N.W.O.B.H.M. WEDNESDAY: STRATUS
It was in the early part of 1983 when Clive Burr, in what many people mistook as a sign that he would be taking a much-needed break from the music industry, laid down his drum sticks and put Iron Maiden behind him. That wasn't the case though as Clive, who was actually fired by Iron Maiden and replaced by the group's current drummer, Nicko McBrain, went right from Iron Maiden into the French band Trust. As Nicko McBrain himself had previously played with Trust it proved to be an "interesting" event for Clive Burr as the two drummers essentially swapped places! After helping them (Trust) out in the studio for awhile, and even taking some time to record with the "super group" Gogmagog (also featuring former Iron Maiden vocalist Paul Di'Annohe!), Burr decided that he wanted to form his own group. To that end fortune smiled on him as three top-notch musicians in Tino Troy (lead guitar and vocals), Chris Troy (bass and vocals) and Bernie Shaw (lead vocals), having recently become unemployed following the break-up of Praying Mantis, would fall right into Burr's lap. Originally going by the dreadful (and thankfully soon abandoned) name of "Clive Burr's Escape" the group, though sadly short-lived, would eventually be rounded out by keyboardist Alan Nelson with "Throwing Shapes" serving as their own and only release. Admittedly I knew little of Stratus before re-watching (for the first time in 25 years!) the Troma Entertainment "classic" film "Class of Nuke 'Em High". While looking to see who played a particular band during a scene that takes place at a college frat party (it ended up being The Smithereens oddly enough!) I happened to stumble across a reference to Stratus. Although I didn't catch it on my first (or rather latest) viewing of the film, sure enough Stratus actually played on movie's soundtrack! The band's number "Run For Your Life", which is also on the group's lone album, is featured on the soundtrack and, after heading over to Youtube to check out some other music by this N.W.O.B.H.M. act I went ahead and ordered a copy of 1985's "Throwing Shapes" off of Amazon. Now, even though drummer Clive Burr had just left Iron Maiden, and even Trust for that matter, the music found within "Throwing Shapes" proved to be more in line with what the Troy brothers were well known for. In other words, smooth and melodic British hard rock/heavy metal that takes it's cues, including splashy keyboards and an overly commercialized production, from AOR! The thing is even by Praying Mantis standards the band was way more mellow then anyone (press and fans of both Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis) could have imagined. In a way the album also comes off as more like Bernie Shaw's previous band Grand Prix or even groups like Statetrooper, Tobruk and Briar. The thing is, in spite of all of that and in spite of the fact that the group's one and only album was more then likely initially dismissed by both fans and critics alike, I actually quite like the band. Sure, they are rather commercialized and even a bit "fluff" in places, but as an alternative to the heavier side of the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement it works. Or at least it works for me. You've got a top-tier vocalist here and musicians who know all to well how to craft melodic rock. The track from the movie soundtrack might have been my first exposure, but the album as a whole I found to be rather enjoyable. For melodic rock fans this band is worth a listen and you can find their "Throwing Shapes" album on sites like Amazon and iTunes. While they didn't last long past this album's release, they are still another sign of just how far-reaching the whole N.W.O.B.H.M. scene was (variety-why) and are an example of how, just when you think you've heard everything that the scene has to throw at you, there are always new acts to discover from the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement!