Heavy metal has gone through so many phases in it’s forty-year existence that just saying “heavy metal” isn’t enough to specify what you’re talking about; there’s thrash metal, speed metal, glam metal, industrial metal, death metal, black metal and so on. But, the first heavy metal sub-genre to gain popularity after the initial crop of bands (Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest) was the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The NWOBHM started in the late ’70s and the bands incorporated elements of punk (which was taking Britain by storm at the time) and played harder and faster than their predecessors, with less blues influences and a lyrical focus on mythology, occultism and fantasy. All this came together to create a tougher sound with crunching power chords and lightening-fast guitar solos.
Key bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal were Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Saxon and Motorhead. Another key, but less recognized act in the movement was Diamond Head. While Diamond Head never achieved the level of success that was reached by some of their peers, they would prove to be a major influence on the thrash metal scene of the late 80’s. Metallica covered a number of their tunes and bands like Megadeth and Anthrax have both cited the band as a key influence in their sound.
Originally formed in 1976, Diamond Head supported bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden in the early phases of their careers but because of mis-management, remained relatively unknown while their NWOBHM counter-parts got major label attention and headlining tours. They released their debut album “Lightening to the Nations” in 1980 and originally only pressed 1000 copies. As a result the original pressing of the album has become a much sought-after item for metal record collectors. This is due in part to Metallica covering 5 of the tracks from the album “Am I Evil?,” “The Prince,” “Helpless,” “Sucking My Love” and “It’s Electric.” While the album didn’t sell millions of copies, it still was highly regarded amongst fans of the NWOBHM and would guarantee Diamond Head a devoted, cult audience of headbangers worldwide. The album would eventually be re-released in 1992 on Metal Blade Records and again, in 2001, by Sanctuary Records.
The original line-up of the band would break up in 1985, re-form for a brief period from 1991 to 1994 and then re-form again in 2002. The current line-up only features one original member, lead guitarist Brian Tatler, the man that created the trademark Diamond Head guitar sound that would become so influential to younger bands. Just take a listen to the riff on “Am I Evil”(see video above)for an example. Hard to believe, but they are embarking on their first-ever tour of the U.S. in the month of August. We’re lucky enough to be ticketing a couple of the shows, San Francisco on Wednesday, August 17 and Las Vegas on Sunday, August 21! If you’re a fan of bone-crushing guitar riffs and soaring vocals, go out and see one of the originators of what’s become the “classic” metal sound.