Monday, March 02, 2015

The Top 40 of 1980 (10 - 6)

10. Witchfynde – Give ‘Em Hell

Witchfynde’s debut had it all (except for singing and production, but nothing new there).  The songs were epic and it had an acceptable level of heaviness for the day.  Sure, there are some weak spots, but overall it is very strong.  There are rare occasions where the rawness and underproduction actually works, and while I will not call it an asset, it does not bother me as much here as it does on other albums from 1980 (i.e. Sarcofagus).

It is disappointing that they changed direction so quickly, as they could have become a real metal band had they stayed the course.  They had the unique ability to combine great riffs and more epic pieces into a cohesive record.  They had better riffs than Fist, they were more epic than Diamond Head, and they were heavier than Samson.

Sure the beginning of Leaving Nadir is a bit slow, but the song picks up.  Unto the Ages of Ages is just short of 9 minutes, but it done so much better than many of the epics of the day.  Perhaps the spoken parts in the middle are a bit naff, but the song in its entirety is quite good.  The other 5 tracks are all great metal tracks.

9. Tygers of Pan Tang – Wild Cat

The Tygers were one of my favorite bands of the NWOBHM with three solid released before they went to pot.  This debut is my least favorite of the three, but it is still a classic release.  Jess Cox was certainly not the best singer, but he was at least competent.  The Tygers also had a decent producer in Chris Tsangarides.  I really like the drumming on this record too. I think Brian Dick was an underrated drummer.

The Tygers were not afraid to exceed five and six minutes with their songs and the risk pays off in Killers.  Not so much in Insanity or Slave to Freedom, but both are decent.  The best tracks here are Wild Catz, Suzie Smiled and the aforementioned Killers.

8. Girlschool – Demolition

As a kid, this was one of the many bands I always dismissed.  I guess I was a teenage sexist.  That was a big mistake.  This is an infectious record with lots of riffs, licks and hooks.  Granted, it is not as heavy as some other releases of the day, but it is certainly a metal album. 

Kelly Johnson was a competent guitarist and the rhythm section does a good job as well.  Good vocals and good production compliment a collection of great songs.  There are no epics here, but they don’t waste your time with sappy ballads either.  The best songs are Breakdown, Emergency, Nothing to Lose and the cover song, Race With the Devil.   

7. Judas Priest – British Steel

This album represents a change in style for Judas Priest.  It’s a little hard to describe, but any fan of Judas Priest will acknowledge the difference in sound in British Steel and the subsequent 3 records from the first 5 albums.  I think the change in drummer had a lot to do with it.  Dave Holland was a lot more straightforward and steady, where Les Binks was more creative and progressive in his style.  I am not sure why Binks never caught on elsewhere, especially with the explosion of metal bands in 1980.

Of course in 1980, Priest were veterans in a sea of metal rookies, and it showed as they outshined almost all of the rookies in the class of 1980.  Interestingly, this album spawned three singles.  In my book, those are the worst three songs on the record, and in fact it is those three songs that knock British Steel out of the top 5.  The other six tracks are all timeless metal classics.

6. Saxon – Wheels of Steel

The first of two brilliant Saxon albums to be released in 1980, Wheels of Steel was a giant leap forward from Saxon’s 1979 debut.  There is a great flow to this album and in the days of Side 1/Side 2, I think the 2 sides here are quite distinct, even in the age of CD’s and MP3’s.  Both sides have something to offer, but there is a clear difference.

Side 1 is the one most people will recall.  Motorcycle Man, Stand Up and be Counted, 747 and Wheels of Steel are all Saxon classics.  Side 2 is a little different with Suzie Hold On and See the Light Shining being stand out tracks, but the rest of the side is not as good with “filler” tracks, Freeway Mad, Machine Gun and Street Fighting Gang.

Saxon would continue an uphill climb that would temporarily put them at the top of the NWOBHM pack.  Wheels of Steel  is the beginning of that climb and an all-time great record.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff here just as I thought there would be.

I don't remember liking Give ‘Em Hell as much as you do. I do remember thinking it was okay, so I guess this is another one I need to listen to again.

I liked Wild Cat as well and totally agree with you about "Killers" being the best track on the album.

I didn't give Girlschool much of a chance either back in the day, but have since found them to be pretty good. Demolition is a good rockin' album.

Now we get to the heavy hitters! The Steel!

British Steel is a great album and you are right it marks a change for Priest and a good one. Don't get me wrong I like the earlier stuff too, but with British Steel I think they really became Heavy Metal.

Wheels of Steel, "Hey boy, there's 30,000 watts here you know!" Saxon is cool and this is a fine album. Way better than their first one.

Well, there it is and just as I said there was a few surprises, but the closer you get to the bottom or top of the list, depending how you want to look at it, the less surprised I am.

Good list. Can't wait for the last bit.

Cowboy from Hell said...

I don't get why so many "metal" fans like these wierd old bands. Metal is Slayer and Pantera. Not Girlschool

Ozzy Rulezz said...

Funny how so monay of these groups are out of business. there is no one like Ozzy & Sharon!!