Autore: Eric Moreau
(Mighty Music, 2016)
#FOR FANS OF: New Wave Of British Heavy Metal
Mention of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal will inevitably bring forth a nostalgic recollection of legendary bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, and to a lesser extent, Angel Witch, Blitzkrieg, Diamond Head, Holocaust and perhaps even Riot or Thin Lizzy (despite being American and Irish bands). Also worthy of fond reminescence is a quintet originally from Whitley bay, U.K. which in October released their strongest LP since their heyday in the early '80s. Though belatedly self-titled, it serves as a reminder the said movement never really died out but only proliferated to this day, as heard on its eleven tracks, which retain an endearing flair particular to a bygone era as well as sound both contemporary and original. Starting with "Only The Brave" (recorded as a single in August) you could be forgiven for placing this release sometime in the distant past thanks to guitarists Micky Crystal and Robb Weir's crisp and melodic riffs and solos. Backed by a tight, yet unconstricted rythym section made up of bassist Gav Gray and drummer Craig Ellis and led by Jack Meille's classic rock vocals, the band appears to have stepped out of a time machine, not having aged and playing with the same drive and uplifting enthusiasm as on their debut, 1980's Wildcat LP and subsequent recordings, Spellbound and Crazy Nights. Just short of sounding too much like Ozzy's "Over The Mountain", the main guitar riff on this opening track features a few subtle squeals and harmonics which heigten Meille's appeal during the catchy bridge and chorus before a flourishing twin guitar lead break seals the deal and the song reverts back to form. This alone convinced me I had a winner on my hands so I wasn't surprised when "Dust" swept in next with as much foot-stomping energy, if not more. Mickey Crystal does a terrific job of picking up where previous guitarist John Sykes left off, effortlessly complimenting fellow axeman and sole founding member Rob Weir. Both are definitely a force to be reckoned with. The lead playing overall is very adept; their sharp fluid chops demonstrate lots of emotion as well as experience. Not only do they shred like savage beasts (being tigers and all), but also switch gears and turn down the heat at times, as on "The Reason Why", an unsappy ballad/slow paced rocker which fits in nicely at the album's mid-point and provides Meille with another good opportunity to show off his vocal range and conviction, "Praying For A Miracle" exhudes a mellow atmosphere as well, but only for a moment as it soon delves into a hard rocking albeit soulful odyssey you'll find difficult to resist humming along to. Crystal and Weir's soulful, David Gilmoresque solos are not to be missed either. In regards to this release's softer moments, I'd be amiss not to mention the brief next to last number on this release, "Angels In Disguise", a magnificient acoustic interlude conveniently placed between two heady rockers, "Blood Red Sky" (coincidentally possessing the same title as a Monument song, and just as good) and "The Devil You Know". The former has Meille punctuating the word "sky" with a gratifying drawl verging on a snarl during the chorus, while the guitar duo of Crystal and Weir serves up a series of crunchy triplets later giving way to an explosive lead break so powerfully delivered it's felt rather than heard. "Never Give In" will be my go-to track for this release from now on as its darker essence and strictly "metal" undertone is much more in line with the bands I outlined above. With its evil, raw guitar riff and galloping bass line it also has a melodic speed metal feel to it. To boot, two thirds of the way in, rip-roaring solos surge out of nowhere, complimented by insanely rad twinkling like in the lead break to Megadeth's "Holy Wars" (from the widely acclaimed 'Rust In Piece' album). I didn't expect this and was completely blown away. "Do It Again" stands out with its nostalgic lyrics and does a fine job of taking you back to the days of leather and denim with its archtypical NWOBHM style guitar riff and lead break. I found this track similar to Diamond Head, with Meille compellingly paralleling Sean Harris. This will likely have you searching through your record collection avidly digging up countless forgotten yet timeless gems which laid the foundations for future generations of head bangers and rivet heads to jam along to and draw influences from. As for album closer "The Devil You Know", you'll be pumping your fists and banging your head yourself thanks to its pulsing bass intro and thumping drum beat. This track does a fine job of wrapping up the album with a colourful guitar solo and appropriate fade-out to Meille's reflective crooning, fittingly capped by a roar worthy of Tony The Tiger. If I'm to be objective, there are a couple of moments I find a bit too genial for my tastes, namely the Southern rock sounding "Glad Rags" (an old cockney term for fancy, vintage, going out clothes, i.e. "get yer glad rags on!") and "I've Got The Music In Me", a Kiki Dee Band cover I could do without, just like "Music" shouldn't have been included on Witchfinder General's otherwise memorable sophomore release, 'Friends Of Hell' ('83). Despite being unexpected, "Glad Rags" is still an appealing track. With its cowbell and raunchy vibe, it sounds like a cross between Foghat and Black Oak Arkansas. All things considered, it brings some variety to an otherwise homogenous mix. In all, I've mostly positive things to say about Tygers Of Pan Tang, both band and album. New releases by much older outfits are often approached with trepidation and wariness. This is justifiable in many cases as many decades-old outfits fail to deliver like they used to or worse, produce total flops which tarnish their past accomplishments. This is definitely not the case with the Tygers. Even if this latest release leans slightly closer to heavy hard rock than straight up heavy metal, it's still an enjoyable and satisfying experience infused with compelling "traditional metal" properties as well as promoting an undeniable "feel good" quality on par with the aforementioned releases. Having now given it a couple of spins, I'm willing to bet the band continues to prowl and mark their territory for quite some time, as it's no longer just an icon of the glorious past but also part of its imminent revival...Roawrrrrr!