I have been critical of The Rods more than once on this blog, and rightfully so. I find most of their work to be boorish and more of a spoof than Spinal Tap themselves. But in 1980 they released their first album (limited release), and I am not quite sure they had completely gone down that path yet. Of course the mini-instrumental, In Your Panties, was a sign of things to come, but in 1980, The Rods were a legitimate metal band, albeit sex, drugs and rock n roll are the main themes.
Despite some really odd choices (a The Rascals cover?) there is some promise here. Music Man, Power Lover and Crank it Up are among my favorites, but most of the songs here are really good. The album was re-released in 1981 with a few different tracks and a different running order, but I am going with the original for the review and will skip the 1981 version.
I really like the guitar work of Bernie Tormé here. Plus I have always liked Ian Gillan’s voice, so Gillan’s solo work is a no brainer for me. Sure, there are times here where I think I’m listening to Deep Purple, but this work stands very well on its own.
Unchain Your Brain, Sleeping on the Job and No Easy Way are real highlights, but the rest of this album is very cool too. Many different types of songs here and most of them are good. One or two clunkers (If You Believe Me is a little bit much) here, but overall a good record.
A new singer really helped this band out, as Envoy of Death is an improvement over Cycle of Life, released just a few months prior. While the production is also better, it still leaves something to be desired.
Bottom line is that while this is raw and a bit simple, Envoy of Death was a prelude to more forms of extreme metal and in my opinion is an overlooked album by many fans of the genre. Insane Rebels is a great song and most of the other are very good. Unfortunately, the epic Black Contract, clocking in at over 9 minutes is too long and really not good enough to warrant that length, and the album as a whole suffers from that.
Stand Up and Fight is a traditional metal album in every sense. There are no sappy ballads to get in the way, just straight forward metal. This album surely has its flaws and none of the members of Quartz will dazzle you with their musical prowess. Nevertheless, I consider this a gem from the NWOBHM and a worthy of being included in any discussion about it.
The title track, Charlie Snow and Rock N Roll Child are my personal favorites and while none of the other songs are busts, none of them are all that great either. There is a Tony Iommi influence here (he was involved in their first album) but I would not accuse them of being Sabbath clones.
Former Scorpions and UFO guitarist Michael Schenker launched his solo career and left his British former band mates in the dust. While I wouldn’t go as far as calling Schenker a virtuoso, he is still an excellent guitarist. Plus he has an excellent supporting cast, Simon Phillips is a great drummer, Gary Barden is a quality singer and Roger Glover did an excellent job as producer.
Armed and Ready, Victim of Illusion and Looking Out from Nowhere are all great straightforward rockers, but there are many more layers here, including the excellent instrumental, Into the Arena.