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DIAMOND HEAD Lightning To The Nations 2020

By Rob McNees, Vinyl Aficionado
Wednesday, January 6, 2021 @ 2:07 PM

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Lightning To The Nations 2020

Silver Lining Music

I'll have to admit, I approach things like this with much trepidation. Usually when bands go back and re-record albums, it's something so iconic and burned in your memory that the redo just never quite lives up to its predecessor. It has been done many times in recent years, to varying degrees of success. Bands like TESTAMENT, SAXON, SCORPIONS and EXODUS have all gone back to "do the original songs justice" or something along those lines. Add to that the shit year that is/was 2020 and all bands unable to tour and trying livestreaming to capture that lost revenue and I'm surprised that more bands didn't attempt something like this. Then if your band has been around long enough actually celebrate an anniversary of some kind, then we have the perfect storm.

Enter DIAMOND HEAD, with the 40th anniversary of one of the most iconic albums in the history of the NWOBHM, that being Lightning To The Nations, or known to some with the OG autographed copies, 'The White Album' (not to be confused with THE BEATLES I assure you) due to there being no writing, song titles or anything other than the original band members autographs on said Vinyl. So what makes this slab of Metal so iconic you might ask? I would say the songs for starters. The energy and the complexity and the headbangin' passion for 1980 was head and shoulders above most anything out at the time. And if you count the effect that they had on a fledgling band from California who went on to become arguably one, if not the biggest Heavy Rock band in the world that should give you at least an idea. And if you're thinking I'm exaggerating a bit, METALLICA has covered not one, but four DIAMOND HEAD tracks off this slab of greatness, those being "It's Electric", "Helpless", "The Prince" and of course "Am I Evil?". I'd say that speaks volumes really.

So what would make a band want to tackle something so revered as L.T.T.N.? Brian Tatler, lead guitarist, songwriter and last remaining original member had this to say, “The original album was recorded and mixed in a week, and we were very young; still 19-20 years old when it was recorded, so there’s a lot of that youthful energy. But we didn’t have the technique, time, or craftsmanship to record it with the sort of power that we could now. So that was a real thing to savor: the opportunity to go in the studio and record these songs fresh and vibrant.” Hard to argue with the man's motives. But what about the results?

Brian has had a pretty stable lineup for awhile now, starting with drummer Karl Wilcox, whose been pounding the skins since 2002, guitarist Andy "Abbz"Abberley, whose been in the band since 2006, lead singer and album co-producer Rasmus Bom Andersen since 2014, and newbie Dean Ashton, playing bass since 2016. These chaps certainly have their work cut out for them. Starting out with the title track "Lightning to the Nation", Brian wasn't kidding about the sound. A wall of sound welcomes you with a fist. Of course it has a much more polished sound than the rawness of the original. Rasmus really has an excellent voice, and carries all the notes sang by ex-crooner Sean Harris and then some. "The Prince" is next and I don't think it's a stretch to say this song was an early blueprint to what would later become Thrash. D.H. 2020 play it pretty much as it was, not speeding it up because they could. An almost boogie-style break in the middle definitely changes the song up a smidge. "Sucking My Love" is the ultimate um....ode to every teen's dream. And most adults truth be told. Seems a tad slower than the original.

Tatler's chops have obviously improved but plays the solo pretty close to the original. This track was heavy in 1980. And the new version doesn't disappoint. The legendary "Am I Evil?" is next and that intro sounds more foreboding now, and that crisp sound on the ultimate riff just tears at your face. There's little nuances that the band has added to give the track an ever-so-slightly different texture. It still shocks me that this song is well over 8 minutes long because it's never felt bloated or overlong like a song of that length might. "Sweet and Innocent" is a tad different than the OG version but still packs its punch. I do miss the harmony vocals in the chorus but I suspect this is more of what the Live version will feel like. "It's Electric" has the gaps in the riff more pronounced and the solo much more upfront now than the OG version. And Rasmus really belts this one out. "Helpless" is the other early Thrash blueprint and I can't help but hear James Hetfield's voice because I've heard the 'TALLICA version so much. I'd kinda like to hear this one a bit more uptempo honestly. But the end of this song is so damn cool that it's always been a fave of mine. So that's it for the OG album. Now the fun really starts for me as I've heard plenty of bands cover DIAMOND HEAD, and now here's the chance to hear DH cover someone else. And of course who better to cover than the one band who has kept your name on the lips of headbangers everywhere: METALLICA. And the band has chosen one of their heaviest tracks to give the DIAMOND HEAD treatment to, none other than "No Remorse"!! And if you think that it might not be as punishing as the original, then your thoughts are highly misguided. DH made sure the guitar tone was nasty and even though Ras's voice isn't similar to Papa Het's, it fits well without sounding out of place. And yes, Karl does thrash it up when it's time to kick it into gear! Stellar! Cover two is a stone cold classic, LED ZEPPELIN's "Immigrant Song". And they really take no prisoners with how they upped the heaviness factor a thousand fold. The only other band who crushed this song as well was the mighty DARK ANGEL, and since their version was less than 2 minutes long then I give the trophy to DH. Cover three is another iconic track, that being "Sinner" by the Heavy Metal legends JUDAS PRIEST.

If you know your PRIEST, you know that as good as the studio version was, the definitive version was off Unleashed In The East, and I believe the DH does it well justice. And again, the band is spot on and Ras does an amazing job of pulling off The Metal God. A stellar version to be sure! The last cover was a shocker. "Rat Bat Blue" off DEEP PURPLE's Who Do We Think We Are? album from 1973. A deep track and DH took it to another level. Ras even pulled off those unreal Gillan screams! Well done indeed.

DIAMOND HEAD have celebrated the 40th anniversary of Lightning To The Nations by doing what they do best: playing quality Metal in the finest British tradition. There are many reasons why you should grab this for your collection. If you were late to the NWOBHM party. If you want to see how the new band tackles the amazing back catalog. If you want to hear those incredible covers. No matter what your reason is, go grab your copy today! Or you might be really Evil when they sell out forever.

For my Vinyl fam, there was a beautiful Blue variant but I think that one is sold out, as were the VERY limited test pressings. But there are still the classic Black vinyl versions out there, so buy or die!

4.5 Out Of 5.0 Skulls

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