competent recording engineers themselves along with a huge catalog of quality compositions.
Ghosts is a refined and complete album that sits at the top of a mysterious, creativity-crammed volcano, that is active and bound to erupt at any time!
Airbus are : Nicholas Davidge – Vocals & Guitar, James Childs – Guitar & Vocals, Simon Hedges – Bass and Christopher Fielden – Drums
Additional instrumentation : Glockenspiel, Korg micro preset synthesizer, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, upright bass, Roland Space Echo and acoustic guitar.
Stormtrooper: Pride Before A Fall
Melodic Heavy Metal (NWoBHM)
Album of the week
In the past three or four decades of hard rock and heavy metal, there have been a great many bands, thousands probably, that had a fleeting existence, little recognition, perhaps never casting a shadow in a recording studio, or simply got lost in the corridors of history. Here’s Bristol’s Stormtrooper, one of those bands that rose like a Fourth of July bottle rocket only to disappear into the dark black foogy bogs of English heavy metal history. They had a single of some consequence, Pride Before A Fall, that peaked at eleven. They even did some recording for an album that never saw publication. Those recordings have been rediscovered and packaged as Pride Before A Fall The Lost Album by Bristol Archive Records.
There’s plenty of albums, lost or otherwise forgotten, the tapes sitting in a dusty cardboard box in somebody’s dank basement. Largely, most of those boxes shouldn’t be opened as the band is not worthy of remembrance or the recordings suck so bad that no amount of clever remastering can save them. But this is not the case for Stormtrooper. On all accounts, from their talent to creativity to the songs, this band should have had its day.
The larger reference for Stormtrooper is the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Obvious influences include peers like Maiden, but also Zeppelin as well. Yet, their melodic heavy metal goes beyond twin guitar harmony and a galloping pace. No, they added more than subtle progressive rock influences to their tunes. You can hear some Rush-like nuances in their sound and arrangements (often from their use of the Moog). Yet, one of the keenest features, or element, is the bass lines of Colin “Boggy” Bond. Not only are they present and persistent in the mix, they remind me of jazz bass, like Bond should be playing in a fusion band of some kind. Much the same could be said for Bob Starling’s guitar work. Though he could do his share of neo-classical widdling, his lines are smooth, fluid, and liberating. At times he reminds me of a more sophisticated Todd Rundgren, but with all the same passion.
Put all these variables together and you some creative and inspired songwriting, found in the epic tales of Battle of the Eve, After Battle, and Confusion, all mammoth melodic metal tunes with those prog nuances. Alternatively, Stormtrooper can slip into a classic hard rock groove with If It Takes A Man A Week and In The State In The City. Both songs are straight forward rockers with some quick pacing and groove. Suffice to say, Stormtrooper was well-rounded in their musical approach. They carefully reflected the NWoBHM trend, yet still twisted it to their own style when adding the progressive rock flavor. Probably something missing at the time.
Now found once again, and hopefully not forgotten once more, Stormtrooper’s Pride Before A Fall The Lost Album offers a modern resurrection of truly original melodic heavy metal in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal tradition. Easily recommended.
Can you talk to us more about your album “Pride Before A Fall”?
Yeah, it’s an album that unfortunately never saw the light of day. We had ‘Pride Before A Fall the single’ released on Heartbeat Records in 1980, and it did quite well, we made two further visits to studios in Bath and Bristol and recorded a cross section of our stuff that we thought would secure us a record deal, 10 tracks in all. Heartbeat were based in Bristol as well, but they were primarily a punk and new wave label. They mainly produced singles and unfortunately passed on the idea of releasing an album. So we had to look further afield. We had no manager. We were musicians, we had no management skills and we found it difficult to promote the band and our music outside of Bristol. And just two months after we recorded our last two tracks, things fell apart and our 5 year journey came to an end.
How did this album get lost in the shuffle and how did you find it?
Bob and I paid for the studio sessions and the masters. The band were given cassettes at the time, we should have had access to the 2″ masters that were kept at the studios and copies of the 1/4″ tapes. The 2″ masters were destroyed when the Studios closed in the late 80′s. And we had no idea what happened to the 1/4″ tapes. About five years ago I was approached by a German label, they were aware of the band through the single and heard a couple of other tracks I had uploaded to YouTube from one of the old cassettes. On the strength of that alone they were very keen in releasing an album. We sent them what we could, but they kept asking for better quality raw material which we didn’t possess at the time. I also felt a bit precious about my songs and dealing with a company in Germany wasn’t an ideal situation regardless of how much money they were offering up front and things just petered out.
Enter Mike Darby and Bristol Archive Records?
Yeah, I got a call out of the blue from this bloke who had the original 1/4″ tapes which contained 4 tracks from the first session at Crescent Studios in Bath. He had got them from Simon Edwards who owned Heartbeat records. I was astonished! He asked if we had anything else, I said we did but I didn’t know if it could be salvaged. Within a couple of days of that telephone conversation by pure coincidence Bob was clearing out his attic and came across a pile of unlabelled 1/4″ tapes. We borrowed an old reel to reel player, and amongst other things they contained 4 tracks from the missing second session from Crescent Studios and a further two tracks recorded as SAM Studios in Bristol. Mike Darby picked up the tapes along with an acetate and a cassette I had. And we waited with anticipation. The restoration and remastering incidentally was carried out by the same guy that engineered the original session at SAM 35 years earlier! The results were incredible it was like stepping back in time, I swear they sounded better than they did all those years ago. And only one track from the three sessions didn’t make it. We now had a brilliant album and a locally based Record company we could work closely with. Happy days.
How was the recording and writing process?
We didn’t have a lot of money and we needed to get things done quickly. The songs were supposed to be and to a certain extent still are demos. The album was recorded in just two Saturday mornings and one Sunday afternoon. I’d say out of the nine tracks only two were second takes and one of those was because of a technical issue! The rest were all first takes. I think maybe Bob overdubbed a little feedback on one track and we had a bit of wind and thunder added on another track. But it was basically a live recording in a studio environment. Apart from a little tidying here and there, there’s not a lot more we would have done to them anyway, In fact I love the spontaneity and urgency found in the tracks. The songs were written over a 5 year period with two different vocalists. I was a little bossy when it came to writing. The longer tracks I wrote, were quite complicated and I would present them to the band in sections at rehearsals sometimes over a period of several weeks. No internet then! There are a couple of tracks on the album born out of Bobs riffs, I would then frame them musically and Paul or Nigel would do their thing and write the lyrics. I was quite lucky to be given a free rein, I’m sure they would have kicked me if I’d got it wrong though.
The album plays with different styles – does one tend to shine the most depending on the lyrics’ theme?
As I said the songs were written over a period of time and obviously as a writer and as musicians we were evolving and improving all the time. Our musical tastes were heading in different directions as well. And subsequently our music is not easily categorised. That’s why this album is so brilliant. It’s so diverse but nothing is out of place. There are commercial songs and songs with such weird time signatures and structure it would take a good musician a month to work them out and there’s everything in between. It’s got everything. But as a collection it really holds together, because of our approach and delivery. I love every aspect of it.
What role does the 70s plays in your music?
To answer that question I really need to go back to the 60′s melody was everything then, I loved The Beatles and The Beach Boys. But The Kinks and The Small Faces, combined attitude with melody, which was something at a tender age and coming from a rough neighbourhood I latched onto. The first band I ever saw was Montrose with Sammy Hagar in 1974 and a little later that decade Zeppelin and Rush. All three bands had an affect on my thought process when it came to writing.
Any plans to hit the road?
We are all doing different things musically now, but if the album does well who knows?
Anything else happening next in Stormtrooper’s world?
Yeah, we have a dozen or more songs from the Stormtrooper days that didn’t make it to the studio, and we are at present rerecording them. We’re also trawling through live recordings of the band with a view of putting out a live album. It all depends on how ‘Pride’ is received, but the recordings deserve to be released one way or another and I’m sure they will.
Here’s what Stormtrooper’s press guy had to say about the forthcoming ‘Pride Before A Fall’ album to be released in August via the Bristol Archive Records imprint:
“It’s a little bittersweet. Such a shame that the band didn’t pick up the recognition that they deserved. But it’s a killer record. I was a bit surprised to hear the more proggy aspects. The album spans from Rush to Dio to Zepplin and back again, great stuff!”
You can order in advance now from the record shop
Here we have the digital release scheduled for 20th Feb 2015
The Dragons, 1976-77
I got a phone call, out of the blue, one day in the late spring of 1976. A Cockney voice identified himself as Alan Eden, just moved to Bristol, and partner in a new indie record production company with Donovan’s first call for the drum chair, renowned session musician Tony Cox.
They were cutting tracks with a singer-songwriter from Weston-Super-Mare named George Smith, Would I be interested in playing in a band they were putting together with bassist/vocalist Jo Burt, and did I have any songs?
The Cox tunes were truly awful; luckily George’s originals way better, and he sang great! Our 3 song demo, one each by Smith, Burt and myself got us an immediate offer of a deal from DJM Records’ staff producer Phil Samson. Shortly after Nick Howell replaced Alan, and it was this quartet who signed the contract. Recording tracks for a proposed debut album began on Halloween 1976 at DJM’s Oxford Street Studios in London, followed by sessions in January that would yield the groups’ only record release, the single ‘Misbehavin’ . George wrote the A side, Jo’s ‘Laid Back Lady’ went on the back. Assistant engineer at DJM, keyboardist Alan Wilder joined the ranks at this time; now we were five.
Despite prolific gigging, the apogee probably being a night at the Anson Rooms where we blew The Damned off stage, and some stellar reviews, (NME declared us ‘worth a special listen’, Black Echoes (!) noted ‘amazing empathy’), The Dragons’ musical mix of rock-blues with harmonies didn’t stand a chance against the gathering storm of UK punk rock as 1977 progressed.
We parted amicably at the end of the year with a studio reunion at Sound Conception on December 16th, during which two songs were taped that both appear on this download release, ‘Head Over Heels’ and ‘Look Out Below’.
George went on to have success with The Fans, Jo with Tom Robinson, me with The Records and NY Doll David Johansen, Nick with Decline And Fall, and Alan with Depeche Mode.
Take the band out of the context of the times, and you still have a great sounding record. Enjoy!
Huw Gower, NYC January 2015.
Colour photo ID:
L-R: Jo Burt (bass, vocals), Huw Gower (lead guitar, vocals), Alan Wilder (piano, vocals), George Smith (lead vocals, guitar), Nick Howell (drums, percussion)
Limited edition pressing of 450 cds, numbered, 44 page booklet, sleeve notes by Thomas Brooman – release date 6th October 2014
1. Magic Muscle: Free As A Bird
2. The Cortinas: Defiant Pose
3. The Spics: You And Me
4. Gardez Darkx: Bliss
5. The Radicals: Nights Of Passion
6. Talisman: Run Come Girl
7. The X-Certs: Queen And Country
8. The Media: New Blood
9. Joe Public: Yellow Runs Forever
10. The Spics: Angels In The Rain
11. Sneak Preview: Slugweird
12. The Various Artists: Unlucky In Love
13. The Various Artists: Time Of My Life
14. The Stingrays: Exceptions
15. The Untouchables: Keep On Walking
16. Wendy Partridge & Joanna Swan (The Spics): Fire
17. Shoes for Industry: Sheep Dog Trial In A Babylon
18. C.C. Sager: Deathbed Lullaby
19. The Fabulous Ratbites From Hell: Sparkle
20. Dragons: Best Of Both Worlds
21. The Vultures: She’ll Be Back
22. The Sidneys: Bleak Grey Skies
A successful reunion last week at The Fleece for The Spasmodics – you can check them out here: http://www.bristolarchiverecords.com/bands/Spasmodics.html
Pic by Garreth Johnson