Forgotten Gems: Runestaff-Runestaff
Heavy Metal Records
In the early eighties Heavy Metal Records was well known as the home of such band's as Handsome Beasts, Bitches Sin, Cloven Hoof and Witchfinder General. In addition to these NWOBHM acts the label also released The Heavy Metal Heroes compilations. I mention this because Runestaff would prove to be an odd signing for them. Runestaff began life in Ipswitch, England in 1980. Originally the group was an all male progressive rock band. Their first recording would be a three track demo cassette released in 1982. Guitarist/vocalist Andy Page would leave the band apparently frustrated over the direction of the band. Vocalist Joanna Symes was brought in and in a twist of fate Andy Page decided to return. With Page concentrating on guitar the band* (Symes,Page,Wayne Moyez-guitars,Jammie Durrant-bass,Barry Godfrey-keyboards and Kevin Hunt-drums) would spend the next few years playing out. The group soon developed a loyal following and adapted more of a AOR/hard rock sound. With the band constantly touring soon enough they caught the eye of Heavy Metal Records. Runestaff's s/t debut album would be released in 1985. And while the group are often lumped in with the NWOBHM movement the truth is their sound owes a great deal more to American rock than to what was in their own backyard. With Joanna Symes on the mic (who sounds a great deal like Pat Benatar) the band offers up thirty minutes of enjoyable rock. There is nothing groundbreaking going on and like fellow English act Satanic Rites the group just go about things with a devil may care attitude. And while obviously being on more of a metal oriented label did not help the band it was actually the tragic death of original keyboard player Kaust Rakhit in 1985 that would set the stage for the group's breakup. Honestly I don't know if keyboardist Barry Godfrey played on the record but he is listed in the credits on most sites so that is all I have to go by. What I do know is that he would end up replacing Rakhit from what I've been able to find out and that Page would quit once more in 1986 over his depression at the loss of his friend. A second album was in the works but was stalled as vocalist Joanne Syme suffered a serious throat problem. With Page gone and Syme's illness the band gradually dissolved in late 1986. Aside from a few tidbits to be found on the net little is known about Runestaff and where the members would end up. Again anyone with knowledge please drop me a line. Now it is a toss up for me and what version of this album I enjoy more. I have both an original LP rip of this and the digital download off of Itunes. While the Itunes version really cleans up the sound a lot the fact is that the vinyl rip gives it more of that eighties charm. Either way though you can't go wrong.
*Per BNR the line up is as follows for the album:Joanne Syme- vocals,Wayne Moyez -guitars,Andy Page-guitars, Jamie Durrant-bass, Barry Godfrey-keyboards and Kevin Hunt-drums. The information about drummer Kaust Rakhit was posted on several different music blogs. I am not completely sure about the whole keyboardist issue so I have printed what I've been able to find out. Either way it doesn't distract from the fact that Runestaff are another case of a band that should have made it but life had other plans. The roads are littered with such acts and it is here in Forgotten Gems that I hope to dust these old finds off and give them new life for a new day and age.