Live, Leeds, Poly. GEOFF BANKS
IT WAS a miserable day in Saltburn By The Sea when I first set my jaded eyes on Battleaxe. On that day the band had to play second fiddle to Sheffield techno-rockers Geddes Axe, but in the interim months the set has been sorted out and the band have concentrated on developing their own sound and identity.
Gone is the spine-vibrating drone and in its place is a bluesier feel, though the songs are still played at full tilt. The most drastic change is in guitarist Steve Hardy’s reappraisal of his performance – he’s now replaced the Fast Eddie thrash with a more subtle technique that relies as much on the gaps he leaves as the parts he plays. At times it’s reminiscent of the late lamented Paul Kossoff.
A lot of emphasis is still on ‘the show’ with dry ice and thousands of watts of blazing light, while Dave King stands legs astride on the drum riser pumping out the gritty vocals. As good a singer and frontman as he is, however, he does have one fault: namely a reluctance to look anyone in the eye which makes him appear awkward and ill at ease. With more experience he should overcome this minor fault but to get to the top these days everything must be right.
‘Burn This Town’, the band’s first single, makes a mockery of the recorded version and is pure OTT mayhem with its Phil Taylor meets The Animal drumming – not bad for a man who had his skull almost cracked in half by a bunch of iron bar wielding mohicans. In fact, Ian’s drumming combined with Brian Smith’s full bass sound are the reason Steve has been given a free reign with his playing and doesn’t have to concentrate on filling out the sound.
With the right direction, Battleaxe could be huge, but like nine tenths of bands they don’t have the advantage of coming from London. However, with such a wealth of talent in the North East an in-depth look at regional Heavy Metal is well overdue.
‘Power From The Universe’ (Music For Nations MFN 25) – 1984
A DEFINITE move up and over from their dreary debut album ‘Burn This Town’, Battleaxe’s second, ‘Power From The Universe, finds the band climbing steadily up the Second Division league table But it’s the Second Division we’re talking about, tight fans, and that s no place elegant or extravagant enough for a rock’n’roll heart like mine to bleed in.
Battleaxe have got the might and the muscle, and they’re obviously not afraid to use it. Listening to the opening track ‘Chopper Attack’ in the office, even Dr Doom dragged out his trusty old cardboard guitar for a couple of bars. But it didn’t last long. Steve Hardy on lead guitar and drummer Ian McCormack know how to hit the Wipe-Out Button on all their intros and showpieces; it’s just the songs themselves that let things down Not enough meat between the legs; they don’t know how to strut with any conviction.
And then there are the excruciating lead vocals of Dave King. ‘Movin’ Metal Rock in particular falls apart the moment he comes in The lyrics are overly trite and the melody must have been dug up out of the cemetery, though the fires are burning right down in the boiler room. Say yeah.
Shout It Out’ wants to be ‘For Those About To Rock’ when it grows up and leaves home and why not. Anthemic chorus and trigger-happy lead lightning from the impressive Hardy ensure a safe enough ride through the garageland mechanics of auto rock. The wheels sure do spin fast, eating up the highway like a proper dog’s dinner on the climax of ‘Make It In America’. If only you could be sure that the band were taking you somewhere hot and lively As things stand presently, on tracks like ‘Over The Top’ I’d swear we were about two miles from the outskirts of somewhere as exotic as bleeding Slough, with the driver (Dave King again) asleep at the wheel.
If I had to put money on it, I’d bet that Battleaxe could give anybody with a penchant for workmanlike Heavy Metal a thoroughly enjoyable dose of the sweats, say at a venue like the Royal Standard on a Friday night But when I go to sleep at night I dream of bigger and better things.