Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Italian Wave of British Heavy Metal

 Over here in Italy there's a very good magazine called Classix Metal, that devotes itself to writing about 80s Heavy Metal of all shades. It's essentially a well-produced fanzine (which is surely the only way to describe a publication that has a nine page Raven retrospective or an article on Mausoleum Records). Still, it's all the better for it, meaning that it's enthusiastic about its subject matter and doesn't take itself too seriously.

In a recent issue there was an article that traced the history of Heavy Metal in Italy. This was interesting to me, as I don't normally associate sunny, Mediterranean countries with Heavy Metal (I'm trying to think of what could be the Italian version of Birmingham - Turin? Not quite the same).

One thing that struck me was that a lot of the Italian bands had names that would make the UKIP proud: Gunfire, Spitfire, Royal Air Force, Steel Crown and my personal favourite - Drunkards. It's an often overlooked fact how NWOBHM bands promoted British culture abroad - well, if you can call wearing a sleeveless Union Jack shirt promoting culture. Nonetheless, the net effect was that in the 80s, there were a raft of European Metal Bands being formed who had names straight out of the Warlord or Victor comics.

Having said all that, the band that really made an impression were the tastefully-named Death SS. The band were active from the late 70s until the late 80s and seem to have been a cross between Alice Cooper, Kiss and Scooby Doo Where Are You? You can see a picture of them from 1980 below (I scanned it directly from the magazine as I didn't fancy putting "Death SS picture" into Google).

And in case you're wondering - and I know you are - the Mummy played bass.

Still, everybody needs to move with the times (even a band with songs called Zombie Terror and Black Mummy), and as the 80s progressed Death SS, like so many other bands, weren't immune to the increasing popularity of Hair Metal. Look at the photo below from 1988.

Def Leppard meets the Wolf Man! Even the Mummy had a soft perm. The faun seems to have turned into a badger, too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

10 Random Thoughts on "Heavy Metal Britannia"

1. All that "proto-metal" stuff with Blue Cheer, Cream and the Edgar Broughton Band etc didn't really convince and took up too much time. Metal is about more than just hitting the instruments hard, and as good as those bands were, I'm listening to the first Black Sabbath album as I write this, and none of these bands really anticipate or predict it. It all starts here.

2. Rob Halford seems a decent bloke.

3. Hasn't Brian Tatler off of Diamond Head aged badly? And since when were Diamond Head as important as Saxon and Iron Maiden?

4. Deep Purple's music hasn't aged too well. And they weren't really metal. Well, maybe "Speed King"

5. Burke Shelley is a bit of an arse

6. Bill Ward has a hell of a boozer's nose. But he seems a lovely man.

7. Judas Priest's influence is overlooked. If you look at the NWOBHM bands, their sound can be traced back to Black Sabbath - but they sound more like Judas Priest.

8. Most Heavy Metal musicians aren't very articulate when it comes to defining Heavy Metal: "It's kind of .. you know, heavy"

9. Mick Box's interesting "ear flaps" theory that bands were protected from the noise from the amplifiers because ears "face forward" is an interesting one, but may not stand up to rigorous scientific examination.

10. "Symptom of the Universe" was a perfect choice for the song over the credits. Be honest.