Diamond Head

Lightning To The Nations (Happy Face Records '80, Metal Blade '92) Rating: A
One of Lars Ulrich's favorite bands, it's likely that Diamond Head would remain unknown today (not that they are well-known beyond hardcore metal fans) if Metallica hadn't covered four songs from this album: "The Prince," "It's Electric," "Helpless," and of course "Am I Evil?," which remains a favorite in Metallica's live repertoire to this very day. It's hard for me to hear those songs, all of which originated on this debut album, and not compare them to the Metallica versions, but in all honesty I think that "Am I Evil?" is the only one that's clearly inferior here (and this version rules too). One of the best albums to arise from the movement known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, Lightning To The Nations is above all else a great riff album, and what's impressive about it is how, similar to Iron Maiden's debut, the band combines the raw energy of punk with the power and musicianship of heavy metal. Brian Tatler is surely one of the great overlooked guitar heroes, and though Sean Harris' singing and the bare bones production are nothing special, they're good enough when matched to such strong songs. Among the four "Metallica songs" here, my favorites are actually "The Prince," what with its tremendous energy and wailing harmonized guitars including a superb solo, and "It's Electric," which delivers groovy hard rock with plenty of hooks and of course another blistering guitar solo along the way. As for the "non-Metallica tunes," and there are only three of them as the album comprises a mere seven songs that average around six minutes in length, though there's not a dud in the bunch my pick for the best of the rest is the nine and a half minute "Sucking My Love." Yes, the Spinal Tap-ish title is unfortunate, and the cock rock vocals at times only get in the way (but the belated chorus towards the end is actually quite good), but the song's great groove and terrific guitar work, again including multiple solos, easily overcomes its flaws. Really, aside from some cheesy moments here and there, I don't have a lot of complaints about this great debut album, which should've been much bigger than it was. Alas, a lack of professional management stalled the band's forward progress, and their later decision to pursue a more pop metal direction also proved to be misguided.

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