Robespierre-Die You Heathen, Die!
No matter how much you think you know the NWOBHM scene there is always some new band to be discovered. Such is the case with Robespierre who, in June and December of 1983, recorded 2 demos that, although popular in and around Liverpool back in the day (especially in the local pubs according to the accompanying booklet!), never made the impact that they should have or rightly deserved. To be fair they did make the rounds amongst tape traders (or at least the one demo from June of 1983 did). Constructed early on as more of a studio project/experiment, albeit one with loads of talent to spare, this underground gem of a "band" featured David Cooke (guitars and vocals) and Gordon Logan (drums and backing vocals). At the time David Cooke was inspired by the emerging NWOBHM scene that was unfolding all around him as well as the more extreme bands coming out of the USA during that time period. Meanwhile Gordon Logan brought a love of punk rock to the project that would end up paying dividends in the long-run. Up front it must be noted that this collection of demos, as assembled by Skol Records, sounds incredible. Having never heard the original source material, or at least for the June 1983 demo as the December 1983 demo remained hidden in the vaults until now, I'm going to give equal credit to the pair of Cooke and Logan (for their original work in the studio) and to Bart Gaberial (head of Skol Records) who handled the executive production of this 2013 re-release. When you add in the beautiful booklet (with a bio, lyrics, pictures and track by track information) this is a must-have for NWOBHM fans. Speaking of which, it might be helpful to spell out just what this pair is rocking on about right? Well, admittedly I was pulled in by the promise of metal born of Hell, Cloven Hoof and Raven. That's fair enough. When my copy actually arrived, thanks to the fine folks at HR Records (link below), those 3 groups did come to mind while listening to this re-release, but so did other NWOBHM bands. While I won't go track by track for space reasons I will divulge that opener "Backs To The Wall", in addition to having some of that spitfire punk mentality previously mentioned, sported a sound that was bred from the likes of Venom, Raven, Grim Reaper and Motörhead! Very nice right? While they might not all have the same immediate impact that the opener had, especially as it seems as if they book-ended the best two tracks for this compilation (to be fair though the first 4 tracks come from demo number 1 while the last 5 tracks come from demo number 2 so it's not exactly like they cherry-picked the running order that much) at least it ends on a high note with the great, and somewhat epic, "Battle Of The Ninth Thermidor". Mixed in between these two highlights are some rem gems (the title cut and "Robespierre") and sweet rockers ("I Am A Cannibal" and "Medusa") so this re-release still makes for an essential purchase for NWOBHM purists. It should also be noted that when you step back and consider when these cuts were originally put to tape it's then that the reality sets in. For their time period (1983) Robespierre were quite the heavy bunch which, again per the bio notes, was actually their agenda all along. With "Die You Heathen, Die!" it's easy, especially in hindsight, to see that all the pieces were there for these two to make it big. As is too often the case with bands from this time period though they slipped through the cracks. This collection ends up then as a fitting tribute to another pair of unsung heroes who should have found success in a time when the public was craving new and exciting hard rock, heavy metal and thrash. While it didn't happen it's at least possible to now show our support to these cult acts that helped paved the way for today's hard and heavy, mean and nasty and most definitely over-the-top metal bands!