So here are some of my favourite music discoveries, of slightly more unknown (… and known!) bands from across the years:
I first discovered this band from a YouTube recommendation. Active from 1986-1991, Skagarack released 4 albums, selling 750,000 records world wide. They briefly reformed in 2009 to play at an 80s themed music festival, the Esbjerg 80’s rock festival.
The first song I found by Skaragrack was “Damned Woman”, from their self title debut album in 1986 (my favourite album they released), check it out:
Skagarack had a number of problems and eventually broke up. Torben Schmidt stayed pretty active in the scene, releasing solo albums and (to my recent discovery) managing Freak Kitchen – the band of Swedish Virtuoso Mattias “IA” Eklundh.
Here’s one of Torben’s solo singles, “Run Away”. It’s not metal, but it’s cool:
Interview with Torben Schmidt:
My discovery of this band was from being a horny teenager, searching for something along the lines of “hot women with guitars”. I think I wanted some pictures for wallpapers on my computer while working on lab reports for my astrophysics degree at university.
Anyway, I discovered this photo:
And I did some research into who she was. It turns out, she was a killer guitarist, called Michelle Meldrum, who played in a band called Phantom Blue. A quick bit of YouTube’ing lead me to this single they released, called “Why Call It Love?”:
The audio quality isn’t great, but this song is killer.
Phantom Blue did pretty well internationally, releasing 3 records a 4 track single.
As is the case with many bands, they ended up in legal trouble, and all of the original members ended up leaving, aside from drummer Linda McDonald, who carried on using the name with various other musicians filling in until 2001, when she disbanded Phantom Blue and formed the Iron Maidens.
Guitarist Michelle Meldrum was pretty active musically, and worked with many great musicians. She was a student of Paul Gilbert, and played in a thrash band called “Wargod” before forming Phantom Blue.
She married the guitarist from Europe (John Norum) and also toured as a support for Motorhead and Black Label Society with her Swedish metal band, Meldrum.
Sadly, Melissa died in 2008 at the young age of 39, and the world lost a great guitar player. A memorial concert was held in her honour at the Whisky a Go Go in 2009.
I was tempted to end this mini review by saying that Phantom Blue are one of the greatest female metal bands that has existed, but I really hate that label.
They’re one of the greatest metal bands that has existed.
Here’s another killer track from that debut album, “Out of Control”:
(I love the extended fretboard on that cover photo on Michelle’s guitar)
Phantom Blue on Wikipedia:
Michelle Meldrum on Wikipedia:
Up next – Fate. Another Danish hard rock band. Fate has been through a few iterations (having had the aforementioned Mattias “IA” Eklundh on guitar for a couple of years). They’ve done 7 albums, the first four were between 1984 and 1990, the recent three between 2006 and 2013.
But there is one album I want to mention.
Released in 2006.
This album is totally insane. I’m not sure what vocalist Per Johansson did between 1990 and 2006 … but his voice is totally insane on this.
I mean… just listen to this:
This album is a heavy metal masterpiece.
Awesome vocals, awesome guitar solos, awesome riffs, awesome songs, the arrangements are spot on… everything is just right.
Listen to it. Buy it. Enjoy it.
Because Heaven’s Crying Too.
While Heaven Wept
One of my friends got me into this band, after they discovered the record label Cruz Del Sur. In 2009, While Heaven Wept released their full length “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” on Cruz Del Sur, having released demos and EPs on various niche metal labels in the preceding 6 years.
The record drew me in the moment I heard it.
Vast Oceans Lachrymose is a great record, giving a feeling of despondency and loss, delivered through some incredibly tasty heavy metal.
The band had several ex-members from Twisted Tower Dire (who we’ll get to in a minute), including founding member and songwriter Tom Phillips, who is the mastermind behind the band. Their list of former members has 21 people – I think they used a lot of session players to fill in live!
Their success grew and eventually they signed to Nuclear Blast Records, for their 2011 release, “Fear of Infinity”.
I thought I had read somewhere that they had disbanded, but from their Facebook page, it looks like they have some European shows booked this year: https://www.facebook.com/pg/whileheavenwept/
This is easily one of my favourite songs they did:
It is absolutely crushing. Check it out! You can pick up a record or two (or three…) here:
At 17 million records sold worldwide, Tesla is not exactly a small band, but, as is often (and worryingly) the case with me, it took me far too long to discover them – so hopefully, if you have not heard of them before, we can rectify that!
They released a record called “The Great Radio Controversy”, which is an absolute belter of a record. Here’s my favourite track, The Party’s Over:
Why is this such a great record? Well, everyone is pulling their weight musically, the songs are great, the arrangements spectacular, and I would consider the lead guitar playing a masterclass in note articulation and phrasing.
The album “The Great Radio Controversy” also had an all star line up behind the scenes. With the songs mainly written by Jeff Keith (vocals) and Frank Hannon (guitar), the record was produced by Steve Thompson (who helped produce Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction, and mixed Metallica’s “…And Justice for All”) and Michael Barbiero (who has worked with Metallica, Guns N Roses, Cinderella and Alice Cooper; amongst others).
The album cover features a picture of Nikola Tesla, and the album’s name is a tribute to Guglielmo Marconi taking credit for the radio.
This album is killer and you definitely want to grab a copy. Tesla tour a lot, so check out there website (links below) and see if they are coming by near you!
Twisted Tower Dire
Twisted Tower Dire is a US heavy / power metal band, playing face melting, full on heavy metal. Their last full length was “Make It Dark”, released in 2011, but from their facebook page, it looks like they have finished tracking a new record (hopefully soon to be released!).
Starting in 1996, Twisted Tower Dire have been going for a few years now. the early years saw a lot of demos and split releases, with their first full length coming out in 1999, and releasing a further 4 full lengths since then.
As you might expect, their sound has evolved a lot throughout their history, and listening through their records takes the listener on a heavy metal adventure.
Their albums are available on Bandcamp for download, and you can get their discography for $42.75, which seems like an absolute steal.
Check out these two belters:
So there you have it, 6 awesome metal bands to check out!