DIAMOND HEAD is legendary. The English band's debut, "Lightning to the Nations", will forever be revered as a seminal, classic heavy metal album. The NWOBHM band's debut has been influential, to say the least, most notably for its profound impact upon a little ol' band named METALLICA. In spite of the quality of the debut, DIAMOND HEAD amounts to little more than "the band that wrote 'Am I Evil?' that METALLICA covered" to the global metal community en masse.
The pioneering act never realized its full potential due to a combination of bad management and the stylistic shifts that immediately followed its debut. Its sophomore effort, "Borrowed Time", was too commercial for some; while 1983's "Canterbury" was deemed too prog-driven. This spun the band toward its mid-eighties breakup. The Brits have since reunited twice, and amidst this second reunion period, the historically unstable band has seemingly regained momentum and direction. Guitarist Brian Tatler, the unit's sole original member, and his cohorts have returned with "The Coffin Train", the second-best album of DIAMOND HEAD's career.
"The Coffin Train" follows DIAMOND HEAD's 2016 self-titled release that was passable but mediocre at best. That album was the debut of powerful vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen, whose performance on "The Coffin Train" truly stands out. "Belly of the Beast", quite possibly DIAMOND HEAD's best song since the debut, starts things off with a freight train's intensity powering forward at full throttle. Andersen's incredible voice emerges as the focal point almost instantly. Comparisons to the late great Chris Cornell are simply inevitable in terms of cadence and delivery, especially on the title track. Andersen's range is clearly more expansive than that of original, long-running vocalist Sean Harris. That's precisely where "The Coffin Train" will appeal to some, those yearning for DIAMOND HEAD to move forward, while purists will likely scoff at the stylistic departure.
The Chris Cornell reference point isn't exclusive to the vocal department. "The Coffin Train" is a marriage between the classic sound and style for which they're known, along with the nineties metallic, hard rock qualities of the likes of SOUNDGARDEN and ALICE IN CHAINS. But the prominent figure in said marriage is the latter, and excessively so. Sure, Tatler successfully captures a dark and brooding hard rock quality in an enjoyable way, but he has taken DIAMOND HEAD too far from its original template.
From his perspective, however, DIAMOND HEAD has always been a wandering beast. This is admirable creatively, but, again, it partially explains why the band never gained significant traction and momentum. The quality of the songs deeper into "The Coffin Train" decreases, and yet "The Coffin Train" proves to be the collective's best album next to the classic "Lightning to the Nations". Regardless of whatever context the new release falls into within the scope of DIAMOND HEAD's career, "The Coffin Train" is a memorable, hard-hitting release that's worth checking out.