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Diamond Head: Lightning To The Nations 2020

Recorded in 1979 and released the following year in a plain white sleeve, Lightning To The Nations was an early milestone of the NWOBHM whose songs rose above their DIY setting, inspiring heavy metal kids in basements everywhere... well OK, maybe only in a few basements... but they were important basements nonetheless. The album's impact reverberated not only through NWOBHM, but in the Thrash movement as well. For many the rawness of the original recording is a big part of its appeal - this was undoubtedly a diamond in the rough, but also a drop dead classic of the era.

Diamond Head have seemingly always wanted to improve on the original recording. Lightning For The Nations is definitely in the argument for most re-released, re-worked, re-mastered and generally re-revisited album in Metal history. In fact the inspired debut was just reissued again in 2016. The band themselves lifted a couple tracks for their 1982 MCA premier Borrowed Time. And of course the album was famously mined by Metallica. A grateful lead guitarist Brian Tatler has humbly stated that this star attention bought him a house among other things, so it only makes sense that he would keep reminding us of its greatness. Hence Lightning To The Nations 2020 from Silver Lining Music.

So do we really need a re-recording in 2020?

In recent years Tatler's partnership with guitarist Andy Abberley and drummer Karl Wilcox has further blossomed with the addition of Dean Ashton (bass) and Rasmus Bom Andersen (voice and lyrics). Diamond Head from 2016 got the ball rolling again to much critical acclaim but last year's excellent The Coffin Train was even better, successfully blending traditional metal riffing with modern groove metal and a lot of melodic sensibility. This is certainly due in large part to Andersen stepping into the producer chair and really bringing the moxie. Diamond Head's typically cool arrangements and Tatler's fine lead playing are in great form on these new records. Andersen's dark subject matter is the most thoughtful the band has ever presented. This tight unit can really lock in yet somehow still feel loose and relaxed. The unique hybrid that these guys bring is arguably the best that Diamond Head has ever been.

The answer to the re-recording question may hang on whether you're on board with the band's recent work. Of course there's always an argument that you can't improve on the original, but we'll always have that - it's not going anywhere. If you can open your mind to a fresh take on an old classic there's a lot to love here. I can't get enough. In 2020 there are not enough bands playing in this kind of sandbox.

"Lightning To The Nations" opens the album with a perfect example of the hybrid in action. Again with the traditional meets groove, and this really brings a nice new spin to these songs. What would be the point of a simple redo made heavier? On the other hand it certainly is heavier. How can one describe the production... sharp, taught, immediate. Andersen's production sets a wide-open soundstage that is instantly apparent. But a lot of that comes straight from the band too. "The Prince," a personal favorite, is given the perfect treatment here. Karl Wilcox and Dean Ashton are locked in and driving. The thick guitar crunch and interweaving guitars of Tatler and Abberly echo the original intent of the band without a hint of nostalgia. Ras' vocal performance is the most intense and aggressive that it's been in this band yet. The Metallica cover of "The Prince," to me, always reflected the worst tendencies of early thrash. Speed for the sake of speed, which at times can take the power right out of the riff. Diamond Head had it right the first time and they still do.

Another favor that Andersen has done for this material is to strip the fat from the originals and really tighten up the arrangements. A minute is lopped off "The Prince" and over 2 minutes lost from "Sucking My Love," and yet nothing great about the songs is lost in the process. The long dreamy lead guitar-vocal bridge that sucked my patience is now excised, and replaced by a much more powerful middle and reworked end section that bring added impact to the song. So youthful indulgence loses out to maturity and experience and the end result is a win. Other tracks on the album benefit from the same treatment.

So what can be said about "Am I Evil?" The song that never reached its full potential. Great song, kind of lame opening... or it used to be. This is the first track that is longer than the original and it was sorely needed. The opening is now grandiose, with all the gloom and power it was always screaming for. And when the main riff kicks in the new-found crunch is present in full force. The lead break is exemplary of Tatler's playing throughout Lightning.., and pretty much throughout his career, solos full of melodic content that bring something to the song rather than saying 'look at me I'm so great!' As the years have ticked away he's grown into a fuller and more mature player, as all good musicians will. Brian's style is seriously refreshing in this sea of shredders that we exist in. I always thought the original album petered out at the end. Seemed like they went from a cheap studio to a high-end basement to finish things off. "Sweet And Innocent," "It's Electric" and "Helpless"... again so much unmet potential. Wow, all I can say is all three are lifted to fantastic heights here. Now I'm eagerly awaiting the final tracks instead of lifting the needle after "Am I Evil."

So before we close the book... the bonus tracks. Of course Metallica's "No Remorse" fits best. I daresay Diamond Head's take on "No Remorse" gives Metallica a run for the money, at least compared to their studio version. Sure that's heresy, I get it, but I love this version. As for the rest of them.. "Immigrant Song," "Sinner" and "Rat Bat Blue" are probably band faves so they wanted to stick 'em on and have fun. That's all good. They're fine. Personally I think a few more NWOBHM songs would have been preferable... something from Death Penalty or Spellbound maybe... keeping in the spirit and all that. But that's being nit-picky. The covers don't add anything that the band didn't already achieve themselves. The album is tracks 1-7, and it's a barn-burner. After an album of great original material and a re-recording this meaningful, Diamond Head are probably in the best position of their long career. Who would have thought back in the 80's that the story would turn out like this? Well Diamond Head's new Lightning To The Nations 2020 is a brilliant new chapter so let there be many more!

Track Listing:
1. Lightning To The Nations
2. The Prince
3. Sucking My Love
4. Am I Evil?
5. Sweet And Innocent
6. It's Electric
7. Helpless
8. No Remorse
9. Immigrant Song
10. Sinner
11. Rat Bat Blue

Added: December 13th 2020
Reviewer: Keith Fotheringham
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1270
Language: english

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