Long touted by many as the ultimate “what-if?” band of the NWOBHM scene, Stourbridge five-piece DIAMOND HEAD have been through somewhat of a resurrection in recent years. Now featuring new vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, and with a new self-titled album under their belts, the band cited by METALLICA as a huge influence are heading to Sheffield’s O2 Academy 2 as part of a globe-trotting tour.
First up tonight are local quartet BLACK MOON RISING, who boast a tight and technical melodic thrash sound which seems to win over the tiny crowd assembled for their set – that is, until a string break from frontman/guitarist Clawfox early on kills their momentum somewhat. It’s all taken in good humour, but you can’t help but wonder what a hitch-free version of their set would sound like. With a clear METALLICA influence in their clean vocal parts and overall mannerisms, and a sound reminiscent of a less polished Ascendancy-era TRIVIUM on-the-whole, BLACK MOON RISING are a perfectly adequate, if unremarkable opener to proceedings.
Fellow Sheffield outfit COYOTE MAD SEEDS are up next, and couldn’t sound much more different if they tried. With a chunky southern hard rock tone reminiscent of BLACK STONE CHERRY and a heavier RIVAL SONS, the band also seem to have brought a large local following with them – with many audience members visibly singing along to some tracks. Led by charismatic frontman Joe Elsey, who possesses an incredibly powerful and yet impressively soulful voice, the band seem to have very little trouble in winning over much of the crowd with their catchy blues rock jams. Luck Is For Losers caps off their set, and proves a real highlight, with Elsey wandering into the crowd towards the end for some truly interactive call-and-response. COYOTE MAD SEEDS might not have hit true greatness yet, but tonight has more than likely seen them pick up some new fans along the way.
The real draw of tonight though, was always going to be DIAMOND HEAD. Now into their fourth decade as a band, and showing no signs of slowing down, the NWOBHM survivors are on top form tonight as their tour rolls on. Kicking off with the thunderous title-track from 1982’s Borrowed Time is a furious statement of intent from the band, and immediately gives Rasmus Bom Andersen a platform to show off his considerable vocal abilities. Tearing straight on with new track Bones gives a good idea of exactly where the band are at in 2016. With a driving riff and soaring vocal lines, it was one of the highlights of this year’s album Diamond Head, and is no less impressive in a live setting. It’s then that the first big surprise of the evening occurs though, as guitarist and bandleader Brian Tatler breaks into arguably one of the DIAMOND HEAD’s biggest hits, in the form of debut album title-track Lightning To The Nations.
Naturally, the crowd go wild, and it only escalates from here, with the band tearing into a lengthy set spanning both their early career, and their most recent release. All in all, their entire debut album (barring Sweet and Innocent) gets aired over the course of the night, as does nearly half of their new album. Of the new numbers, it’s the DIO-esque Shout At The Devil and the sweeping near-balladry of recent single All The Reasons You Live that seem to go down the best – the former underpinned by an excellent groove from drummer Karl Wilcox and bassist Dean Ashton. Still though, there’s more surprises to come in the setlist as rhythm guitarist Andy “Abbz” Abberley unleashes his twin-neck guitar known affectionately as “The Beast” at one point, and the band also air Knight of the Swords from 1983’s oft-ignored Canterbury. Several hits later (including The Prince and It’s Electric), and the band reach the end of their set with the obligatory closer Am I Evil? – made famous to many by METALLICA on covers album Garage Inc. Packing arguably the most titanic riffs in the band’s arsenal, along with an instantly catchy chorus, it’s easily one of the best moments of the night, and the entire room are united in chanting the words back at the visibly delighted Andersen and Tatler. The chanting continues and indeed grows as the band leave the stage, before swiftly returning for a two-track encore in the form of the aforementioned Shout At The Devil and old favourite Sucking My Love. A truly great show from one of British metal’s greatest and most underrated bands.
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