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Diamond Head: Lightning to the Nations (The White Album)

Originally independently released in 1980, Diamond Head's debut album is a seminal classic of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. That it never had a proper title is somehow fitting given the rocky history of this band; sometimes, it is referred to as The White Album, Lightning to the Nations or simply Diamond Head, depending on which vinyl or CD issue one happens to have in their possession. While there are many bands from the NWOBHM movement that probably didn't deserve more than cult status, Diamond Head were sadly overlooked. For this album is a stone classic.

With a production more in keeping with the early 70s hard rock movement, "Lightning to the Nations" opens with uncertainty, before ripping into the main riff. Brian Tatler's chunky guitar leads and Sean Harris' undeniably Robert Plant influenced vocals charge this band of overachievers into strangely new uncharted territory while somehow sounding like a 60s garage rock band. "The Prince" keeps up the fast pace and it is here that the band's more progressive styles come to the fore. There is even a small amount of keyboards on this track too. The 9-minute live favorite "Sucking My Love" is here in all its raw studio glory. Perhaps the most retro piece of music on the album, it owes a great debt to Led Zeppelin, especially the middle psychedelic section. But listen carefully and one will also hear UFO or early Scorpions. And again, there is something decidedly modern about it as well. To call Diamond Head imitators would be unfair and grossly inaccurate.

The most famous track of Diamond Head's history comes next with "Am I Evil", very ably covered by Metallica just a few years later. More evil riffed than Sad Wings of Destiny era Judas Priest, this cinematic style gorefest is a metal classic for the ages. At nearly 8 minutes, "Am I Evil" contains more ideas in one track than some bands manage in their entire careers. It really is that good. Deceptively simple but in actuality quite progressive, it's no wonder Lars Ulrich and company became such avowed Diamond Head fans.

The band comes back down to earth for the slightly more commercial and early Queen like "Sweet and Innocent". "It's Electric" is essentially a traditional boogie rocker with an AC/DC style swagger. Closing with the speedy but joyously unpredictable 7-minute opus "Helpless", one is left wondering where the previous 45 minutes went.

Thankfully, the 2001 remaster contains seven bonus tracks that are nearly of the same quality as the original album. These songs show a more mainstream side to Diamond Head, as they are generally single A and B sides, but excellent nonetheless. A strong UFO influence is quite pervasive, particularly first single "Shoot Out the Lights" and the catchy "Waited Too Long"; early Def Leppard would be a good frame of reference as well.

For a too brief period, Diamond Head looked like they would be as big as Iron Maiden or Def Leppard. Their very next album, Living on Borrowed Time, would be a top 40 hit in the UK. But internal forces and label pressure would conspire to put Diamond Head on the rocks in the mid 1980s. They have since reformed, with only guitarist Brian Tatler remaining from the original lineup and are on the brink of issuing a new album. In the meantime, for anyone who may have missed out on this essential cornerstone of early 80s British heavy metal, run, don't walk to your nearest import supplier for this amazing remaster. No kidding, this album hold up as well as Killers, Wheels of Steel and Ace of Spades.

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

Bonus Tracks for 2001 Remaster

  1. Shoot Out the Lights
  2. Streets of Gold
  3. Waited Too Long
  4. Play it Loud
  5. Diamond Lights
  6. We Won't be Back
  7. I Don't Got

Added: February 18th 2007
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Related Link: The Official Diamond Head Pages
Hits: 3823
Language: english

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