Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who were they? Medieval

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This month's who were they is one of the absolute best metal bands you may never have heard of. Medieval hailed from the western Michigan area and began around 1979 as Omnibus. That early line-up was Timmy Amsbuist on guitar and vocals, Willijious Amsbuist on drums and a bass player named Magloo. Timmy and Willijious were not related, but were friends and that last name was because they combined their last names just when they were playing in the band (their story). After awhile the band changed bass players and Elwood Chew came in. At this point they went to record a demo and they had a manager who had aspirations of the band playing top 40 material. It wasn't so they split with their manager. Then a family friend named Lord Byron introduced the band to some heavier influences and shortly after that they recorded another demo called "All knobs to the right" in 1984. They got some positive press, but had trouble finding a label due to their image (short hair), diverse subject matter and refusal to change their image.

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Finally New Renaissance records signed them, they put their song "World War Four" on the label's "Speed Metal Hell" compilation and then they released a five song ep in 1986. The band's bio calls the ep "Reign of terror", but other sources and my album make it appear like it is self-titled. Then they began working towards material for a full length album. "Medieval Kills" was ready to go in 1987, but New Renaissance's distributor Important went out of business. This tied up cases of New Renaissance albums in a warehouse while a legal battle went on. Which meant most of the copies of Medieval's albums sat in a warehouse for about a year. This was pretty much the killer for the band as they couldn't tour for an album that no one could buy. They went on for a year or two after that and called it quits. In 2004 they reunited with a different bass player and began work on new material. Their website even showed them as making some progress as of late 2005, but no updates since then so I guess they may not come back.

That's the history, but it doesn't do them justice. I first heard them on the Speed Metal Hell compilation around 85-86. I bought their ep in maybe 1987 and stumbled upon a used copy of "Medieval Kills" in 1988. Most of their tracks are medium to medium fast tempo, but heavy with killer vocals that have a unique feel. They are like a garage band that plays metal if that helps clear anything up. They are very heavy with pounding backbeats and crazy off the wall guitar solos. To me their music has gotten better with time. They are hard to describe in some ways because there is not a clear comparison. Maybe "Helmet playing some fine power/speed metal" might be closer, but they are still far better than that. Easily one of the best 80's metal bands on an independent label. None of their material has been released on cd. Their website is still up if you want to check it out.


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Blogger dschalek said...

Just imagine what could've been...

Imagine a Metal Blade contract instead of NR...

Imagine that show at the Ritz in NY with intelligent people in the crowd...

6:10 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

dschalek-No doubt. If Metal Blade or Combat had signed them then they could have really gone somewhere.

6:57 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Since I didn't have the albums, I hadn't heard them in years. When I borrowed yours awhile abck, I was amazed that they held up so well. They sound every bit as good 20 years later. they never got caught up in the "now" sound and as a result have remained pretty timeless

7:15 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

bob-They created their own sound for sure.

Two things I forgot to mention in my write-up. One is that even though the ep was great, the lp was even better and showed a marked tightness over just a year's time. The other thing is that I think they could have a broad appeal. It would obviously appeal to fans of speed and underground metal. Yet it had a raw enough sound to appeal to fans of hardcore punk. They were also solid enough in the metal sound that fans of regular metal like Judas Priest and Motorhead might have dug them as well. Unfortunately they were a maybe a little ahead of their time and good labels just didn't take a chance on them.

7:30 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

You're right--I've never heard of them. But I will be on the lookout now, they sound great.

-- david

6:29 AM  
Blogger DPTH International said...

Some of the best bands are those that just slip through system and fizzle out. What a shame, they sound good.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

david-I think you would like them. The only way they will get their music released on cd is if New Renaissance releases it. NR does not sell the rights of any artist and at this point I don't see them getting a cd release.

dpth-It's a shame not just for them, but for the metal community. This was a band who was doing something fairly original and could have really had an impact if people could have gotten to hear them.

8:06 PM  

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