wed 19/06/2024

Reissue CDs Weekly: Contract in Blood / Winds of Time | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Contract in Blood / Winds of Time

Reissue CDs Weekly: Contract in Blood / Winds of Time

Box sets dedicated to The New Wave of British Heavy Metal and UK thrash metal

Angel Witch: their ''Loser' is a highlight of 'Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979–1985'

Although the cover of the 19 May 1979 issue of the music weekly Sounds was dominated by a photo of American rocker Ted Nugent, attention was also grabbed by a trail for a feature on “Heavy Metal…The New British Bands”. The two-page article it related to was headlined If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It.

Under that were the words “The New Wave of British Heavy Metal: First in an Occasional Series”. The feature, by Geoff Barton, focussed on The Bandwagon, a heavy metal disco, and a triple-bill show at North London’s Music Machine with Angel Witch, Iron Maiden and Samson.

Sounds had been buttering-up its readers with metal for a while. A month earlier, its 7 April issue’s cover promoted “Heavy Metal: The New Wave”, a guide showcasing American bands like The Godz, Triumph, Van Halen and a smattering of Canadians. The Anglo-centric Barton followed up his article on 19 June with The New Wave of British Heavy Metal Part Two which covered one band, Def Leppard. Britain had now claimed its own new wave of heavy metal.

Winds of Time: The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal 1979–1985Despite the contemporaneous rise of Two-Tone, the mod revival and endless reiterations of punk, a growing fanbase and the music business embraced what was seen as a rebirth of metal. If backward looking (like Two-Tone et al), it was commercially viable. EMI issued the Metal for Muthas compilation album in February 1980 and, somewhat later in 1990, Barton and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich united to compile the New Wave of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited double CD. Its cover drew from an issue of Sounds.

The new triple-CD clamshell box set Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979–1985 arrives against a background, then, of continued fondness for a period when new metal bands were, seemingly, popping up weekly. Fifty-two such are featured. Def Leppard and Iron Maiden, for no given reason, are absent although other brand leaders are present: Diamond Head, Girlschool, Samson, Saxon, Tygers Of Pan Tang amongst them. More obscure names include Persian Risk, Satan’s Empire, Satan and Stormtrooper.

Also new in is Contract in Blood: A History of UK Thrash Metal, a similarly packaged five-disc box set which includes Atomkraft and Venom, who also crop up on Winds of Time. Despite this blurring of boundaries between the two collections, Contract in Blood's liner notes explain that thrash metal “fuses the technical chops of heavy metal with the speed of hardcore and the aggression of punk”. The set soundtracks a book of the same title written by its compiler, Ian Glasper.

Contract In Blood A History Of UK Thrash MetalObviously, both sets are aimed at committed fans.  Yet, like the recent what-happened-next punk box Burning Britain, Winds of Time and Contract in Blood chronicle strands of British rock which merit some scrutiny: for their intrinsic interest as sub-cultural factions and because they were vital elements of the pop-cultural fragmentation which followed the initial codification of punk.

This, though, does not necessarily make either box set an easy listen. Discs One and Two of Winds of Time are mostly concerned with bands which stick to rock templates which pre-existed or ran alongside punk. Not so new wave in terms of a fresh musical style, then. The set opens with Diamond Head’s Deep Purple-indebted “The Prince”. It’s followed by Fist’s “Brain Damage”, which foundationally nods to Led Zeppelin. Persian Risk’s “Too Different” suggests they had a few Rainbow albums at home. Heritage’s fascinating “Strange Place To Be” leans towards American AOR. Angel Witch’s poppy, glam-inclined “Loser” is a highlight. Disc Three is the most interesting as it assembles a greater number of bands which had clearly cocked an ear to punk and Motörhead, so consequentially injected an period-specific urgency into their approach. Warfare’s (pictured below right) “Metal Anarchy” exemplifies this, as do Mournblade’s peppy “Anthem Of Chaos” and Blitzkrieg’s unruly “A Time Of Changes”.

Winds Of Time The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal 1979–1985_warfareOverall, Contract in Blood is, as per its genre-defining remit, a more hard-edged listen. The relationship to punk is made clear by Re-Animator’s “Too Drunk To Fuck”: a Dead Kennedys cover. Although all five discs dole out the expected ear-bashing, the track sequencing evinces a care which contrasts with such contrary music. The five discs are arranged by British region: The North-East, The North-West & The Midlands, and so on. And, in a move that’s radical in terms of the usually archive-based genre overview compilation, contemporary bands are sequenced alongside recordings from as early as 1981. Contract in Blood confirms that UK thrash is alive and well.

Of the two, Contract in Blood is the more user friendly. Its booklet’s introductory essay is followed by a track-by-track commentary with details of each track’s original release. The same cannot be said of Winds of Time. Its booklet features a meandering essay only, and there is no readily discernable information on how the tracks were initially issued or when they were recorded. The back page of the booklet gives date ranges for groups of tracks and there are odd bits of detail in the essay’s text, but this careless omission is deeply frustrating.

Ultimately, Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979–1985 and Contract in Blood: A History of UK Thrash Metal demonstrate that rock in the form of the endlessly malleable heavy metal was not eradicated by the supposed new broom of punk rock and, to a degree, was revitalised by it. For this reminder alone, both releases are welcome.

Heavy metal was not eradicated by the supposed new broom of punk rock and, to a degree, was revitalised by it

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