Released: 2015, Hoplite Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Back in the Seventies when the NWOBHM was just emerging, one band more than perhaps any other was willing to Frankenstein the still-new formula and really wear their influences on their sleeves: Yorkshire's Vardis. Whilst the likes of Iron Maiden and Saxon were striving for harder, faster and heavier, Vardis were content to let their punk and blues background permeate their sound, the result of which garnered them acclaim from both fans and critics alike.
Imploding messily in 1986, a mere thirteen years on from their formation, they had remained largely quiet since (apart from two 'best of' compilations in 1997 and 2002)...until recently, that is. In 2014 the metal gods once more cast their eye towards Vardis, who reformed with the Steve Zodiac/Terry Horbury/Gary Pearson lineup and hit the festival circuit that year. New drummer Joe Clancy replaced Pearson in early 2015 and the band set to work on new material, promising and album in 2016.
Before that, they've released EP 200MPH (cleverly playing on the title of their 100MPH EP in 1979 and album in 1980). Comprised of three re-recordings of previous songs ('Dirty Money' and 'Move Along' from the aforementioned 100MPH album, studio recorded for the first time here), a live version of 1979's 'The World's Insane' and two brand new songs ('Jolly Roger' and 'The Knowledge'), it's sure to both whet the appetites of fans and draw the curious in.
What will they find upon listening? Newie 'Jolly Roger' opens up with a glammy 'Can the Can' style drum intro that glides seamlessly into a cracking NWOBHM gallop, as any doubts about the band's tenacity and talent simply evaporate: they've clearly still got 'it'. From its tongue in cheek pirate-themed lyrics about the high seas and flags a-flyin' to the widdly, sparkling guitar solo and the reappearance of those hefty drumbeats at the end of the song, it's a ripsnorter of a statement of intent.
Second new track 'The Knowledge' blasts out a pulsating beat that lines up a really punky number – a sort of slowed down 'Pretty Vacant'. It showcases a band that is undoubtedly more mature (as well they should be after forty odd years!) but still capable of pumping out a highly successful fusion of punk and metal.
'Dirty Money' follows, sounding a smidge slowed down and more polished than the original live version from 1980 but still as snotty and crusty as it should be. There's even a shade of the Quo in this one, just to keep things from being too predictable.
Pleasingly, the snarling riff on 'Move Along' has lost none of its bite thirty five years later. It's a bouncy rocker of a track with a smart, sassy feel and an almost reggae vibe in its tempo change. And the hissing and spitting guitar solo/outro is just a good as the original version – if not better.
Final number 'The World's Insane', a live version of the 1979 classic, largely jettisons punk and metal for pure and joyous blues (vocalist Steve Zodiac even dedicates it to recently passed master BB King). Lyrically as eloquent and relevant today as it was back in the Seventies, it's simple but oh so effective bluesy groove is on point and simply goosebump inducing. It also has to be said that Zodiac's vocals have also stood the test of time, whether in the studio or onstage: his voice is warm, well-rounded and also on point. It's a brilliant end to this tantalising EP.
The metal world is full of comebacks these days. Whether it's for the “fans, girls money and fame” (to quote Kid Rock) or simply to bask in past glories, it can often be rather hit and miss to see if they still have what it takes. Vardis have simply decided to take their trademark blend of NWOBHM, punk and blues and run with it; and whilst this EP may only contain a small amount of new material, it's enough of a glimpse of what's to come to be an essential purchase for any fan. The new album, when released in 2016, will be a very interesting prospect indeed.
Review by Melanie Brehaut