Armed And Ready – Kerrang! May 1982 HOWARD JOHNSON

SHIVA is a three-piece Bristol based outfit, formed in August of 1980 and now with a stable line-up of vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist John Hall, bassist Andy Skuse and drummer Chris Logan. The band may well have come to your attention towards the beginning of the year when Heavy Metal Records released Shiva’s debut 45, ‘Rock Lives On’ / ‘Sympathy’, recorded at Cave Studios in native Bristol.

As far as I was concerned, this would also have been the last you would have heard of Shiva for, despite the novel use of Vocoder on the A side, the two tracks were insipid and uninspiring and altogether too cliched and lifeless to impress.

So why is the group now featured in ‘Armed And Ready’? Well a new demo dropped through the letterbox, and upon giving it the cursory ear bashing, I found the three-featured tracks to be more than a distinct improvement – in fact rather excellent.

‘Angel Of Mons’ is a moving tribute to the dead of the 1914-1918 War, featuring sensitive guitar work from Hall and spot on harmonies, while ‘En Cachent’ is a ballad with more than its fair share of rock, featuring Andy Skuse’s sultry bass. Finally ‘Cut Me To The Quick’, is a more basic tune, not as impressive as its forerunners, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Thus, intrigued by Shiva’s dramatic improvement, I spoke to John Hall to discuss both his attitude to the music and his forthcoming plans.

“The single was originally due out on May 28, but Heavy Metal Records are organising a new distributor at the moment, so it’s been held back until June, when we’ll be going out on the road to promote ourselves, especially up north. We’ll be playing in cities such as Liverpool. Chesterfield and Sunderland, hopefully to prepare ourselves for an album which we’ll record at the end of the summer.” Ambitious plans, you’ll agree, so how are the band’s finances?

“Absolutely terrible. Maybe we’re altogether too ambitious, because our style is also complex – in the Rush mold. It’s hard, ‘cos we have to rehearse in my front room.

Let’s talk about the unusual lyrical content of ‘Angel Of Mons’.

“I’m not sure where I first read about it, but on the eve of the battle of Mons during the First World War, a vision was supposed to have appeared to the British soldiers and it was never explained. It seemed like a good theme to work from lyrically, we play great attention to lyrics and melody.”

SHIVA ‘Firedance’ (Heavy Metal HMR) MALCOLM DOME

If Witchfinder General are HMR’s BEST band, then, equally, Bristolian trio Shiva are the label’s boldest act. As ‘Firedance’ shows, this lot are perfectly prepared to go out on a limb with its extraordinary mixture of Eastern music, psychedelic, Hendrix and Stockhausen, this is one album that deserves to be judged only after several plays. Numbers like ‘Angel of Mons’, ‘En Cachent’, and ‘Wild Machine’ are not readily accessible in the relatively simplistic way of, say, Witchfinder General tracks. There is an experimentation present that augers well for the band’s future in a progressive rock groove.

However, it must be said that the sheer expanse of Shiva’s style ultimately makes ‘Firedance’ a brave failure. The production, featuring Vice Squad collaborator Andy Allen twiddling the knobs, is way too shallow, whilst the bend themselves (John Hell on vocals, guitars, keyboards, bassist /vocalist / keyboardsman Andy Skuse, and drummer Chris Logan) as yet lack the necessary techniques to make this style of rock work. But, for all that, check out the band – they’ve a tremendous future ahead.


Live Birmingham Odeon HOWARD JOHNSON
IT HAS to be said that I’ve had more than my fair share of differences in the past with Heavy Metal Records boss Paul Birch over the quality (or rather lack of it) of his product. Regardless of what he thinks I can be fair with him. If I like an act, I like it regardless of label. I like Shiva.

Filling in tonight for Vandenberg, who couldn’t perform owing to the death of bassist Kemper’s mother, Shiva aquitted themselves well on this one-off pig Their general style can be equated with no-one but the Canadian pensioners Rush and a fair copy they make too. John Hell’s vocals when heard live hit you even more squarely as a carbon copy of Geddy’s high-pitched squeal yet it doesn’t grate which is a mercy.

Shiva lost something of the subtlety displayed on their album as Andy Skuse had his work cut out to play bass end keyboards live, but they made up for it thanks to some excellent play by drummer Chris Logan and guitarist Hell. ‘Angel Of Mons’ and ‘User’ were greeted with some form of mild recognition and were without doubt the superior numbers.

Two faults struck me. Firstly, the band looked visibly nervous on stage -I guess due to limited appearances. That can be rectified with experience. The other can’t. The band’s anthem ‘Shiva’ is surely the worst song that they’ve laid down and should ditched post haste. That apart, very promising.

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