Diamond Head - Diamond Head

Diamond Head cover
Diamond Head
Diamond Head
Dissonance Productions
As ever, I must point out that the thing with s/t albums is that they’re either debuts and if you “break” as an artist that means possibly really good, with the exception of a few cases. Or if they come later on in one’s career, they either tend to signify a “seminal/pivotal” album that people/band members feel encapsulates the best qualities of the band or is just a desperate attempt to cash in/get attention, just as well as 90% of the “sequel” albums that usually don’t hold a candle to the originals.
The thing with Diamond Head is that while they had a semi decent run with original singer Sean Harris and then a few tours and even a couple of albums with decent replacement Nick Tart (however an Australian resident – which meant high traveling expenses etc.) they were mostly possible, not because of their own success but because Metallica, more or less covered half of “Lightning to the Nations” so they money from these “rights” kept rolling in for quite a while… not too shabby.
Enter Rasmus Bon Anderson, a guy that sounds more Scottish or Swedish than English, but is a Brit after all speculation and who the band acquired after trying out some other people from long running British bands (ie Andy Pyke of Marshall Law etc.) at gigs, and who became the band’s singer, augmenting their rather stable since the mid-00s line up after touring with them a couple of years ago. Now the band wasn’t initially interested in doing a new album, but touring and apparently hearing how good a fit Anderson was, Brian Tatler, the long standing band’s guitarist, chief writer and lead figure, had a change of heart and so the band started writing the album in early 2015. They collaborated on it and will be releasing it to the public shortly.
Actually what’s shocking is how good the album they came up with is. And the team spirit and renewed energy and sense of purpose are quite evident both in the performances as well as the overall tone of the album. Pretty much mixing all previous eras of the band with a bit of an emphasis on the earlier days it actually manages to sound like the heir apparent to the band’s classic albums. Rasmus, without trying to emulate Harris, does have a similar, if not a little rougher timbre and sounds pretty good on top of all those “classy/classic” riffs that Tatler creates, but what’s interesting is that Anderson’s performances don’t allow you any second guessing, he has the attitude and the confidence and it shows in his performances.
The album also does a bit of everything, with the focus being on political and environmental themes, while some more abstract and lighter subjects are also touched upon as well. Both the more melodic as well as the more aggressive and mystical sides of the band are re-visited here.
“Bones” uses some symbolism and kind of gothic imagery in combination with some riffs that are very signature and would easily site very well on any of the bands “classic” albums. In fact it feels a bit like the more sophisticated and a little slower cousin of “The Prince”
“Shout at the Devil” weirdly enough takes the whole “evil” theme and tone and reverses it on its head… while it’s a brilliant enough song, the chorus is a bit “weird” at best… the band sounds more like a “Metallica” version of themselves, here and maybe Ras’ grit is partly to blame for that… because we all know who was the originator of those “riffs”/licks that Metallica so loved.
“Set My Soul on Fire” is slower and has a “phat” riff combined with some also highly symbolical lyrics… while it take a little bit to set in, once it begins the choruses as well as laying down some more complex riffs, it really works to great effect also giving a strong nod to some of the darker material on the MCA albums.
“See You Rise” has another cascading riff and it keeps the heaviness but it’s all done in such a pleasing yet suffocating way that it’s quite amazing and people say that Ghost have nice atmosphere… meh.
“All the Reasons You Live” feels like a natural product of its predecessors and just adds a suspended keyboard motif that repeats here and there adding a somewhat more instrumented/pseudo symphonic air to the gloomy heavy metal that the band attempts.
“Wizards Sleeve” manages to combine “Helpless” mood and music wise with having a good time and finishing inside the “Wizard’s Sleeve” (a euphemism for the female genitalia…. Hi I’m Borat, I wanna have sexytime!). It’s not as bad as it sounds, but the band must be taking the piss a bit with this one... effin Brits…
“Our Time is Now” is probably one of the heavier, more aggressive tracks on here, highly political and anti-fascist and anti-war, but probably one of the least interesting musically… here the message is more important than the messenger I guess...
You know the funny thing is that Tatler is the master of managing to write stuff that sounds quite typical – he’s got a few modes he works in and he writes either more up-tempo stuff or heavier crunchier stuff, all conforming to the “Diamond Head” identity, without particularly recycling himself, which is a little “rare.
“Speed” is not exactly a hit, but as a meat and vegs rocker, it easily manages to get your head nodding, even banging at times… plus it’s got a nice couple of solos there, simple but highly effective.
“Blood on My Hands” is a little more ponderous and mid-tempo and it’s quite surprising how the band manages to mostly stay in mid-tempo and sounding like it does, without being boring…
“Diamonds” is a nice ditto, driven by a cutty and sharp riff that accentuates the whole track, which is a bit of a “patting themselves in the back” or “blowing their own trumpet” (oooer misus, you and you wizard’s sleeve) that’s better than it sounds on paper.
Lastly, “Silence” is probably the more mystical shit, the band has come up since “Ismael”… and a little bit of a “Kashmir/Stargazer”, moment… you know a variation of that rhythm and riff, more eastern influences than smoking a hookah and all that. It’s actually quite a nice n’ epic, if not a little extended closer to a really good album that feels like it might have worked a little better if it was tracked a little earlier, but still it’s a minor complain.
The production is typical of how the band sounds, not exactly “thin” but more hollow than a lot of modern ones and I guess by this point in time, if you like the band you sort of expect them to sound “that way”, so it’s nothing to complain about, although I would pray for some more inspired artwork, because this logo variant is sort of getting old by now (so many live and compilations and re-releases) it almost feels like the “Whitesnake” seal, (never enough variations in different colors)…
If you like Diamond Head, this will not disappoint at all, (it’s Diamond Head sounding more or less like themselves)… if you don’t (#$%# %#$) and if you’re not aware of them, oh well, overlook the fact that Metallica covered half their debut and just listen for yourselves… it’s some good shit!