Released: 2007, Livewire
Speak of the devil and he shall appear. No sooner had I finished writing my review of Blitzkrieg's latest album in which I commented about the Metallica version of their eponymous song than I began to think about the other NWOBHM group the once-great foursome used to cover frequently, namely Stourbridge, England's mighty Diamond Head. And what should show up almost immediately afterwards but the sixth full-length studio release from that selfsame Diamond Head, 2007's WHAT'S IN YOUR HEAD? Coincidence, of course, but still nice timing. Now in their thirty-first year of existence (minus a few periods of inactivity and 'disbanded' status), Diamond Head has gone through somewhat of a metamorphosis over the past few turns of the calendar, moving away from the British metal style they helped pioneer back in the late 70's into more of a beefed-up late 70's hard rock vein, sounding very much like a darker, heavier version of Led Zeppelin, right down to the Robert Plant-esque vocal stylistics of vocalist Nick Tart, who replaced longtime singer Sean Harris back in 2004. Though some fans of their original style may be somewhat disappointed by the shift, it's a change that plays perfectly to Diamond Head's strengths and makes for an excellent slab of hard rock goodness.
Sound quality on WHAT'S IN YOUR HEAD? avoids the all-too-common 'overproduced' problem of many modern recordings, managing to capture a more raw, live, and natural feel in the songs. The bass guitar could probably stand to be boosted a bit more on some portions, but otherwise, the production is excellent for the late-70's/early 80's hard rock effect the band is attempting to achieve. Opener "Skin On Skin" lets you know you're going to be in for quite a ride with a simple but effective buildup vaguely reminiscent of the intro to Savatage's classic "24 Hours Ago" before launching into a lurching, foreboding-filled series of bottom-heavy riffs and Tart's lecherously-toned moans and shrieks - sure, subject-wise, it sounds like typical 'naughty' fare, but it's positively overflowing with an almost sadistic sense of menace. Following track "I Feel No Pain" is another killer, a classic oldschool Zepplinesque midtempo rocker with muscular groove-based rhythms, lots of cool bass fills, and excellently catchy chorus segments. Last original member Brian Tatler, restraining himself through the opening two cuts, finally lets loose with a guitar lead on the gradually-building burner "This Planet And Me," doing Jimmy Page proud with an awesome bluesy fretboard workout, complementing the driving hard rock rhythm of the track's latter portion perfectly. Tatler may not be a 'shredder,' but he packs tons of feeling and an enjoyably aggressive edge into his playing. Great songs just keep on coming like the dark-edged trippiness of album high point "Reign Supreme," the uptempo drive of "Killing Me" and "Pray For Me," the psychadelia-rock balladry of "Tonight," and the grooving Sabbath-y riffs of the title track. While there aren't any really weak songs, there are a few moments of annoyance, like the too-often-repeated chorus in "Calling Out," but these are few and far between. Overall, this is just a really enjoyable album from start to finish.
Gloriously old-school in sound and style and brimming with working-class musical heroism and seemingly boundless energy, WHAT'S IN YOUR HEAD? is an excellent followup to 2005's ALL WILL BE REVEALED and a great addition to both the Diamond Head catalog and any British heavy rock fan's library.