Saturday, November 3, 2012


My life as a record freak has not improved, in fact it's worsened. No sooner are we through a horrific storm that has devastated the entire state of New Jersey then a personality clash over records again has come up and honestly I don't blame my mother for being a bit perturbed at the whole thing, but as usual she overreacted yesterday. When I'm not getting along with someone the best thing to do is just keep yourself out of their way. There is no use in making a bad situation worse. That's what I tell myself. Forget about people who you get angry at. If you momentarily or permanently can't get on with someone just leave them be and get on with what you dig. Put some good music on, relax. Don't freak out.
                          -Power And Light Come Back On With Renia-
    As you may well know there was a terrible hurricane this past week and it led to serious, horrific damage to the East Coast and scarily my home state of New Jersey. Parts of the state, mainly the coastline, are destroyed and it seems unlikely they ever can be fully rebuilt. When the power was off and it was freezing for over two days I just slept and dreamed peacefully of the past. I woke up in the night, I believe on Wednesday night, and the power was back on and joy and delight filled my heart. I must tell you that the first record I played to celebrate is Renia's sole contribution to the world of melodic progressive/softer hard rock as I call it FIRST OFFENDERS and this album has gone from firmly loved to one of the best records ever made. Hearing the album in such a lovely mood was a real blessing to me. Kenny Stewart for once sings fantastically and not excessively for a whole album very much like Steve Winwood and Paul Rodgers without going into his later blatantly poor Robert Plant emulations in the later stages of his second band the vastly inferior Dirty Tricks. Malcolm and Peter Sutherland do most of the songwriting which is filled with superb harmonies, great melodies, and very memorable hook laden melodic rock songs. In 1973 the two best melodic British rock masterpieces were made- Fable's one record and this album by Renia. While there are definite progressive leanings I would say that like Fable this is a bit progressive, but less so than just straight up strong melodic British rock. I'd say both bands are similar with killer melodies and a bright cheerful atmosphere to most of the album, but the keyboard sound is more extensive in Renia with organ, electric piano, piano, and on the track "Shelter" some great mellotron. The liner notes rave about the band and I guess we'll all just wonder what could have happened for them if they hadn't been so short lived. The time span of a lot of bands back then was very short. Really, you'd be lucky to get a second record out of most bands in the early 70s. In the 1960s there were one-offs, but it seems that even in the earlier half of the 70s the business was becoming brutal. Renia play and sing like seasoned professionals and every track here is amazing. Particularly noteworthy are "Friend Out On The Road," "Breakneck," "Cowboy's Dream," the previously mentioned "Shelter," and the sassy sexy dirty rock closer "Mighty Queen" which reminds me of Free if they were less slovenly. So you can see that I've named a lot of bands and influences that would crop up later in Dirty Tricks, but at that point after the first album Kenny Stewart wasn't such a good writer and his vocals had left behind the relaxed and tastefully done melodic splendor of Renia for a lot of screaming and Dirty Tricks were just another band. Renia most certainly were not just another band and deserve more of your attention.
          -Strange Sounds From 1966 To 1970 In 1984 Wolf On the EDGE OF THE WORLD-
    I've found myself, whilst waiting for some great records to come in what has been the most nightmarish deal ever for me (and firmly the last...) going back to old favourites like Queen and it was last night that I pulled out this strange little record by a band from Cheshire (I believe, but don't quote me on it) England (that part I know for sure!) called Wolf and was again mesmerized by it. What the fuck was the drug or elixir or the influences that led to such a strange record!? Was the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal begun in 1966!? I swear I hear influences going back that far on this album called EDGE OF THE WORLD and every time I hear "A Soul For The Devil" I think of 60s garage taken to somewhere really bizarre, really unsettling. If you want your metal heavy metal avoid this record cos you won't be strong enough to take it and you'll be too narrow minded to even listen. As soon as you hear the opening bars of the first track which incidentally is the title track you'll know this is not a heavy metal record. Don't get me wrong, Wolf can get pretty hard rocking, but they keep going back to the strange melodic sound they have and Chris English's vocals are for most of the album about as soft as a whisper. He never goes over the top, but he does get across and sounds very appealing. He has a soft voice, a voice that is not huge in range, but is very different and very distinctive. On "Heaven Will Rock 'N Roll" he sounds like Brian Connolly the late lamented great from The Sweet under heavy sedation and I'm reminded of a band you'll have to look for later on when I dig their record out called Fairfield Ski who never made it to pressing stage even. Instead they were put out in a low class hack job by one of the worst record dealers who thankfully is long gone and who had the nerve to change their name to Fairfield "Sky."
    The cover and everything about Wolf's EDGE OF THE WORLD visually is metal. The label is that strange Belgian monstrosity that brought us some real winners Mausoleum, but unlike most of the bands on Mausoleum who at least kept up with the times even if they were good hard rock and not the label's throwaway bad heavy metal of which it had way too much Wolf don't try to keep up with anything. The line up that made the record is Chris English (Vocals) Simon Sparkes (Lead guitar) Bill Keir (Guitar/keyboards) Stewart Richardson (Bass) and Mike Thorburn (drums). You get some of the weirdest keyboard sounds on this album like something between a synth and a farfisa organ and God knows why, but these guys seem to have a real affection for older music forms. The closest you get to 1984 is "Edge Of The World" or "Shock Treatment" and that doesn't even come close to sounding like music did then.
     Formerly known as Black Axe I am not meaning to make Wolf sound dated, not up to the current music, or derivative in fact they are none of the above. This record is a really strong record, but it's a record that is more likely to appeal to someone like me than someone who wants heavy, heavy, heavy metal. I don't hear much metal at all here. The guitars sometimes get pretty hard hitting, but hard hitting in a watered down early Black Sabbath kind of a way while if there is any metal band you can compare these guys with it would be a more low key sounding Sabbath. The songs are neither fast nor slow instead the pace is sometimes doomy slow mainly mid paced. The guitar playing of Sparkes and Keir is really really good and the rhythm section is really good too. Lyrically Wolf are again something a bit strange. Are they occultists or Christians? One cannot tell. First they go off on some thing about The Bible in "Shock Treatment" that could be taken either way and lead in both cases to confusion and then the strangest, most otherworldly of lyrics and songs closes Side One- "A Soul For The Devil." It has a creepy, eerie, dark and unsettling menace to it that instead of metal menace is all the kind of creepiness heard in some of the cruder psychedelic/garage mid 60s groups. Chris English's vocals are distant and tortured while some really frightening effects are created through a few Iommi like guitar chords and freaky sounding keyboards. The lyrics sound like somebody in the 60s who took that trip you never want to take and was coming down from it in a haze of confusion. Yeah, this is one strange band! I don't know who I would compare Wolf with except that I would compare them with no one. They look somewhat older than most fresh faced New Wave Of British Heavy Metallers so who knows what the story is behind this album and this band. I have stopped trying to contact members of bands and artists I listen to because of a very sad reason- the further on time goes the more horrible the chance is that you try to reach somebody and they are no longer with us. The death toll is horrendous, and we don't even know about half of them. Wolf don't sound hard living, but they look it. They look pretty scary with really intense gazes in that black and white back cover.
    I have my favourites here and some of the best Neo 60s meets hard rock you'll ever run into if that is your thing would definitely be on this album. As I have stated if you like your heavy metal don't buy this album- you won't get it at all. If you are more interested in hard rock, melodic hard rock, garage, psych, and beat music then by all means don't let the cover scare you- scour every store you respect if any for it and be delighted by it. I didn't know anything about this band when I got the record off my most hated record dealer in the world. It was a chance I took and for me as someone who hates noise-is-us heavy metal I was really knocked out. This is some seriously impressive creepy melodic stuff. It isn't as frightening as Black Sabbath, but it definitely has those dark heaven and hell and purgatory images on it we've come to associate with prime English underground rock. Thing is, though, there is nothing underground about much of EDGE OF THE WORLD. The sound is clear, crisp, and pure. A song like "Medicine Man" which is about healing powers is just the most perfect closing track for an album of carefully played and constructed melodic hard rock with the accent on a lot of very earlier influences. There's nothing else quite like Wolf and that they are forgotten now isn't surprising, but it is sad. You'll often hear me go into rages about how a band was in the right place and the right time and got fucked over. Well, sorry to be so blatant about it, Wolf, you guys were in the wrong place at the wrong time! There could have been a better marketing scheme, to not follow the path of metal at all and go for a whole different image, but who knows what was going on behind the scenes with Wolf. Their album is a really cool one. Its unsettling, but so too are some songs by even the most innocent of the 1960s bands they remind me of. Good stuff for sure and definitely recommended listening.
      Put out your problems. Stay away from your hang ups. Keep yourself intact and if people give you shit just ignore them. They aren't worth any attention whatsoever.

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