Forgotten Gems: Split Beaver - When Hell Won't Have You
Heavy Metal Records
One week (some months back) after Mark and I had run through the usual big names of the movement for our (somewhat) weekly NWOBHM Wednesday segment I offered up the suggestion of covering Split Beaver. I shouldn't have been all that surprised to find out that Mark was unfamiliar with this Wolverhampton based four-piece. Formed in 1979, "When Hell Won't Have You" was their sole release. Sure it had been preceded by a 1981 single. And an odd song (or two?) has turned up on various NWOBHM compilations. But for all intensive purposes this 1982 album is all we have to go by. Certainly this band might not have had long term success in mind judging by the name. Or at least commercial success. While their music had the right attitude that name wasn't going to open up every door so you do have to wonder what they were thinking. Regardless this is another guilty pleasure album for me. For those who do know Split Beaver then no doubt they have heard "Hounds of Hell". I mention the cut because it seems to be the one most likely to show up on NWOBHM compilations and for good reason. It is a solid heavy metal thumper and fairly typical NWOBHM. Still people would certainly be surprised to hear the rest of "When Hell Won't Have You" as it drives all over the hard rock/heavy metal race track kicking up quite a bit of dirt in the process. "Savage" opens things up with boogie induced NWOBHM while "Going Straight" starts off by swapping Beatles and Rolling Stones licks before ending up somewhere around the Godz. "Cruisin'" is dirty blues rock. Down and dirty blues rock. "Levington Gardens" is a foot stomping AC/DC meets Saxon rocker. As stated Split Beaver liked to wear a lot of different hats and rock a lot of different beats. "Likewise" is also a bit like AC/DC but with early ZZ Top and Nazareth throw in. The NWOBHM/70's hard rock "Living in and Out" is a slow burner with classic rock riffs and again bridges the gap between these various genres. Split Beaver were more like a bar rock and roll/metal band raiding riffs from wherever they could find them. "Get Out Stay Out" showed that perfectly as well as here you had Nazareth, Grand Funk Railroad, Foghat and AC/DC all drinking cheap beer with the Godz on a cold October night. Album closure "The Bailiff" could be the encore number from that night if you'd like. I've almost forgotten the ever so subtle "Gimmie Head". Well, this sleazy little number is a grittier AC/DC throwing off all the gloves. Yeah, Split Beaver didn't believe in beating around the bush obviously. The band sadly were done by 1983. Web sources say their breakup was due to bike accident. As with numerous other NWOBHM acts they did reform for awhile before finally putting the band to rest in the early 90's. The album is on Itunes in a "re-mastered" format. I'm not so sure how well it was re-mastered though as it sounds alright. Too bad we couldn't have a nice re-issue of it with maybe some rare material tacked on for good measure. As I have said before and will no doubt say again it is what it is nothing more and nothing less. The movement had bands from all over the musical landscape and Split Beaver were just one of many to throw in bits of boogie, blues and sleaze rock. There are enough hard rock/heavy metal riffs to appease most traditional NWOBHM fans while foreshadowing mid 80's American hard rock bands.