In those glorious/hideous (delete as applicable) years before the inexorable rise of the internet, compilation albums used to be the staple of many record buyers collections. Those of a certain age might remember such collections as Masters of Metal (K-Tel), the superb (and newly reinvigorated) Speed Kills (Music For Nations) series, the Metal Killers Kollection (Castle Communications) series, Axe Attack (K-Tel), Time To Rock (WEA), and the magnificently titled Metal Treasures and Vinyl Heavies (Action Replay).
All these compilations gave the listener a glimpse at a new band they might not have had the opportunity to hear yet, and usually at a bargain price. However, as production costs lowered, publishing houses cottoned on to the trend and soon began producing their own collections, sticking free 7” singles, flexi-discs, and even cassettes onto the front of their magazines, until eventually CDs took over the world and compilation discs of various descriptions quickly became affixed to virtually every glossy music journal produced on a monthly basis.
So, with magazines currently giving away free CDs and downloads on a regular basis, you have to wonder why labels would still want to produce such things. Well, in the case of British Steel – The Rising Force Of British Heavy Metal (Dissonance) nostalgia must surely have played its part as we get taken back to a time long before YouTube would suggest a hundred different bands that sound vaguely similar to the one you clicked onto without even asking.
Showcasing a selection of bands who will probably (but hopefully not) end up being collectively known as the New Wave of New Wave of British Heavy Metal (or NWONWOBHM for “short”) this motley assortment begins with London’s Amulet channeling the spirit of Diamond Head with the bouncy ‘Highwayman’. Brazenly stealing their name from the classic Slayer song, Aggressive Perfector‘s ‘Harlot’s Spell’ sounds like a pissed off Iron Maiden fronted by Paul Di’Anno, while ‘Lost To The Void’, the enjoyable entry from Lancastrian band, Eliminator, has a lo-fi Thin Lizzy meets early Manowar vibe.
Taking the name of the defunct Australian Power Metal act, London’s Dungeon clearly worship at the altar of Venom, their song ‘Queen of Sin’ going for the throat with speed, fury, and high-pitched yelps. Midlanders, Dark Forest, are all about widdly widdly Folk/Power Metal and sound far too well produced for a compilation like this. With a name and a logo that could easily be from the eighties, Southampton’s Toledo Steel have riffs, groove, and a vocalist who sounds like Rob Halford with a nasal infection doing a King Diamond impression.
Moving north of the border, Scotland’s Vuil give us ‘Iron Witch’ with its Motorhead riff, and vocals that could shatter glass from twenty feet. ‘The Witch’s Eye’ from London’s Seven Sisters is pacy and melodic with a great guitar solo. Insurgency from Lancaster sound like a friendly bunch, as their gentle ballad ‘Destined For Death’ thrashes your fucking tits off as they combine the fast parts of Celtic Frost with the fast parts of Venom, and the fast parts of someone experiencing explosive diarrhea after a particularly brutal curry. It’s gallop-galloping time next as London-based Neuronspoiler invite you to ‘Slay the Beast’ in classic NWOBHM style. Bringing up the rear are Wytch Hazel, the third Lancastrian act to be included on this release, with their very noddable old school folk rock tune ‘Freedom Battle’.
At first glance, it might seem that a compilation of bands dedicated solely to playing traditional NWOBHM would be rather limited and repetitive in content, but while none of the bands can truly compare to the acts they wish to emulate, there are many distinct and varied styles on display here. Of course, this means the chances are that not all the bands included will appeal to everyone at once, but those with at least a passing interest in the genre should definitely find something of value.