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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Interview with Battleaxe (UK) guitarist Mick Percy - the good old days, hard times, and the upcoming album

Kult Metal ezine had an honor to do a Q&A interview with Battleaxe guitarist Mick Percy. We thought that this would be the perfect time for an interview with Mr. Percy, since Battleaxe has a new album coming out in the future; the fact was just recently confirmed by Mr. Percy on his Facebook page.  We’re eager to hear more about the upcoming album, and the current state of the band! We’re also interested digging into the past times of Mick Percy and the band. Be sure to follow Battleaxe on their Facebook site, and check out their official website, as well, at To skip directly into the interview, just scroll a bit further down, beyond the "prologue".


For those who aren’t familiar with the Battleaxe, the heavy metal band was formed in 1979-1980, at the days when "N.W.O.B.H.M. (New Wave of British Heavy Metal)" movement in UK was growing big rapidly; the term, which was pretty much created and brought to the public by the press - namely by Geoff Barton and Sounds magazine. A plenty of young musicians were hooked on the heavy metal, forming new bands, recording demos, in hopes of settling a record deal with a record label. Greats such as Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, Def Leppard, and Saxon are just a few examples of the early bands, which were considered to belong into the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement; and then... there was Battleaxe.

Battleaxe released their first demo in 1982, and shortly after, two full-length albums during the years 1983-1984: “Burn This Town” and “Power From The Universe”. The band remained active after that, working with new set of demos for the upcoming album, which never came out. Battleaxe didn't put out any official releases after the second album, and in the very late eighties the band pretty much disappeared from the heavy metal scene. Why? Read on! Battleaxe returned to the scene with a new successful heavy metal album in 2014, called “Heavy Metal Sanctuary”, and their next full-length release is currently on its way, though, still long ways to be recorded.

Mick Percy joined the band some time after the release of the second full-length album, “Power From The Universe” (1984), and has been in the band ever after, even though the band went through the “silent stage” around the years 1990-2010. The following interview made me personally discover many new things about Battleaxe's past, which I wasn’t aware of - which many of you mightn't know about, either. The following interview takes us around the good old days of heavy metal, to the hard times of the second half of the eighties, to the current day and future plans with Mr. Mick Percy; many thanks for answering our questions! I hope you all find reading this interview as interesting as I found making it.

Now, without further ado – let’s get on with the interview; ladies and gentlemen, Mick Percy of Battleaxe!


Tane Norther ( Many thanks for taking your time to do this interview. Firstly, please tell us shortly about yourself, and about your role as a guitarist in Battleaxe? When did you first learn to play the guitar?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): I started playing guitar in my early teens in bands with school friends. My first proper electric guitar was a left handed Watkins Rapier and a very old Selmer valve amp. It had an earth shaking sound when cranked up! Thus my interest in heavier music was forged at that time. My" role" in Battleaxe goes way beyond that of just guitarist. Having been with the lads for nearly 32 years! We have been thru quite a lot together: playing, writing, recording, rehearsing, TRAVELLING, fixing gear etc. We think a lot alike. We're a band of brothers!

Tane Norther ( What influences you to continue making music, particularly heavy metal, after so many years?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): For me, Battleaxe’s music is my favourite style of Heavy Rock/Metal.

It’s because, when we get together, it’s like a time machine transporting us back to our earlier years!

There is, quite simply, no other experience in the world quite like getting in a room or on stage with Battleaxe. Imagine, plugging in to a Marshall stack, and Brian will shout turn it up Mick!

His bass is loud tight and thumping. The drums are like a Nuclear explosion! Dave's powerful vocals! So we kick into "Ready to Deliver” or “Chopper Attack” and suddenly, there’s an “Earthquake”! It's exciting stuff for us, as well as for the crowd! So, that's what keeps us all going.

Tane Norther ( Let’s go back in time a bit, at first. According to information that I’ve gathered (from the albums themselves,, “The N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia” the fine book by Malc MacMillan). – it seems that you became a member of Battleaxe after the first two full-length albums had been released (“Burn This Town” (1983), “Power From the Universe” (1984)) – and you first appeared with the band at “Nightmare Zone” EP recordings, which took place around 1987 (the EP which remained unreleased, until as late as 2005, Sound King Entertains records label)

Formerly, Battleaxe had only one guitarist, Steve Hardy, who you replaced at the time, along with another new guitarist John Stormont (ex-Spartan Warrior).

What’s the story behind you joining the ranks of Battleaxe back in the day? How did you become in touch with the band, and ended up joining the line-up after the release of “Power From The Universe” (1984) album? Did you play a guitar in another band before joining Battleaxe’s ranks?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): Good question. I guess I was a young, hungry up and coming guitarist just like lots of lads back then. I knew loads of musos and used to jam and gig around alot at a semi pro level. I joined a punk band when i was about 14 but soon realised I wanted to get into something more heavy rock as I loved BLACK SABBATH, MOTORHEAD, OZZY and AC/DC. I tried unsuccessfully to form a band like that. No one wanted to do it. Then I discovered there was only one band in town doing that sort of stuff BATTLEAXE!

I used to love seeing Battleaxe at Sunderland Mayfair back then. They were brilliant and Steve Hardy was an amazing guitarist. I had no idea what was about to happen in the coming months!

I actually auditioned and joined the band a couple of months after Steve left the band in 1984.

Steve abruptly left after he completed the Saxon UK tour of the same year. This is where it gets a bit wacky! So I'm sitting in my local pub on a Friday Rock Night when a good old friend of mine walks in; he is a guitarist called STEVE HARDY (no relation BY THE WAY!), “Hi Mick I've just got back from London!” He proceeds to tell me this story,

“You never guess what happened to me last week!” I'm like, “go on dude?” He continues, “I was walking down the street carrying my guitar, when this car pulls up, window winds down and guy shouts out, ’Hey man you look like a rocker!’, Steve nods, ‘Yeah’, and the guy says, ‘How'd you like to earn £50 quid? Come to London and do a photo session for an album cover?’ Steve says, ‘Yeah man sounds cool. What’s the name of the band?’

‘Battleaxe!’, shouted the guy. ‘Wow, I really like Battleaxe’, said Steve”. So, the man in the car continued, “Yeah, I'm the singer Dave King. Look mate, our guitarist just left the band after a tour and we have a new album coming out (Power From The Universe) and he has refused to go to London for a photo session to complete the art work for the album”. My mate (Steve) said, “Sure man I'll help you out”, and Dave said, “Brilliant you've saved the day! What’s your name again, mate?” “STEVE HARDY”, said my mate. DAVE KING FAINTED! [laughter].

So, “STEVE HARDY NO.2”, after his photo session (he is on front cover of Power From The Universe) auditioned for the band. He is a very fine guitar player, but, alas, his style didn't match the band. So, being a fan of the band myself, knowing “STEVE NO.2” wasn't right, and wanting to expand my own horizons, I quizzed him ruthlessly [laughter]. Turned out Dave ran a shop next to my parents house. So I went and asked Dave for an audition.

I got on great with Dave straight off, then i met Brian and drummer Ian. The band had auditioned dozens of players from all over the north of England. None had worked out!

So i was elated when the lads said “Yeah you can join the band”. I was just 20 years old.

Then the lads explained that they wanted to go to a "two guitar band" to broaden the music spectrum. So eventually I suggested JOHN STORMONT. He came along just after completing a tour with the JESS COX BAND SUPPORTING METALLICA and fitted like a glove thus completing the new lineup!

So we rehearsed, gigged around, and started writing and demo'ing new material. We had a great time gigging and hanging out. There was good chemistry around this time. I think it was Ian's idea to go in the studio at the time in 1987 and record those songs, which were only intended as demos. We realised we were ready to do the next album at this point, so it was around this time FRED PURSER used to come along to rehearsals helping us get ready for the studio. Things continued along at a snail’s pace, until sometime in 1988 when both John and Ian quit the band for personal reasons.

Tane Norther (  How did you feel about the heavy metal scene at the time of your joining to the band, in UK particularly, and how do you feel that Battleaxe did fit in the UK's heavy metal scene those days? Were you given recognition by the press and media; or do you feel you belonged more into the “underground scene”? How difficult was it to get your music "recognized" back in the day?

Do you think that Battleaxe started as being a part of N.W.O.B.H.M (the New Wave of British Heavy Metal) movement; were they a N.W.O.B.H.M. band, per se?

After you started recording for Nightmare Zone EP in 1987, I'd assume, that those were the times, when extreme metal such as thrash, and glam metal were more popular, and it was not long before the big media would start take more interest into soon-to-be-born alternative rock and grunge; was pure heavy metal as such starting to lose it's popularity at this point?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): Battleaxe started as a HEAVY METAL BAND. They never called themselves N.W.O.B.H.M., the press did that! They labeled all new bands with long hair N.W.O.B.H.M. It was real exciting time though, lots of great, fresh sounding new bands. We regarded ourselves a cult band. It really was amazing up to the mid 80's. Then, all of a sudden... I think VAN HALEN and BON JOVI had a lot to do with it! American bands started taking over the scene! To be honest, we really didn't know what to do! It was at this point that the bands sound started to pull in different directions. It wasn't just Battleaxe; lots of bands at this time were basically being forced to modernize their image and music to survive. So it's fair to say, we had internal musical struggles at this time. DEF LEPPARD had took off in the states (an English band with an American sound); you had this whole "hair metal" thing going on, so, now more girls were buying records and going to gigs. So I guess to sum up, we were torn between being a Rock band and Metal band!

Tane Norther ( It's an eternal debate between heavy metal fans, whether N.W.O.B.H.M. is classified as "a movement", or "a sub-genre of heavy metal" (with it's own distinctive musical characteristics); Mick Percy, a quick question: what's your take on N.W.O.B.H.M. issue – a movement or a heavy metal sub-genre?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe):  A movement! There was too broad a spectrum of bands from Prog to Thrash under the N.W.O.B.H.M. banner.

Tane Norther ( Which bands or genres influenced you personally, as well as Battleaxe’s musical direction as a band, at the time when you were recording “Nightmare Zone” EP in 1987? What direction were you trying to head at those days, and did you have any big future plans for the band? For what reasons wasn't “Nightmare Zone” EP material officially released for a long period of time, either as its own EP, or as a part of a new full-length album, until almost two decades later in 2005?

There’s a rumor that a third full-length album called “Mean Machine” (controversially, in Malc MacMillan’s book “The N.W.O.B.H.M. Encyclopedia”, the unreleased album was referred as “Metal Edge”) was supposed to be the next release, but it never came out.

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): Ok, It's fair to say, Nightmare Zone was a bunch of demos for the "New" 3rd album that never happened! You can hear it sounds more Rock than Metal, and there were more songs like these. The influences are quite obvious: ACDC, DEF LEPPARD, WHITESNAKE etc.

Remember, these were very different times and music was very much controlled by the media, so we figured we needed to produce a big sounding Rock album like the big bands.

Our good friend FRED PURSER REALLY liked our new stuff at the time and was eager to produce the album. He was building a new state of the art studio which would be ready in a couple of months, which gave us time to write the rest of the songs. Unfortunately, FRED had loads of unexpected delays, and it took a further TWO YEARS to eventually get to record in his newly built studio, in which time JOHN and IAN had lost interest in the band.

Ian agreed to come in and record the drums. We got the rhythm and bass guitars down also.

Everything was sounding great. Fred had the whole album mapped out! Then suddenly, after five weeks in the studio, we ran out of funding and the recordings were shelved! We were gutted!

Obviously, while we were recording, we discussed the album title. "Mean machine" or "Metal Edge" ? [laughter] We had thought of re-recording the song “Mean machine” for this album, and it probably would have been, but LEMMY beat us to it! SO IT WOULD HAVE BEEN “METAL EDGE”!
(Note: "Mean Machine" was also a Motörhead song on their "Orgasmatron" album from 1986 -T.N.)

("Killer Woman" from "Nightmare Zone" EP, 1987; love the energetic riffs and the guitar solo on this one. -T.N.)

Tane Norther (  What happened after this? The band went rather silent for a long period of time. Did Battleaxe decide to call it quits in the late eighties, and if so, when exactly was this, and why?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): We NEVER CALLED IT QUITS! Things basically fizzled out when we lost the studio time and ran out of money. Studios were expensive in those days! We were looking at coming up with the best part of £20,000. The record company wouldn't give us any more money! They hadn't even heard it yet! Suddenly, Battleaxe were dinosaurs! Record companies were looking for the next Guns n Roses!

We still got together now and then and played small shows up to 1995 with various line ups!

The music scene for us was now shit. We just got on with other things and waited in the background for it to come back. It took a long time [laughter].

Tane Norther (  Let’s get back to the New Millennium. In 2005, Sound King Entertains records label re-released remastered versions of the two Battleaxe full-length albums, the debut “Burn This Town”, and the second album “Power From The Universe”. Along that, the “Nightmare Zone” EP, which was originally recorded in 1987, where you played the guitar along with John Stormont, saw also the light of day for the first time.

What’s the story behind these releases and “Sound King Entertains” records label? What influenced the band to make the re-releases available at the time?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): I think the new technology had a lot to do with it. The old albums were no longer available. They were available in the Far East on CD and were being bootlegged with shit quality. Websites were springing up with Battleaxe songs on. WE HAD NO CONTROL OVER OUR OWN MUSIC!

Dave realised something had to be done. Sound King entertains is just Dave’s mad sense of humour basically taunting me and Brain to get a reaction from us! There was a renewed interest in the band, so some good quality CD's were now available for both albums, plus the Nightmare Zone was Dave’s way of getting me back in the band [laughter]!

Tane Norther (  After the two full-lengths were re-released, along with the previously unreleased EP in 2005, there was nine years of silence, until you and the lads returned with a brand new album called “Heavy Metal Sanctuary” in 2014. The album was released by a major German heavy metal label called “Steamhammer” (a sub-label of SPV GmbH). I remember reading the news about the upcoming release of "Heavy Metal Sanctuary" many years before the actual release date.

Can you shed any light on, why did it take so many years from the first news about the upcoming album, until it's final release? What influenced you and the rest of the band to return the scene, and start recording for “Heavy Metal Sanctuary”, after several decades of silence? What made you guys feel, that the moment was right?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): Ok, after 2005 and the re-releases, we all started talking again and discussing if we can make the band happen again. I have to admit, I was a bit unsure if it would work or not. So the "Chopper Attack" budget video we made in 2007, got on YouTube, and took off like crazy! We appeared at H.O.A. (Headbangers Open Air) festival  in Germany 2010 as well as HARD ROCK HELL and HAMMERFEST shortly after. We’d got the buzz back! So that was when we agreed we wanted to do an album. We had various old recordings lying around and we tried unsuccessfully to repair and re-record stuff over months! We even got the master tapes of "Metal Edge" with a view to completing it, but the tapes were in poor condition and were going to have to be baked in an oven! It was too expensive and too uncertain to go that route. So it was decided start from scratch with a brand new recording. So we started the pre-production around 2010. We had a few personal unexpected delays, and then had to wait until FRED was available. I had recorded all the guitars by mid summer of 2012. We eventually finished the album in FRED PURSERS studio in early 2013. The digital master was immediately sent to SPV! Then, we had to wait for SPV to schedule the release. Yawn. It took forever!

("Chopper Attack" video from 2007, the song originally played in "Power From The Universe" album (1984)) 

Tane Norther (  Let’s talk a bit about the current state of Battleaxe and your upcoming album; the one that will be your fourth full-length release, and the second after "the return". Tell me about it. Does the album have a title yet? What’s the current state of process with the upcoming album, and how is it coming along?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): Ok, The band is currently "On Hold”. At present there are no upcoming shows or anything for now. Our focus is the fourth album. The song writing nucleas is Me, Dave and Brian. It's going well; the song writing is fresh and exciting. We have about 7 songs so far, 3 songs nearly ready, and lots of extra ideas for songs. So, the idea is to have some bonus material also available as well as at least 10 tracks on the album. They are mostly much longer songs this time. It's too early to give away the title just yet, but, I can tell you that it's going to be a concept album about "the oppression of humanity"! There is an epic track entitled "SLAVES TO THE MACHINE"; IT’S ABOUT 8 MINUTES LONG! It’s quite different to anything we've done before, but still sounds like Battleaxe!

Tane Norther (  What’s the musical direction you’re aiming with the upcoming album; are you planning to continue along the same lines than with its successful predecessor “Heavy Metal Sanctuary”, or are you bringing some changes to the musical style and approach? Is the line-up the same than previously?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): We love the new tracks so far. There's going to be the fastest songs and the slowest songs on here, as well as the heaviest and most metal stuff we've ever done, as well as some great melodic moments. We are certainly pushing our boundaries with this material and we are quite excited about it! There WILL be a change of drummer for this album, plus, there is the possibility of guest musicians also!

Tane Norther (  When can we expect the upcoming album to be released? Have you set any timeline for the recordings and the release, or are things like these yet undecided? Will it be released by “Steamhammer” records label, this time, as well? Any plans for a tour after the album release?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): With this new album project becoming increasingly more complex, the songs are so good, it would be a mistake to rush it out! So yeah you're right. it's undecided at present. It's quite possible for a Steamhammer release. No tour plans until we finish this!

Tane Norther (  Lastly, what do you think about the current state of heavy metal and the scene around it compared to the eighties? Is there something you miss from the “old days”? What are your current favorite (heavy metal, or any other genre) bands that have impressed you lately?

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): I love the fact that a lot of much younger people are now championing and supporting the metal scene with such passion and drive. I don't really listen to much new stuff to be honest. When I do, I find myself listening to more European stuff. I still like all the old school bands though. When I'm writing new riffs, I don't listen to anything. That’s because it gets into your subconscious mind! You end up in danger of accidentally copying someone else’s riffs!

There's a really good up and coming metal band from Sunderland I like: RISEN PROPHECY. Great players with awesome tunes! They’re top lads as well!

Things have changed a heck of a lot. The 80's were great in terms of freedom! I miss, less restrictions and red tape. We could turn it up as loud as we wanted! Set off tons of pyros and smoke effects, strobe lights etc. We used to carry tons of equipment and a wall of Marshalls! In a double decker bus!!! You wouldn't get away with that now! Also, gigs were easier to put on. We had a really wild time!

But, Alas, I suppose things are safer now and better organised [sighs].

Tane Norther (  Mick Percy, any final words you want to add? For the readers, anything. The stage is yours!

Mick Percy (Battleaxe): Music has always been a big part of my life. Joining Battleaxe as a young lad changed my life forever, and opened up possibilities that would not have existed otherwise. I feel very lucky to have played some amazing gigs, met some great people and amazing musicians along the way. Heavy metal is the greatest musical force on the planet, long live METAL \M/.

Tane Norther ( Many thanks for the interview Mick Percy. We wish you the best success with the upcoming Battleaxe album; may you and the lads have a great time recording it!

Note: there were a few additional quick questions, which there wasn't time to do at the time; they might be added here afterwards and edited in the text later on. We'll see about that. If so, I'll just add here the date and notification that the interview was updated after the initial publication.

Usage of this article as such is prohibited; the rights are owned by the interviewer, If you want to quote a small part of this interview and use on your own publication (an article, etc.), we'd appreciate it, if you'd do us a favor and link back to us, or at least, mention along the quote, that it was borrowed from this particular interview by us. Thanks! | Tane Norther

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Grim Reaper (UK) - the new album "Walking In The Shadows" out in September, says Steve Grimmett

Grim Reaper (aka nowadays "Steve Grimmett's GRIM REAPER") has just finished recording their new album "Walking In The Shadows", which will be released in 23rd September, says their main man and singer Steve Grimmett on the band's official Facebook site. The band just recently signed with anew rock/metal label "Dissonance Productions". Grimmett is the only former member left of the band's original line-up from the eighties. The release will be closely followed by a world wide tour, starting from the US in October of 2016. The dates will be announced shortly, and should to be found at Grim Reaper's Facebook site, or from the official Grim Reaper website; whenever announced.

The cover art of upcoming Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper album "Walking In the Shadows" revealed!

The singer Steve Grimmett formed a solo career band simply called "Grimmett" in 2006, which soon released one album, titled "Personal Crisis", in 2007. After this, Grimmett took his solo band's members (guitarist Ian Nash, bassist Chaz Grimaldi, and drummer Paul White) and formed "Steve Grimmett's GRIM REAPER" with them, and they started to perform the old Grim Reaper songs such as classics "See You In Hell" live, for several years, without releasing a new full-length album; until now, when "Walking In The Shadows" comes out at September.

Steve Grimmett is known for being lead singer of Grim Reaper, as well as being the singer of Onslaught, Lionsheart, and Chateaux; and in addition, being featured in some other lesser known projects. He started initially with a demo band called "Medusa" in 1978, prior joining the very early form of Grim Reaper. The new guitarist Ian Nash was also part of  "Lionsheart", by the way.

Grim Reaper from UK, on the other hand, was first formed around 1979-1980, and after the band pushed a few instrumental demos out, they were soon signed by UK label Ebony Records (who also had bands such as Chateaux, Blade Runner, Dealer, Nightmare, and Lethal signed at the time). Steve Grimmett soon joined to Grim Reaper as a singer, before their first LP release called "See You In Hell" (1983). Grim Reaper was originally a part of N.W.O.B.H.M. -movement of UK in the early eighties, and released two more post-N.W.O.B.H.M. albums before disbanding: "Fear No Evil" (1985) and "Rock You To Hell (1987). Grim Reaper's musical style on the old days was pure heavy metal; not quite as rough and raw than many of the N.W.O.B.H.M. bands around, such as Jaguar or TANK. They were a bit more melodic like Iron Maiden; but similarly more flashy, more rocking, more sleazy, less epic, more... cheesy, one could say; in an enjoyable way.

(Grim Reaper's debut album; "See You In Hell" from 1983 with Steve Grimmett)

Grim Reaper was one of those bands which just went into adding several of those heavy metal "cliches" into their music, music videos, and appearance - and they enjoyed every second of it. The band wore flashy colored clothes combined with leather and spikes. There were a lot of lyrics about evil, hell, vampires, and other dark mythical things; battles with swords; of women and broken hearts; but they were presented in less serious way (at least how I see it). Grim Reaper were a band which received rather big amount of criticism because of their "cheesy" imago back in the day; accompanied with the fact that some considered them not having "pretty boy" enough in the vocals at the front of the stage (but when the hell has heavy metal ever been about the looks rather than music, itself? Never.). I feel most of the criticism back in the day was rather uncalled for; from people, who probably didn't get the band and heavy metal in general; bigger masses, who weren't ready for them when the band received airplay in major media such as MTV. As the flip side, that airplay also gave them wider recognition for true fans of heavy metal, who hadn't heard about the band before. Grim Reaper always aimed to be fun, catchy, energetic bunch, at least, that's how I believe; and they totally nailed it in the eighties, despite some of the early material having slight repetitiveness, and simplistic song structure. The band had flashy guitar solos, which added a lot of needed melodic depth. The shearing and wailing high pitched vocals by Steve Grimmett were always somewhat exceptional in the band's music - and the man could hit falsetto screams with ease, when needed on occasion, whilst his upper end mid-range featured slight amount of sleaziness; the vocals were accompanied with straightforward, effective, and energetic rhythm guitar riffs, and melodic lead guitar hooks. The set-up was really enjoyable to listen to in all of the band's three albums.

I'd say that Grim Reaper in the 80's were fairly easy to be recognized from the masses of heavy metal with their trademark qualities of the sound. They had fair amount of talent, and hooks in the music, definitely, to keep things interesting and memorable; far beyond an average band of the time. The high point of the band's career would probably be their third album "Rock You To Hell".

("Night of The Vampire" from the third album "Rock You To Hell" from 1987)

We'll see how the new album compares to the classic Grim Reaper albums, when it hits the stores. At the moment, we're unsure whether we can expect some musical changes or not, since it's been forever from release of the last "Grim Reaper" record; almost three decades - accompanied with all the new line-up changes, since the band was reformed with revamped version of the old, under the banner of "Steve Grimmett's GRIM REAPER". We assume that Grimmett owns rights to the old Grim Reaper material, since the band's official website lists the both, the old albums (under the name "Grim Reaper"), as well as the new one (at the moment 2011 live album, and soon the new full length, too; under the name "Steve Grimmett's GRIM REAPER") under it's "discography" section. Here's the only glimpse of the new song material this far, for those who haven't seen the live gigs of the new revamped band, anyway; it sounds somewhat familiar for the fans of the 80s "Grim Reaper":

("Blue Murder", live 2014, by revamped version of "Grim Reaper", known as "Steve Grimmett's GRIM REAPER"; a new song that should appear on the upcoming album)

Nevertheless, the new album is will be out at September 23rd, followed with a world wide tour - something to look into for a classic heavy metal fan. The line-up for the recordings of "Walking In The Shadows" was most likely the same than the current live line-up:

Steve Grimmett - vocals
Ian Nash - Guitars
Chaz Grimaldi - Bass
Paul White - Drums

Also, while you're at it, be sure to check the recent interview of Steve Grimmett, by Neil Turbin (ex-Anthrax) from The Metal Voice. | Tane Norther

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Metal Church returns strong with the new album "XI"; featuring a look into the band's history

Here's something newer for change (from an old band). The following song below is from Metal Church's brand new album titled "XI" (available through Nuclear Blast since Mar 23th). An American band that started out leaning more towards thrashier sound, and has shifted more towards traditional heavy metal since then - but the new release is probably Metal Church's heaviest work for the long time. I'm sharing this song, and doing a little write-up, because I was rather impressed how good the new album sounds! Especially, Mike Howe's vocals, the man who makes his return to the band since his last album with Metal Church, "Hanging In Balance" was released 23 years ago in 1993; Howe who became the band's second singer after former vocalist David Wayne's (R.I.P.) departure in 1988. Howe's vocals on the brand new album sound as good, if not better, than in 1993, which is simply amazing. I've been Metal Church fan for a long time; mostly because of their earlier work, album releases ranging from 1984 to 1993 (buy XI from Amazon).

(Killing Your Time from XI album, 2016)

Metal Church isn't actually very obscure band, but they newer did rise into real stardom, either, unlike Metallica and Megadeth, for instance. The history of Metal Church dates back to 1981 when they released their first instrumental 3-track demo called "Red Skies" without a singer. The band debuted three years later in 1984 with full-length release "Metal Church" featuring line-up David Wayne (v) Kurdt Vanderhoof (g), Craig Wells (g), Duke Erickson (b), Kirk Arrington (d), and has been releasing albums on rather steady, though not so rapid pace, ever since. The album was released under the banner of "Ground Zero Records" label in 12" vinyl format (cat: GZ002) - the label which was band members' own "indie label" of the early days, if you could call it as such. The album remained "the label's" only release. Shortly after, Elektra records label signed Metal Church, and they would re-release the self-titled debut, as well as let allow the band to start recording the second album called "The Dark". Elektra (founded in 1950) was a sub-label of Warner Music Group, who at the time also had acts such as Metallica, Dokken, and Mötley Crue signed, so we're not talking about a minor records label.

Back in the day Metal Church was some kind of a cross-breeding of thrash metal and heavy metal band. I never considered them as pure thrash outfit at the time, compared to some other pure thrash acts such as Exodus or Kreator, for example; but they certainly featured a remarkably strong thrashy edge on their signature sound of the very early days, nevertheless. The band's first two albums ("Metal Church" (1984) and "The Dark" (1986)) were certainly the most thrashy and heavy, the most fast-paced material the band ever released up to this day - and not least because of the presence of their vocalist of the time, David Wayne, with his really vicious sounding, razor sharp and forceful vocals; the screams which would make your ears bleed, whether you liked it or not (I know I did!). A truly unique singer, who could sound sinister as hell, hitting those high notes or raspy mid-ranged notes by ease whenever necessary - one of my all time favorites. Wayne, who sadly passed away in 2005. Kurdt Vanderhoof, who was present in the first two albums as a guitarist, was another driving force for the band on those days, being a big part for creating their heavier signature sound of the early days.

(The rare "Red Skies" instrumental demo without vocals from 1981)

(Metal Church from Metal Church album 1984 feat. David Wayne on vocs)

Correct me if I remember wrong, but there was some personal frictions inside the band between it's members, which led Wayne to depart from the vocals after "The Dark" album was released in 1986; accompanied by departure of the formed guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof at the same time. Needless to say, that after such influential and unique musicians departed, the initial sound of the band would face a twist to another direction, though not completely so. The band decided to recruit a new singer and a new guitarist to fill in the empty shoes in the band's line-up, and take a slight chance in musical direction with their new album in 1989 titled "Blessing In Disguise". The new singer was Mike Howe, recruited from his recent band "Heretic" (US), who had released a fine album "Breaking Point" a year before, in 1988 (check it out if you dig Howe's vocals!). The former guitarist Vanderhoof was replaced with John Marshall, who had been doing some rehearsing with band called Blind Illusion (US) the past few years, and had been working as a guitar tech for Metallica's lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. Marshall had also filled in rhythm guitar duties temporarily in 1986 for Metallica's main man James Hetfield, when he suffered of a broken wrist. Marshall would form the new guitar duo for the band with the former guitarist Graig Wells, which would last until 1993. Though, I really love Wayne's powerful vocals, which fit the former thrashy material by the band perfectly, Howe was by no means less good choice for vocals for the new album, where his charismatic raspy vocals made perfect first impression immediately. Howe's vocals would build a new recognizable trademark sound for Metal Church; for the next four years, anyway - the years which I would refer as "the second era of Metal Church" - featuring a new distinctive sound different from the past. I don't think any power of the band's original sound was lost at this point, but the musical approach was rather shifted from the more thrashy and speedy sound to a more refined, yet powerful one; categorized more as pure heavy metal than thrash. The "second era" of the band would feature three full-length releases: band's third release titled "Blessing In Disguise" (1989), the fourth release titled "The Human Factor" (1991), and ending with the fifth release titled "Hanging In the Balance" in 1993 - sadly with Howe's departure from the band.

(Fake Healer from Blessing In Disguise album 1989 feat. Mike Howe on vocs)

A fun fact about Mike Howe, David Wayne, and Heretic (US): after his departure from Metal Church, David Wayne would form a new band called "Reverend", and record two full-length albums ("World Won't Miss You "(1990), "Play God" (1991)), plus one damn fine four-track EP ("Reverend" (1989)) with that band in the coming years. Reverend did consist of several ex-members of Heretic (US); the very same band that Mike Howe had arrived from to join Metal Church for Blessing In Disguise (1989) album recordings. I don't personally know "who stole who", but obviously through these changes, Heretic as a band was ripped apart and ceased to exist - with some of it's members joining Metal Church, while the others to Wayne's new band Reverend. While Metal Church took the more refined, straight heavy metal approach with their new line-up, Wayne would reach towards more thrashy direction with his newborn band Reverend, something similar than Metal Church had been doing up to The Dark album (1986). Now, this is just guess-work, but maybe Wayne and/or Vanderhoof wanted to go into heavier direction than the rest of the band, or they didn't get along? Who knows?

(Wayne with his new band "Reverend" after the departure, the first self-titled EP from 1989)

I always thought, that the driving force behind Metal Church and it's unique sound, dependent of the era, were always either of the two vocalists: David Wayne from the years since the first full-length album (1984) to the second album "The Dark" (1986), and Mike Howe from the third album Blessing In Disguise (1989), to 1993 until his departure. Metal Church, in the early career, always had powerful, unique vocalists which would make the bands sound easily recognizable from the masses. That's of course accompanied with the creative mastermind behind their riffs, guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof, who I felt was their most influential figure along with either of the vocalists. Vanderhoof, who was present in the band's line-up from ever since the earliest demos to the first two full-length albums featuring Wayne on vocals, departing shortly after the second album ("The Dark" (1986)) for a long time, until he re-joined the band with "Masterpeace" album released in 1999, and has been with the band ever since, also being featured in their new album "XI".

After six years of silence, in 1999, the new album called "Masterpeace" would mark the band's return to the heavy metal scene with their former vocalist David Wayne and the formed guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof. However, the album received rather mixed reception in the heavy metal press. The album which would remain the last ever with Wayne, who called his quits after the release of the album and went for a short-lived solo career (under the name "Wayne"), after which he would start working with his another former band "Reverend" again; until passing away in 2005 (R.I.P.). Something obviously didn't work out there as planned with "Masterpeace" recordings. Wayne would never return to Metal Church, the second guitarist John Marshall would also leave for good. I don't think personally that "Masterpeace" is a poor album per se, but the material doesn't come close being up to the par with their earlier work. Nevertheless, the album might be a worth of listen, anyway. It's enjoyable (in my opinion) and does feature Wayne's fine vocals, after all.

The conflict of post-Masterpiece era between Wayne and Vanderhoof: there was obviously some bad blood between David Wayne and Kurdt Vanderhoof; if not before, then at least after Wayne's second departure from Metal Church after "Masterpeace" album was released, when Wayne went to pursue a short-lived solo career under band name "Wayne". Why? Well, Wayne titled the album "Metal Church", and then pretty much copied the Metal Chuch's self-titled debut album's cover artwork (the "the crucified guitar"), and then included it as a part of his new album's cover. Controversies similar as this aren't uncommon in heavy metal scene after band line-ups change, and previous members feel that they've been such a big part of the previous band's sound, that the new band which sounds similar, should also feature something from the old band, such as similar name or symbol, for instance. Just think about Oliver/Dawson Saxon band (by members departed from original Saxon) versus original Saxon lead by Biff Byford (vocs), or British band TANK, which split into two different bands under the same name lately when some of the early TANK members since This Means War -days of the eighties, more accurately Cliff Evans and Mick Tucker, decided to continue using the band's name for the new albums with new singer Doogie White/ZP Theart, while the former TANK singer/bassist Algy Ward would continue using the TANK name under his solo career.

Back to Metal Church, this is what Vanderhoof had to say about the Wayne-Vanderhoof controversy, after Wayne's passing:

"I think every metalhead, and really any human being, shows respect and understands the sense of loss. As the guy (David Wayne) in Metal Church that has been there since the beginning...well...he did some shitty things at the end. You know, with that album called Metal Church and the album art and what-not. Is it easy to get past that now?" 

There was a lot of bad blood between him and I after that; mainly because of things he did like that. But nonetheless, that's why we did "Watch the Children Pray" for him, even though him and I didn't get along anymore. Still, when he passed, I didn't want anyone to misinterpret the fact that we were having troubles and we weren't getting along into thinking that I wished him any ill will." (Kurdt Vanderhoof. Metal Church Guitarist Comments On Feud With Late Singer David Wayne. 2007. Blabbermouth.

After mixed reception of "Masterpeace" album (1999) by the press, and all the line-up changes that followed the events, Metal Church would then go into more stable phase and release four albums starting from 2004 with a brand new vocalist Ronny Munroe, and have rather stable line-up, with only a few changes which would not affect the sound very much. The albums called "Weight Of The World" (2004), "A Light in the Dark" (2006), "This Present Wasteland" (2008), and "Generation Nothing" (2013) would feature rather distinctive sound, different of Howe or Wayne -era releases; certainly a bit more mellow. Each album is a worth to listen on it's own, but personally, I find this era slightly "bland" compared to previous level of superiority of musicianship and material (except perhaps "Masterpeace", that is). Similar driving force, power, and roughness doesn't just quite exist on these albums. Maybe Vanderhoof didn't just want to take quite as aggressive approach on guitar riffs than before, or perhaps the new singer Ronny Munroe with his Bruce Dickinson / Dio-esque soaring vocals combined with some lighter kind of roughness doesn't quite deliver the same power than Howe or Wayne did. Or perhaps it's the combination of the both things? There are definitely good songs existing on this era, such as the one below, so it's not to say that heavy metal fan should overlook the Metal Church albums released between the years of 2004 to 2013. The most remarkable line-up changes on this era would feature recruiting a new drummer Jeff Plate in 2006, who had previously done drumming for Savatage (Dead Winter Dead, The Wake of Magellan, Poets and Madmen); ex-Malice (US) guitarist Jay Reynolds would appear on Weight Of The World and A Light in the Dark, before being replaced by the current second guitarist Rick van Zandt in 2008, who had been working with American heavy metal band Rottweiler in the past. Van Zandt would form the new guitar duo with Kurdt Vanderhoof - the duo that can also be heard on the new "XI" album.

(A Light In The Dark from A Light In The Dark album 2006 feat. Ronny Munroe on vocs)

This gets us back to the this day. In 2013 Metal Church were supposed to call their quits with their current line-up, featuring their third vocalist, Ronny Munroe, at the time. That was until Mike Howe just recently re-joined the band after a couple of years of silence, starting a new era for the band with their new album "XI" - an album which sounds like the best, perhaps the most heavy work that Metal Church has put out ever since "Hanging In The Balance" hit stores in 1993! This is only my personal opinion, of course, but I ever felt like the albums released in the New Millennium without Wayne or Howe on vocals were "okay", but missed the final "punch". Now it does really seem that with "XI", Metal Church has returned stronger than in the long, long time.

The album's out now, so check it out!

(Metal Church in 2016; reunited with Mike Howe (vocs))

Tracklist for "XI" (2016):
1. Reset 03:54
2. Killing Your Time 05:06
3. No Tomorrow 05:08
4. Signal Path 07:12
5. Sky Falls In 07:01
6. Needle and Suture 04:38
7. Shadow 04:08
8. Blow Your Mind 06:28
9. Soul Eating Machine 04:41
10. It Waits 05:15
11. Suffer Fools 04:54
12. Fan the Fire 03:46
Total: 01:02:11

Kurdt Vanderhoof - Guitars, Mellotron, Synth
Mike Howe - Vocals
Steve Unger - Bass, Vocals (backing)
Jeff Plate - Drums
Rick van Zandt - Guitars (lead)

Metal Church discography (demos, EPs, & full-lengths):

Red Skies Demo 1981
 Hitman Demo 1982
Four Hymns Demo 1982
 Demo 1983 Demo 1983
Metal Church Full-length 1984
 The Dark Full-length 1986
Blessing in Disguise Full-length 1989
'90 Demo Demo 1990
The Human Factor Full-length 1991 
Hanging in the Balance Full-length 1993
Masterpeace Full-length 1999
 The Weight of the World Full-length 2004
 A Light in the Dark Full-length 2006
 This Present Wasteland Full-length 2008
 Generation Nothing Full-length 2013 
XI Full-length 2016

See also (David Wayne):

Reverend EP 1989 
World Won't Miss You Full-length 1990 
Play God Full-length 1991 
Live EP 1992 
The Spirit Remains Full-length 1993 (unreleased until 2015)
A Gathering of Demons EP 2001 
Metal Church Full-length 2001 

See also (Mike Howe):

Breaking Point Full-length 1988

See also (Kurdt Vanderhoof):

Vanderhoof Full-length 1997 
A Blur in Time Full-length 2002
Presto Ballet:
Peace Among the Ruins Full-length 2005
The Lost Art of Time Travel Full-length 2008 
Invisible Places Full-length 2011 
Love What You've Done to the Place EP 2011 
Relic of the Modern World Full-length 2012 | Tane Norther