Armed And Ready – Kerrang! 1982
SACRED ALIEN: This oddly-named HM four piece hail from Manchester and have been together for approximately eight months.
Opening act at the recent Diamond Head / Silverwing / Venom Tora Tora UMIST metal festival, Sacred Alien are as conscious of their visual appearance onstage as they are of the quality of their music. ‘We approach every gig in as professional a manner as possible,’ they report. ‘Apart from a huge back line, we also have our own small 5KW lighting rig complete with pyrotechnics.’
Included in the band’s line-up are two (shock-horror!) art college students: Sean Canning, 17-year-old vocalist and fan of Halford. Ozzy and Dave Lee Roth, and Cozy Powell-influenced drummer Chris Lea (19). The membership roll call is made up by guitarist Martin Ainscow (he’s also aged 19 and his hero is Jimi Hendrix) and bassist Dave Clowes (20-year-old and a great admirer of the Who’s John Entwistle).
Sacred Alien’s four-track demo is pretty intriguing. Nor your traditional headbanging fare, it’s characterised by epic, almost free form psychedelic’ guitar work, high-pitched vocals and wordy, perhaps mystical’ lyrics. One earful of the song called ‘Portrait’ and you’ll hear what I mean.
Queen, Led Zeppelin and Rush are the names that come to mind when you search for influences – Ainscow occasionally cops licks from Alex Lifeson and Canning’s flexible vocal work alternately soars like Freddie Mercury’s and then wails like Robert Plant’s. The end of a track called ‘Energy’, for example, is almost Achilles Last Stand’ revisited!
Meanwhile ‘Eternal Flame’, an infectious inferno, is likely to be the debut single and as long as the group abandon their attempts to be sensitive’ and ‘meaningful’ (a reference to the atrocious beginning to Both Sides Of The Globe) ahealthy future is assured. Remember you heard it here first . . .
BREAK OUT yer stack-heels, and dab on the make-up, ‘cos the glamsters have escaped once more from their cage! Yes folks, the long-mooted revival seems once more to have been given the green light. A gala night is in prospect on Friday, March 18, when Salford College Of Technology hosts what they claim to be the worlds first ever glam rock festival.
Although the bill for this orgy of mascara ‘n’ mayhem hasn’t yet been completed, CHINA ROGUES, WRATHCHILD, SILVERWING, CLOVEN HOOF and SACRED ALIEN have confirmed their participation. The organisers are hoping to persuade a “major name” to headline the affair, but just who they have in mind isn’t at all certain. Aside from the live n’ pretty boyzz on-stage, the festival will also feature a glam-rock and a host of guest stars. On the latter point, the mega-likes of Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter, Noddy Holder, Twisted Sister, David Bowie, Sweet and Kiss have all been invited to stick their platform boots round the door.
Marquee, London, May 1982 – Review by Geoff Banks
ONE OF the problems when playing a support set at the Marquee is that the band end ti be a sidw show to the bar and a few people adventurous enough to watch try to blend into the walls as inconspicuously as possible. Thus, unless a band has a strong london following, the gig is likely to have as much atmosphere as a funeral.
So for Sacred Alien, playing their first gig south of Manchester, it must have been a pretty unnerving experience which, ombined with the blase attitude of people who did bother watching, made for a none too good impression of what is supposed to be the country’s top rock club.
Taking the stage to the now almost obligatory intro tape, the band were greeted by halfwithin seconds were blasting through ‘Spiritual Planet’. Stricktly ’78 Angelwitch.
With hearted polite applause and smarter clothes, guitarist Martin Ainscowe (modelling the latest line in Brett Maverick clothes-for-all-occasions cowboy suits) blastd out ‘Angel of Death’ powerchords with gay abandon while bassist paul Davis provided some impressive bass lines covering the patches usually filled by a second guitarist.
The second number, ‘Eternal Flame’ highlighted the vocal range and power of Shen Canning’s vocals which, being in much the same vein as Bruce Dickinson’s, were at times the one saving grace. Two thirds of the way through the set Ainscowe switched to a Fender Stratocaster for a cover of Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’, which no doubt knocks then dead in Manchester but with failing monitors and and zero crowd reation became merely a case of going through the motions here. By the last number ‘Energy’ the band semed noe to pleased with the sound and, as it was clear the audience would rather have been in the bar anyway decided to make a tactical retreat to the dressing room.
There is no doubt that given the right circumstances Sacred Alien can, and will, deliver the goods. Unfortunately this wasn’t one of those occasions.
Salford Tech, April 1983 – Paul Maher
YOU’VE read the article now welcome the band. Sacred Alien feel their time is coming. Never one’s to sit around and wait for the music biz interest they create their own with an O.T.T show which uses more inventive visuals than ever before. As has been stated elsewhere you don’t pigeonhole this band, you just go along and enjoy. However when I was told ny their manager that they had gone ‘Glam’ I did have a few reservations, but there is no wimpy sellout here just solid, furious rock.
The show opens with a number called called ‘Attack’, the words ‘Are YOU ready’ may sound familiar but it’s amazing how they grab the ears. Next up was the Psychadelic oldie ‘Spiritual Planet’ with Sean Canning jumping around like there’s ants in his pants (skin tight leotard). martin Ainscow now with an oil slick of mascara for a face, explodes into a vaporising lead and just when you’ve coped with the speed, he stutters and turns the riff on its head.
Reservations are minimal but perhaps a slow tune wouldn’t go amiss as it would do justice to their individuals and give their audience a breather. This lot always had a stamp of quality across their mascara bound cheeks, if they could overcome media myopia they have great potential.
Glam Festival, Salford Tech July 1983
At last! The first real star of the proceedings! SACRED ALIEN’s vocalist Sean Canning comes straight from the ‘Phil Lewis School Of Frontmen’, the poses, and the hip -thrusting, great! Not only did he look good, but he possesses a fine voice, too. However, I can’t see it happening for him with this band – He has backed himself with some limp, and flaccid musicians who while capable enough of hitting the right notes, seem unable to engender any real excitement to complement Canning’s posturing.
Interview by MALCOLM DOME 1983
IT’S ROCK ‘N’ ROLL safari time, folks. Ah, the thrill of the kill, the taste of the chase, the flash of the lash as I don hunting khaki, prime pre-loaded pens and head north into the cold recesses of misty, murky Mancunia in search of the Sacred Alien.
Trying to musically corner this particular beast proved to be a most difficult task, skinning it a near impossibility. True, Sacred Alien are heavy glamsters – but in such an expansive sense that, by comparison, the width of the Atlantic is reduced to mere puddle proportions.
Can you believe a band who take as their influences (pause for breath) Suzi Quatro, Grace Jones, the Cramps, the Revillos, Gary Glitter, Slade, Toyah, Wayne County, Funkadelic, Van Halen, Talking Heads, Thomas Dolby, Donna Summer and Black Sabbath? And that’s just a small sample!
Can you envisage a band who’ve quire happily played on the same bills as Diamond Head, Silverwing, Rox, Angel Witch, Mud and also before a futurist audience? And that’s not even counting the fact that they’ve had offers of gigs from the likes of Toyah! Is it any wonder, given this remarkable diversify, that one journalist (who shall remain nameless) actually walked out on an interview with the band convinced he was the victim of a wind-up? As Alien manager Warren ‘no relation to Steve’ Heighway puts it: “we told him we were hoping to support Klaus Nomi (German wierdo operatic punk) in London. He didn’t believe us!”
Confused? So you should be! For to fully appreciate this crazy act you have to be so confused that you’ve no alternative but to put aside all preconceptions – clear out the mud-slimes of your mind as it were. Only then will Sacred Alien reveal itself in all its finery.
But, to give you breathing space, let’s indulge in a rapid-fire history lesson. The origins of the species go back to October 1980, when vocalist Sean Canning joined forces with guitarist / synth-player Martin Ainscow plus the traditional bassist / drummer rhythm section (whose names are irrelevant at this juncture).
The resulting band gigged furiously in a variety of venues from back-yard pubs to the Marquee. In December of 1981, they released a self-financed single on the Greenwood label, pinning together ‘Spiritual Planet’ and ‘Energy’. This sold respectably and even managed to get airplay in some unusual places, South Africa included. The current line-up, though, disowns the record as outdated. “I think we’ve improved beyond all recognition since then,” proclaims Canning.
The ‘we’ in question is now completed by funk-influenced bassist Paul Davies and ‘midget’ drummer Darren Wilcock – a line-up that’s been together since July of ’82. However, they’ve not exactly been over-taxing themselves in the past months, and the reaction of the music biz towards ’em has been less than ecstatic.
“We have had a mild response,” explains Canning, but nothing too great. Kamaflage Records (now no more) are typical. They told us our sort of music wasn’t right. That bands like Tank are where it’s at – all that denim and leather and a ‘one of the lads’ attitude.”
Booking agents too haven’t been falling over themselves trying to snap up the band, as Heighway reveals: “We’re not easy to categorise, so they’re afraid to take a chance with us. ”
It all harks back to the confusion I mentioned earlier. And now is, I think, the right point to give Sacred Alien’s music the once-over. Primarily it’s aggressive power-packing metal ‘n’ roll, played with panache, pace and poise. And, judging from the four tracks present on their latest (and third) demo tape, it’s a style they play instinctively. But, this ain’t typical Glam / Metal by any means.
“Most Glam bands are revivalists, harking back to 1973. We’re 1990’s Glam if anything. ” Prophetic words from the canny Canning, because if the music is very much bar-bending bludgeon, then the lyrics are NOT. “So many bands sing about ‘rock ‘n’ roll all night’ and ‘yeah baby, let’s screw’. But that’s totally against our stance.”
“We’re more ethereal. We write well thought-out, soulful songs. For example, there’s a number we do called ‘Do You See Me’, which tells of a girl being visited by the ghost of her dead boyfriend. ‘Spiritual Planet’ is about astral planes; ‘Energy’ is about man’s place in the universal spectrum. And, then there’s. . . ”
OK, OK, the point is made. Sacred Alien have a distinct cosmic awareness that’s completely at odds with the music. But it has to be said that this ridiculous combination WORKS. Materially-speaking, the SA’s put such as Rox in the shade.
But, hold on, so far there’s no hint at all of glam connections. So, where does this come in? Well, in a way, I’ve cheated a bit you see, Sacred Alien describe themselves as ‘glam with a twist in the tail’. I’ve just reversed that. So now we’ve had the ‘twist’, let’s head on-stage, ‘cos that’s where you’ll find the Glam.
“We give live what we’d expect from a gig as fans – a visual show that kills,” boasts Canning. “If you just get up and play songs with no back-up, you’re cheating the fans a bit. We want to make people stand back in awe of us.”
This laudable aim is pursued inevitably through the use of make-up and costume. However, the real core of the band’s Glam credibility lies with Sean Canning. This guy is a star. Just 18, he’d have heads turning in any company. Anyone who’d walk brazenly into the pin-stripe plushness of Manchester’s Piccadilly Hotel (where this ‘ere encounter ‘appened) in a glitter tee shirt with sawn-off arms, rouged cheeks and ankle boots with six-inch stiletto heels has either gotta have a lotta bottle or else been on the bottle.
The lanky lad is a modern-day Freddie Mercury. He has the vocal power, the lyrical vision and the cock-strut arrogance. Armed with considerable dancing/acting interest, Canning is Sacred Alien’s secret weapon . . .
“We don’t use many effects on-stage. Who needs flashbombs – I’m this band’s flashbomb! I don’t just stand still at gigs, I move around a lot. I find I claw naturally with the music. But, I’m trying more and more to choreograph things to get maximum impact.”
They’ve also got some outrageous ideas for future live presentation. “We’d love to get a corps of drum majorettes together and have ’em twirling their batons to the music. Then we’d get them into a drum duel with Darren. Just imagine the girls with little tin Woollies’ drums up against the full sound of a bass-drum rhythm. I would be amazing,” Gleefully pronounces Canning.
Are you still confused by ’em’ Well, maybe the confusion is caused not so much by the band as by accepted musical standards, wherein every band must be rigidly pigeon-holed. So when a bunch like Sacred Alien rise above the categorisation mania, they threaten the conservative, safe status quo and suddenly become objects of derision. But, do yourselves a favour and check ’em out they’ve an awful lot to offer.
1984 MANCUNIAN GLAMSTERS Sacred Alien are to release a new single (their first in over two years) in the near future. As yet no details are available on either the firm date of release or on the label it will be put out through. Moreover, the band have yet to decide on what the A-side will be. However, the B-side will contain a live version (or a newly recorded studio one, at any rate) of ‘Spiritual Planet’, whilst Pluto Studios m Manchester will be the venue for this mega-recording session.