Diamond Head - Diamond Head
Dissonance Productions
NWOBHM / Hard Rock
11 songs (48' 27")
Release year: 2016
Reviewed by Andy

Diamond Head's past few albums have been tolerable to some, but for others (such as myself), it's a sad reflection on the band's legendary first album. From unlovable retreats from metal in the late 80s to recent flirtations with Audioslave-style modern rock, subsequent offerings have been a far cry from the brilliant work that inspired a young Lars Ulrich and prompted breathless predictions of the next Led Zeppelin. The band's latest, though, shows a return to its roots. Lightning to the Nations, it is not. But Diamond Head contains some fine riff-driven tracks, a vocalist who can belt out a tune without having to resort to angsty alternative-rock tropes, and even some of Brian Tatler's classic guitar noodling in places.

The first few chords of Bones are an encouraging sound to the listener -- dramatic chords with a NWOBHM guitar overdrive. The guitars are back to the tone that made Diamond Head famous, with the modern rock distortion, which never sounded like it fit, tossed in the garbage can where it rightfully belongs. Vocalist Nick Tart, who was rarely able to fill even a few toes of Sean Harris's shoes, is replaced by Rasmus Bom Andersen, whose strong clean vocal range can hit high notes with just a hint of gravel to his voice, a range that is more than equal to the challenge of the band's hits. Shout at the Devil, (no relation to the Mötley Crüe song), too, has the sort of speed riffing that could hold its own with a Lightning to the Nations song. The songs that are a little bit weaker are the ones with more blues rock stylings, but even on songs like See You Rise, there's heaviness, speed, and an ominous minor-key undercurrent. The soloing is doled out sparingly, but when we get one, the goods are delivered, sometimes to the exclusion of the other parts of the song -- Speed's twin-guitar solo is the sort of thing fans hope to hear on an album like this, but it doesn't come with a terribly catchy melody.

And maybe not all the modern rock is gone and replaced by NWOBHM goodness. All the Reasons You Live could have been a mid-90s grunge song in the right hands, and to hear it with the orchestral layering they put on it is somewhat incongruous. What saves it is the vocals of Andersen, who succeeds in the very hard task of keeping that kind of melody from sounding tired. There are other songs that swing too far towards the rock side of Diamond Head's interest for a metalhead's taste, and here too the vocalist jumps in and heads off his colleagues' worst tendencies. But he doesn't have to on the metal-oriented tracks, and in fact doesn't fit in quite as well in the places where Tatler and fellow axeman Andy Abberley get the spotlight. Which is why it's such a joy to witness times when the melody, rhythm section, soloing, and vocals all fit together cleanly, such as on Diamonds; the song is going to be perfect live for pumping up audiences and celebrating the band.

Though the final track sounds nice, it takes a bit of getting used to after the simple, hard-edged rock of the rest of the album. Containing a ton of orchestral arrangements, Eastern melodies, and lots of drawn-out vocal work from Andersen, it's strange and concept-album-ish, seeming like it doesn't quite fit. And I suppose this summarizes the aptly self-titled album well. Diamond Head always suffered from a restlessness that rarely found them trying something for very long, reinventing their sound (and chucking any fans acquired because of it) with almost every album. That tendency has burned listeners many times over the years; but despite its quirks, a superb lineup and an emphasis on NWOBHM finally gives us some real diamonds in this album and not just paste imitations.

Killing Songs :
Shout at the Devil, Speed, Diamonds
Andy quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Diamond Head that we have reviewed:
Diamond Head - All Will Be Revealed reviewed by Mike and quoted 70 / 100
Diamond Head - Lightning to the Nations reviewed by Mike and quoted CLASSIC
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