“I’ve got Heavy Metal music in my blood, And I’d like to give it to you if I could.”
So reads the mission statement of Edinburgh’s finest (and perhaps only) exponents of the NWOBHM scene, Holocaust.
Initially getting together to make music in the late ’70s, the band finally inked a deal with independent label Phoenix Record And Filmworks, who in turn released not only the legendary 1980 single from which the lyrics above were taken but also the rest of the records that come together to form this extensive 6 CD set from Cherry Red imprint H.N.E Recordings
It’s the band’s 1981 debut album ‘The Nightcomers’ that is without doubt their most renowned release (for reasons I’ll come to in a minute), featuring vocalist Gary Lettice, guitarists John Mortimer and Ed Dudley, bassist Robin Begg, along with drummer Nicky Arkles. This 9 track album is a bonafide long lost classic from the NWOBHM age, seamlessly blending the slightly more punky edged vocal delivery of Lettice with the riff and roll metal of his bandmates. It’s no surprise that the soon to be members of some band called Metallica were huge fans, in fact if you listen to the likes of ‘Death or Glory’ or the six minute plus album title track, things almost play out like an early blueprint for ‘Kill ‘Em All’, albeit played at a much less frantic tempo. Yup, those four kookie Californian doods did more than cover Holocaust’s ‘The Small Hours’ for their ‘$5.98 E.P. – Garage Days Re-Revisited’ EP that’s for sure.
What is surprising reading the excellent, and highly informative, 20 page John Tucker penned booklet that is included within this clamshell box set, is just how widely criticised Holocaust were by the UK music media. You can count the number of positive reviews within the booklet on two fingers, and even then, one of them is for one song, a track on the band’s 1984 released ‘No Man’s Land’ album. This is something I really do struggle to understand, given the fact that ‘Smokin’ Valves’ the opening track from the band’s debut (and their second single) is an absolute cracker of a tune and one that should have seen early 80s Friday youth club discos up and down the country packed full of spotty lads throwing their dandruff into the night air over.
As it was with such apathy to their debut album via the mainstream media, I think I only ever got to hear the album a couple of times through an old mate of mine who bought pretty much anything released under the NWOBHM banner. I certainly recall him having the 1981 released ‘Live From The Raw Loud N’ Live Tour’ EP that featured 4 tracks taken from the band’s long form VHS release that was available through ads in Sounds magazine for the hefty tag of £29.99. Obviously at that price point back in 1981 you’d have to be a very rich (or lucky) teenager to afford a copy, so its great to hear the full 80 minute soundtrack to that video included here as CD 2. Recorded at the Nite Club, Edinburgh on 10th September 1981, it’s a warts ‘n’ all kind of recording, but given that fact that some of their peers (yeah, I’m looking at you Diamond Head and Motorhead) were also releasing supposed live videos that actually saw them miming to album tracks, I doff my hat to the lads for having the stones to release such a raw loud n’ live document. In fact, it’s a recording the band (or maybe it was their record label) must have had a lot of faith in as it’s included again here in part via the 1983 released ‘Live (Hot Curry & Wine) album.
1983 also saw ex-Holocaust guitarist Ed Dudley emerge with a new band under the Hologram banner (the LP coming complete with a sticker that bore the legend “Holocaust are now Hologram”) for their one and only release, the ‘Steal The Stars’ album. Totally at odds with the backs to the wall rifferama he’d constructed with his former bandmates, ‘Steal The Stars’ ploughs out a more melodic rock furrow. It’s an album that kind of reminds me of Diamond Head’s ‘Canterbury’ album, perhaps being a step too far ahead of the time for its own good, and when he stays away from using the top end of his dog scaring vocal range Gordon Band puts in a top bluesy vocal shift here too.
It’s the aforementioned 1984 released ‘No Mans Land’ album that not only saw Holocaust finally return, but also get one and a bit positive reviews from the mainstream media. This time around the band was reduced to guitarist John Mortimer playing pretty much everything along with session drummer Steve Cowen, and to be honest it’s a bit of a let-down when played alongside the band’s debut record. It’s okay in places but Howard Johnson was indeed right when he said ‘Satellite City’ is without doubt the best song on the album and the second side of the album is way better than the first. As such it’ll probably be the CD I return to least in this set.
Which is something you won’t find me saying about the sixth and final CD in this set. This 13 track disc brings together the band’s singles from their ‘Heavy Metal Mania’ debut from 1980 through to their 1982 12” ‘Comin Through’ which features the last Lettice fronted new music the band would release. Every track contained on this disc is designed to give you a dose of headbanger’s neck just like when you were a teenager, so go dig out your junkie juice soaked cut off, clip up your bullet belt (albeit with a fair few additional bullets these days no doubt) and buckle up your studded gauntlets to fully complete the listening experience.
All together now.
“I love to rock, I love to get down low. I love to rock…rock ‘n’ roll.”
Author: Johnny ‘Heavy Metal’ Hayward