Clearly, Samson is best known as Bruce Dickinson’s former band, and for a good reason. That reason is he is light years ahead of the rest of the band in terms of talent. Dickinson fronting Samson was like Steve Carlton pitching for the 1972 Phillies, but I digress. Samson was a blues/rock band that got swept up in the emerging metal scene and Head On had a more metal sound than the previous record.
This is a good album although it fails and falters from time to time. Paul Samson did not have a real heavy guitar sound and quite frankly was just not a great songwriter. For me the highlights are the less “popular” tracks like, Take it Like a Man, Manwatcher and Hammerhead. I think the single Vice Versa goes nowhere and it a glorified blues song, nothing more. The closer Walking Out on You also meanders and just takes up time and space.
This is a bit of a surprise pick. Hailing from Los Angeles, Beowulf was a promising young metal band. Their first and only album, Slice of Life sounds like it could have been out of the NWOBHM, as it had many similar characteristics (average vocals, good guitars, bad production). Unfortunately, Beowulf could not keep it together and disbanded.
Side 1 is excellent, with Ain’t Getting Any Younger, London Woman and Hideaway. Side 2 is a little spotty, Getaway is great, but the rest of the album is a not quite as finished and sounds a bit thrown together.
In their early days, Van Halen were lumped in with the heavy metal genre. Their beginnings as an opening act for Black Sabbath and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar sound were clear indicators of a link to the genre. The benefit of history tells us Van Halen were never really a metal band, but their real departure from the genre was not complete until 1982’s Diver Down.
Women and Children First is a solid heavy rock album. There is nothing unexpected here; great guitar, charismatic vocals and slick production. The best tracks are And the Cradle Will Rock, Everybody Wants Some and Romeo Delight. Of course there are some silly numbers here, but not unusual or completely unwelcome from these guys.
Accept’s second album was their best to date, but they were yet to hit their stride. Udo’s voice on most of the tracks here is in perfect Udo form. The guitars are great and the overall sound is pretty tight. I think the album suffers a bit from a lack of continuity and cohesion, but most of the songs are good.
They lose me on the ballads (No Time to Lose and The King) and some of the songs are better than others, but overall a real strong effort, especially on the context of 1980. High points are Do It, China Lady and the title cut.
Brats is known to be the first appearance of the terrific guitar tandem of Hank Sherman and Michael Denner of Mercyful Fate fame. While Brats is a bit punkish and the overall quality is not not quite the Melissa/Don’t Break the Oath level, there are some really good songs here. There are times here where I feel like I’m listening to Joe Jackson’s vocals superimposed over At the Sound of the Demon Bell. The shortcomings here are vocals and production (common theme in 1980). In fact, the singer (who also played bass here) “retired” from singing sometime in the 1980's, and went on to play bass only for some really good bands (Stormwarrior, Iron Savior and Savage Circus).
Zombie People is one of my favorite tracks of the year, and other highlights include Oy-905, Pinned on My Eyelids and Accepted. The track Heavy Rocker has some great guitar work in the middle, but clocking in at 6:43 it is a bit of an earful. Start to finish, this is a good record, with only some sections difficult to get through.