Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lesser of two evils

Ah, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), it was a scene with a major impact on hard rock and metal. However like any other scene it produced some great bands and some not so great bands. There were also bands that started fine and for whatever reasons they went off in musical directions that didn't work so well. Saxon gave up their solid denim and leather sound for a stab at success in the mid-80's with less than fantastic results. The energetic Raven signed to Atlantic records and promtly had the life sucked out them as a once bright career faded fast. Thrash pioneers Venom never bothered to learn how to play their instruments until the 90's and they watched the bands they influenced pass them by in the mid-1980's. However the two bands I selected for this match-up are...

Diamond Head-Canterbury (1983)


Jaguar-This Time (1984)

Diamond Head were one of the early bands to emerge from the NWOBHM scene. In retrospect they were infuential as well. Bands in their own scene like Satan and Dark Heart were influenced by them and of course Metallica would later cover some of theirs songs as well. Their sound was as much hard rock as metal and they were progressing on their early albums, but the direction on Canterbury had to be surprising to fans. Jaguar spent several years knocking around on the club scene before releasing their debut in 1983. Although it's not highly original, it was certainly a strong metal album that showed a band with some real potential. Unfortunately the music on that album was the direction they chose to follow. Both bands had been at it for a while so the music here is tight and well produced, but the ideas and the energy levels were a different story. So let's break this one down and see what we have twenty some plus years after the fact.

Paul Merrell for Jaguar against Sean Harris for Diamond Head. Both singers sound comfortable with what they are doing. That's a plus to some extent. Merrell presents the melodies in okay fashion, but it all across like someone trying so hard to get played on the radio. Sean Harris is a far better salesman. Even when he singing lukewarm he puts everything into the effort.
Point to Diamond Head


Garry Peppard for Jaguar takes on Brian Tatler from Diamond Head. Peppard had a good sound on the previous album despite some fuzzy production. Here he is merely average although with much better production. It's just rather typical of radio friendly AOR/hard rock of the time. Tatler slows down some from his previous efforts. He also seems to borrow a few moments from Def Leppard. Yet he has his own style here and there. He also gets in a few decent solos.

Point to Diamond Head

Rhythm section

Jaguar had Jeff Cox on bass and drummer Chris Lovell against bassist Mervyn Goldsworthy and drummer Robbie France for Diamond Head. Both pairs are alright although largely unspectacular. Although I could hear Goldsworthy's bass here and there.

Point to Diamond Head

Disappointment factor

This is tough call. Jaguar changed their sound more. However Diamond Head had been around longer, established themselves as a fairly consistent band and they were more original on their previous albums. So there album was the bigger disappointment because they were at a higher level than Jaguar. A clunker from Diamond Head was fairly surprising at this point because they had seemed to be one of the more steady bands on the scene.

Point to Jaguar.

Who rocks more?

As always, a tough category in this segment. If your band is being written about here than that means you didn't rock much to begin with. While both bands were fairly tight they were both watering down their sound to some extent. Both bands seemed to to have forgotten about heavy metal part of NWOBHM as they sure didn't put much of that into their sound. I think Jaguar were looking for radio play and Diamond Head were trying to expand their sound. Both came out sounding like limp noodles though. Diamond Head slowed things down a lot and tried stretching parts out, but it just made me sleepy. Jaguar would claim they had gotten into bands like U2 and Big Country before writing this. Instead they sound at best like Survivor and at worst kind of like Loverboy. I found myself needing to go take repeated dumps while listening to Jaguar. I am not sure if it was a coincidence or not. Diamond Head hit on far more solid moments although they were spread out.
Point to Diamond Head

Diamond Head take this one 4-1. So Diamond Head seemed to be trying to integrate pop, pomp and other into their sound and Jaguar just shook off the metal label and strapped on an AOR/hard rock persona like it was no big deal. Musical growth can be a great thing and I think Diamond Head were trying that only the results were rather mediocre. Granted they had been at it for a few years and I can't begrudge them trying to incorporate new sounds into their mix, but much of this album didn't work. Jaguar is a different situation because they changed singers just before "Power Games", but most of that album was written before the vocalist change. However when it came time for a new album there were new ideas brought into play and the material made them sound like an entirely new band. Also it seemed to kill any potential that they had shown on the previous album. So for these albums NWOBHM may have stood for..
New wave of bad heavy metal
New wave of barely heavy metal
New wave of bad horrible music
No way of baking hard meatloaf

Okay, the last one didn't make much sense, but neither did some of the ideas that Diamond Head and Jaguar tried on the above albums.

***I'll be back soon with another match-up.

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