Vital, venerated, and vintage, when DIAMOND HEAD first released "Lightning To The Nations" forty years ago in 1980, few could have predicted the importance it would carry — and establish — with regards to heavy metal's new wave and sound. Stacked and packed with riffs, "Lightning To The Nations" would be one of the prime catalysts for a movement known as the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). It would also prove the premier template for a band who would become the biggest rock band on the planet, METALLICA. But back then, in their humble Stourbridge, U.K. home, DIAMOND HEAD had no real idea that the seven songs they had recorded for that debut album would have such a reverberation.
"Am I Evil?" is the second single to be released from the album. Founding member Brian Tatler reminisces: "'Am I Evil?' is one of the songs that METALLICA covered. I got a call from Lars Ulrich on September 20th, 1986 to say that METALLICA were playing that evening as part of the 'Master Of Puppets' tour at the Birmingham Odeon which was the best venue in the Midlands to see bands. Lars invited me along, so I caught the number nine bus, picked up my backstage pass, and was shown into METALLICA's dressing room. I was then introduced to James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Cliff Burton. Lars suggested that I get up and play 'Am I Evil?' on stage with them in the encore. I, of course, agreed and, after watching their amazing set for an hour, I went backstage again where the guitar techs strapped James's white Flying V onto me. Then Lars ran to the center vocal mic and introduced me as 'the guy who wrote this next song!' The five of us played 'Am I Evil?' up to the fast section then METALLICA went into 'Damage, Inc.' and I scarpered off stage. It was a brilliant experience!"
Tatler continues: "It's been a really great experience to revisit and re-record 'Am I Evil?' and the 'Lightning To The Nations' album for 2020. It's also about time that DIAMOND HEAD's biggest song finally has a video. Thank you to Andy Pilkington [Very Metal Art] for this mini epic."
"Lightning To The Nations 2020" will be released on November 20 via Silver Lining Music in CD digipak, double gatefold vinyl, and digital formats as well as special D2C bundles.
As the fortieth anniversary loomed, "Lightning To The Nations"' resonance and importance are since long-established, which meant a celebration was in order and Tatler, alongside vocalist and producer Rasmus Bom Andersen, knew exactly what they wanted to do. "We thought it'd be great to re-record the debut album with this lineup and the modern technology available," says Tatler. "The original album was recorded and mixed in a week, and we were very young; still 19-20 years old when it was recorded, so there's a lot of that youthful energy. But we didn't have the technique, time, or craftsmanship to record it with the sort of power that we could now. So that was a real thing to savor: the opportunity to go in the studio and record these songs fresh and vibrant."
"Lightning To The Nations 2020" is an achievement along those lines and then some. It is, quite simply, a scintillating shot of fresh metal energy, with DIAMOND HEAD utilizing all their skill, experience, and revitalized energy to breathe so much new life into these freshly recorded takes that it feels like experiencing the earth shaking all over again.
Recorded over several sessions between various locations from France to band member home studios, "Lightning To The Nations 2020"'s central hub was Andersen's Raw Sound Studios in London. It's where Tatler and Andrew "Abbz" Abberley did the guitars in February and March of this year. With the COVID-19 chaos striking, Andersen worked on the album between April and July, with Tatler's watchful ear inspecting final mixes and tweaks in early August before sending off to mastering at Metropolis Studios. It is, however, fair to say that the crunch, scream, and crackle of the production is yet another feather in Andersen's producer hat.
As if these carefully shaped recordings weren't enough, there are four supreme cover versions rounding out the release, with DIAMOND HEAD spreading their wings and creating the heaviest of homages to LED ZEPPELIN, JUDAS PRIEST, DEEP PURPLE, and... METALLICA. With DIAMOND HEAD having featured so heavily in METALLICA's early career, the cover of "No Remorse" seems especially appropriate.
Concludes Tatler: "'Lightning To The Nations 2020' is packed with ideas and riffs, but there is some thought gone into it all, and maybe that's why it still sounds really good now and we're still having conversations about it."
"Lightning To The Nations" 2020 track listing:
01. Lightning To The Nations
02. The Prince
03. Sucking My Love
04. Am I Evil?
05. Sweet And Innocent
06. It's Electric
08. No Remorse
09. Immigrant Song
11. Rat Bat Blue
DIAMOND HEAD is:
Brian Tatler - lead, rhythm guitars
Rasmus Bom Andersen - vocals, orchestration, additional guitars
Karl Wilcox - drums
Andrew "Abbz" Abberley - rhythm, lead guitars
Dean Ashton - bass, organ
Photo credit: Nic Gaunt