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Diamond Head – The Coffin Train (Album Review)

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About 40 years ago the NWOBHM was the premier avenue of expression for the British rocker who was either down on his economic luck or otherwise in need of letting off some steam, yet unwilling to embrace the anarchy and scorn for virtuoso musicianship that was rampant in England’s punk rock scene. Diamond Head was among the bands that were poised to take not only their island of birth, but the whole world by storm with an onslaught of massive heavy metal anthems that arguably helped pave the way for thrash metal and also a series of glowing endorsements in print media. Alas, a combination of finicky sentiments in the music consuming population and heavy competition between numerous bands in a crowded style were among the factors that kept this from happening, yet due to renewed interest, in part, thanks to the promotion of their material by Metallica, this band has managed to weather the storms of change and returned after nearly 4 decades since the recording of their seminal debut Lightning To The Nations for another go.

Though the trials and tribulations that followed in the 90s and the new millennium saw this band meeting with varying degrees of success in the studio, the core of this band in guitarist and now lone founding member Brian Tatler has showcased a desire to continue moving forward rather than outright dwelling upon the glory days of 1980. Nevertheless, the latest incarnation of Diamond Head finds an album in The Coffin Train that lands a good bit closer to the epic, grandiose, heavy yet still hard rock-infused formula that first brought their name to prominence during heavy metal’s primordial days. A lot of this is due to Tatler’s riff work and songwriting getting a sudden shot in the arm, but one would remiss to deny the massive impact that relative newcomer in Danish-born vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen has on things. His voice matches the wide range and versatile demeanor of original front man Sean Harris, but has a more soulful and rugged quality to it that is occasionally reminiscent of Chris Cornell, particularly during more subdued moments when his voice is fully exposed.

As mentioned previously, the old school hard rock vibe that Diamond Head exhibited in their early days is still very present, albeit presented in a more raucous and massive fashion due to the exploitation of modern studio methods. The more grooving, mid-paced and quasi-psychedelic character of songs such as “The Phoenix” and “Shades Of Black” definitely point to their roots in the archaic 1970s sounds of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, while Andersen’s somewhat huskier vocal affectations give it an ever so slight grungy flavor. On the other hand, the outright Black Sabbath inspired punch of “The Sleeper” and the chunkier heavy metal stomp of “The Messenger” definitely showcase a proportional metallic element, while the outright cruiser of a speed metal anthem that kicks things off “Belly Of The Beast” stands as one of this band’s most utterly metal moments. About the only thing that doesn’t quite conform with the nuanced packaging of an early days album in a modern package is Tatler’s lead playing, which sticks a bit more closely to a blues-based rocking approach similar to Blackmore and is generally bereft of those classic Van Halen moments he’d often trot out in the early 80s.

“The Coffin Train”

It is doubtful that Diamond Head will ever top the magic that they created at the dawn of the 1980s when Lightning To The Nations was heralded as having more good riffs in one song than Black Sabbath did on their first four albums (a bordering on ridiculous hyperbolic statement by music journalist Geoff Barton, but not entirely without some basis), but this is about as close as they’ve gotten to matching it in recent history. It is among one of the better fits of heavy metal conservatism to grace the 2010s since Satan’s auspicious 2013 comeback album Life Sentence, while also cutting against the concurrent trend among younger bands of trying to completely recreate the studio sound of the era that this band was born in. All in all, it’s a testament of a band that has come to acknowledge their place as a pioneering heavy metal band with a specifically defined sound, but also one that isn’t afraid to showcase their continued relevancy by amping up their sound to compete with the current crop of modern heavy and power metal bands that have been paraphrasing their style for the past 20 years.

Released by: Silver Lining Music
Released Date: May 24th, 2019
Genre: Metal

Musicians:

  • Rasmus Bom Andersen / Vocals
  • Brian Tatler / Guitars
  • Abbz / Guitars
  • Dean Ashton  / Bass
  • Karl Wilcox / Drums

“The Coffin Train” Track-listing:

1. Belly Of The Beast
2. The Messenger
3. The Coffin Train
4. Shades Of Black
5. The Sleeper (Prelude)
6. The Sleeper
7. Death By Design
8. Serrated Love
9. The Phoenix
10. Until We Burn

8.4 Great

Undaunted by the changing trends of the day, yet also not content to relive the past, one of the NWOBHM’s premier affiliates continues onward with a balanced presentation of old and new that hits with the force of a mighty freight train

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8.5
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