The Strange Case of the Disappearing Metal

For the last seven years or so, I’ve been writing about the music, musicians, albums & songs that I love. Lately I’ve found myself hitting something of a roadblock when putting these articles together, usually when exploring a topic from the 1970s. Using the term ‘Heavy Metal’ in a 1970s context used to come naturally and feel completely appropriate to me; but lately I find myself questioning it’s validity in a 1970s context. I’m sensing some kind of shift has been underway in the historical understanding of Heavy Metal, and it’ troubles me. What gives? Why do I now frequently find myself musing, ‘wait, is it Metal, or is it Hard Rock?’ The answer to that question may well depend on when you were born.

My Heavy Metal fandom started in 1978; I was 14 years old. As I started to develop my tastes and buying records as they were released, I also started buying music that appeared before my Metal awakening. My own tastes and personal understanding of the genre led me to the conclusion that Metal became a ‘thing’ in 1968. If I had to pick The First Heavy Metal Band, I’d choose Blue Cheer; First Heavy Metal Album: Blue Cheer’s ‘Vincebus Eruptum’. I understand that the rest of the world seems to have settled on Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut as Ground Zero for Metal. And I totally get that.

In my view, 1978 was Heavy Metal’s tenth anniversary year. A lot of growth occurred in Metal’s first decade; we went from The Yardbirds’ version of ‘The Train Kept a’ Rollin’ to Judas Priest’s pulverizing ‘Hell Bent For Leather’. As a kid in ’78, the ‘heaviest’ record I had ever heard was Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality’; possibly Van Halen’s debut. Maybe AC/DC’s ‘Let There Be Rock’? I, like many others, kept searching for records that would outdo those records on the Richter Scale. And as Metal evolved, we got our wish. Heavy Metal got heavier. And heavier.

That’s the thing about Heavy Metal; if things get stagnant or stale, it re-invents itself. I’ve been lucky enough to witness the birth of several new sounds, styles, and significant sub-genres in realtime, while following Metal’s twisted path, and if you’re my age, you have too: NWOBHM, Thrash, Death, Black… Ok, yes, also Hair Metal and Nu Metal. So after fifty years of steady evolution, today’s Heavy Metal (or, as it’s more commonly referred to today as simply ‘Metal’) is so far removed from the Metal of 1978 that the fourteen year old inside me is often stunned whenever I put the ol’ iPod on shuffle, and hear Nazareth segue into Napalm Death; Van Halen into Vader.

But can both Y&T and Carcass really inhabit the same genre? Well, yes and no. A funny thing happened on the way to 2020: As Metal evolved into new and different sonic and stylistic territories, it began to shed an entire era of it’s history; a significant chunk of what was inarguably considered ‘Heavy Metal’ in the 1970s is being re-labeled as ‘Hard Rock’, a change that minimizes much of the heavy music produced during the first decade of Metal’s evolution and would leave modern fans’ understanding of the genre and it’s history incomplete and seriously skewed.

Only someone who was a Metalhead in the 70’s would be aware of this subtle change in terminology. If you’re aged 40 or under, you’re probably unaware of this creeping category shift; to you, the Fast, loud, n’ hard music of the 70s is probably known to you as ‘Hard Rock’. The average 20-something Metal fan of today would laugh probably in your face if you referred to Aerosmith as a Heavy Metal band. But if you grew up in the 70s, you know that this was exactly how they were classified. Is Thin Lizzy Heavy Metal? Depends on how old you are. The truth is they were, but now, it’s suddenly debatable.

So what’s happening? Clearly, the Heavy Metal of the 70s is so different from the Metal of the new millennium, that modern fans couldn’t reconcile the two sounds falling under the same umbrella, and decided en masse that the genre boundaries needed to be re-drawn. Obviously Metal music of the 70’s hasn’t changed, only the category to which we might assign it. The sole exception seems to be Black Sabbath, who will probably never lose their Heavy Metal status, due to being widely regarded as the inventors of the genre, but other 70’s Heavy-weights still considered Metal today have begun sporting the ‘proto-‘ prefix before their descriptor. There’s been no coordinated plan, no petition, no agreed-upon date for this change; it’s occurring gradually, organically. For a student of the genre, it’s a fascinating phenomenon.

Ironically, we might consider 1980 and the rise of the NWOBHM to be the cut-off point. It seems as if, at some point after the turn of the millennium, most of the Metal bands of the pre-NWOBHM era (otherwise known as ‘The 1970s’) found their Metal cred in question. I say it’s ironic because the term ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ implies that there was a previous wave of British Heavy Metal. And of course, there was; Queen, UFO, Budgie, Rainbow, Judas Priest all existed before the NWOBHM. But here again, most of these bands are being re-christened as ‘Hard Rock’. But the NWOBHM makes sense as new genre boundary, as after the passage of several generations, the era of the genre’s rebirth becomes regarded as the era of it’s birth.

Do I sound like an ageing fan with a fading memory? Are there readers out there who were born sometime in the 70s, or after, who are thinking ‘this guy is nuts; Hard Rock is Hard Rock and Heavy Metal is Heavy Metal!’ I’m here to tell you it wasn’t always that way. And I can prove it. No, I’m not going to refer you to the internet, where the vast majority fof the content was likely generated after this HR/HM shift began. No, to confirm this, we need access to a static, unchanging source of information, one contemporary to the time period in question: that old pile of Circus and CREEM magazines in my basement. Watch your head.

Some context: When I joined the party in ’78, and just before the NWOBHM breathed new life into the tired warhorse called Heavy Metal, the genre’s popularity was at it’s lowest ebb. Metal seemed spent, and was suffering an identity crisis after assaults from Disco, Punk Rock and New Wave. and the vast majority of Metal’s Heavy-weights chose to take the year off and release live albums. Metal fans were fewer in number but as dedicated as ever, but the rock press knew that the genre was in serious trouble. The situation was so dire that in May of 1978, a Circus Magazine cover blurb asked “Can Heavy Metal Survive the 70s?” music journo Robert Smith took the opportunity to wonder “Can Kiss, Queen, Led Zep and Nugent keep Growing?”

A year later, CREEM Magazine took this a step further, asking “Is Heavy Metal Dead?” in their October 1979 issue. In this article, which was described as a ‘eulogy’ in that issue’s table of contents, one of CREEM’s more irreverent writers, the legendary Rick Johnson, submitted a rundown of all the ‘relevant’ Metal bands of the era and provided his thumbnail assessment of each group’s worth. It’s a hilarious piece; Johnson’s sarcastic style was always entertaining. Looking back at this article, and at the Circus article from the previous year, provides a snapshot of which bands were widely considered Heavy Metal near the end of the 70s.
Here’s a round-up of the bands included in both the Circus article and the CREEM piece:

Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Ted Nugent, Monstrose, Van Halen, Rush, UFO, AC/DC, Rainbow, Queen, Nazareth, Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Foghat, Thin Lizzy, Status Quo, Uriah Heep, Budgie, Bad Company, Boston, Pat Travers Band, Wishbone Ash, Heart, The Dictators, Molly Hatchet, Mahogany Rush, Starz, Angel, The Godz, The Runaways, & REO Speedwagon.

Sure, decades later, it’s easy to agree that many of the covered bands should no longer be considered Heavy Metal –the fact that REO was included pleads the case for their urgent re-classification; no way in Hell can REO Speedwagon reside within the same musical category that Slayer did a decade later– but at in 78/79, they did. It helps to remember the context: This was Metal’s first decade of existence, and at that point in time, it didn’t get any heavier than this, folks. Deep Purple did not exist in 1978/79, and Motorhead’s ‘Overkill’ record wasn’t released until May 1979, and when the CREEM article was published, it was virtually unheard outside of the UK and Europe.

CREEM’s October 1980 issue, one year after presiding over the death of Heavy Metal, CREEM took note of the NWOBHM and Metal’s rapid resurgence with another feature article by Johnson called ‘Heavy Metal: Back From the Dead’. In addition to many of the bands featured in the 1979 article, the 1980 rundown included Scorpions, Blackfoot, Gamma, The Joe Perry Project, Triumph, and Humble Pie, along with a smattering of NWOBHM bands (although the tag ‘NWOBHM’ was not mentioned in the article). Again, if it looks a little odd seeing this bunch of bands referred to as Heavy Metal (Humble Pie?), it is what it is; that’s they way that it was.

I also dug out a (coverless) Special Edition issue of Circus, cover dated Feb 1980, called Rock Legends. There’s an entire section of the mag covering Heavy Metal, and features articles on Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Blue Oyster Cult, and … Grand Funk Railroad. Was GFR a Heavy Metal Band? Circus Magazine, with sales and circulation in the 70’s second only to Rolling Stone, thought so. Apparently, Humble Pie met the 1980 criteria for Heavy Metal certification, before the goalposts started moving .

Somehwere around the dawning of the new millenium, Metal Nation collectively/unconsciously decided that much of the Metal of the 70s wasn’t really Metal at all, and began to re-assign it to the Hard Rock category, and undertook a major re-write of Metal history. Maybe it started back in the 90s, when Metal split into endless sub-genres and fans needed a scorecard to keep track. But it IS happenning; right under our noses, 70’s Heavy Metal is quietly getting demoted, downgraded… diminished. The term ‘Heavy Metal’ indicates a genre seperate from any other; ‘Hard Rock’ reads like a sub-category of ‘Rock’. Yawn.

I think genre tags, musical boundaries and categories are subjective and ultimately meaningless. That said, this shift will never be acknowledged by me as legitimate. I view Metal as a wide spectrum of sounds and styles. I can see no reason why any single ‘era’ of its history would need an etymological update. Perhaps I’m reluctant to see it change because I because I lived through it, I grew up with it; I’m emotionally invested in this era more than any other. So don’t drink the Kool Aid! If it was Heavy Metal then, it’s Heavy Metal now, dammit, it always will be and HEY YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!

Who Do We Think We Are? Part One

Danny Joe Brown left Molly Hatchet twice. Both times were due to health issues. His first exit took place in 1979, but he returned just a few years after. During his second stint with the band, Brown would watch every other member of the original line-up exit, and then some… Everyone who had written and played on hit albums like the self-titled debut, 2nd LP ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’ and 3rd successful record in a row, ‘Beatin’ the Odds’, would leave the band during Brown’s 2nd stint as lead vocalist. Brown was indeed the last man standing. But when Brown suffered a stroke in ’96, his permanent exit marked the end of Molly Hatchet. Forever.

No it didn’t. The remaining members of ‘Molly Hatchet’ replaced Brown with Phil McCormack, and continued on, with ZERO original members; NONE of the musicians who wrote or recorded the material that made the band’s name remained. This was a band made up of replacements of replacements. This bogus Molly Hatchet toured relentlessly, and released four albums under the ‘Molly Hatchet’ banner between 1996 and 2005, Including a ‘Best Of/Re-recorded’, which amounts to a Molly Hatchet album of Molly Hatchet covers. But… seriously, was this band really Molly Hatchet?

Legally, yes. Hatchet guitarist Bobby Ingram, who joined the band in 1986 replacing original guitarist Dave Hlubeck, purchased temporary rights to the Molly Hatchet trademark from the band’s manager after Brown’s departure, so this bunch of stunt-doubles was now legally doing business as ‘Molly Hatchet’. But ‘legally’ only means no one could dispute their use of the trademark; that it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

During that almost ten year period between ’96 and ’05 (when Hlubeck returned to the fold on a ‘limited basis’), ‘Molly Hatchet’ operated in a very strange area; a twilight zone of quasi-legitimacy somewhere between ‘Multi-Platinum Recording Artists Molly Hatchet’ and every cover band playing ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’ at the bar down the street. Legal ownership of a band’s name alone doesn’t make the band ‘legit’. But does a certain percentage of ‘original members’ guarantee ‘legitimacy’? What makes Molly Hatchet Molly Hatchet?


Foreigner founder Mick Jones has had serious health issues of his own to deal with over the last decade, and since 2011 has replaced himself with guitarist Bruce Watson on occasions where he was unable to travel, play or otherwise fulfill commitments to live work. Therefore, on some nights, you might catch Foreigner, helmed by sole remaining original member Mick Jones; on others you may get ‘Foreigner’, a band consisting entirely of replacement musicians, none of whom performed on the original versions of any of songs in the band’s live repertoire.

On the nights when Jones is too ill to perform, is it still Foreigner? Or is it a Foreigner tribute band? No matter how remarkably life-like this band sounds, can they really present themselves to paying customers as Foreigner? No less than THIRTY FOUR musicians are listed on the band’s Wikipedia page as being either ‘Former Members’ or ‘Touring Musicians’. Bruce Watson is listed under ‘Current Members’, but the entry parenthetically states ‘(filling in for Jones)’. So he’s an ‘official member’ of Foreigner, but only when Jones isn’t playing. Hey, it’s a living.

Mick Jones is now 74 years old; what happens when he decides to call it a day? Will Foreigner continue without him, as Molly Hatchet did? Jones is perfectly happy to let Foreigner operate as Foreigner without him performing with the group, so why not just ‘keep the band alive’ and let them continue working the nostalgia circuit without him? Jones would presumably continue to make money from the continued band activity, so it would be a win for everyone. Gene & Paul: Are you listening? Foreigner are piloting your retirement plan.

But there’s another way to ‘keep the band alive’ (which really means ‘keep the money flowing’). Last year, southern rock firebrands Blackfoot released their first album in 20 years, entitled “Southern Native”. Or… did they? There are no founding members of the band in its current lineup, in fact no one in this incarnation of Blackfoot was even born when the original Blackfoot formed, or when any of their charting records were released. These dudes were in diapers when the Ken Hensley era began, which is basically when Blackfoot ended. The record itself contains standard-issue hard rock record, nothing special, kinda bland, and most notably, not very ‘southern’-sounding. But… the lead singer has a Mohawk! Sorry. This sure ain’t Blackfoot.


Bottom line: This band is only Blackfoot because Rick Medlocke says it is. The ‘foot mainstay ‘put the band together’, although more likely he simply found a young, capable hard rock band, and signed them to a production deal, with the stipulation that they change their name to Blackfoot. The band’s ‘official’ website states that Medlocke joins the band onstage for ‘certain concerts’. Whoop de-do. C’mon, Ricky, give us a break. Shorty Medlocke must be spinning in his grave.

What’s the difference between the 2017 version of Foreigner and Foreigner tribute band Cold As Ice? Not much… other than the ticket prices, that is. Foreigner’s 2017 US tour is asking $75-$200 a head, and it’s a crap shoot as to whether Jones will even appear. You can catch ‘Cold As Ice’ for six bucks at the door… and who gives a shit who’s on stage as long as they sound decent?

It’s all about audience expectations; if everyone who buys a ticket is aware that they are shelling out their dough for a band consisting of nothing more than hired hands and sidemen, then fair enough. Enjoy the show. If not, that’s something close to fraud, is it not? Shouldn’t there be some required standard of disclosure? An asterisk next to the band’s logo in every concert listing, poster or banner ad denoting the ‘authenticity level’ of the act, like *100% Certified Hack-Free or *Contains 20% Ratt.

Do your research! Your favorite band might be just a brand. Sometimes the jukebox in the corner offers you more authenticity than the band on the stage… Buyer beware. As P.T Barnum kinda sorta said: There’s a rocker born every minute

Meanwhile, Back in the States…

Iron Maiden. Angel Witch. Tygers of Pan Tang. Saxon. Def Leppard. All great bands. Each contributed at least one genre-defining album to the NWOBHM, a movement that revived and revitalized the lifeless carcass of Heavy Metal after the Punk Rock explosion near the end of the ’70s. Or… were they simply in the right place at the right time?

“NWOBHM was a fiction, really, an invention of Geoff Barton and Sounds. It was a cunning ruse to boost circulation. Having said that, it did represent a lot of bands that were utterly ignored by the mainstream media. Because of that it became real and people got behind it.”
-Bruce Dickinson

Time and place were crucial, as the media-driven music culture of the UK was waiting for the next ‘thing’ after the Punk furor died out in just a few short years (when the look and sound of Punk became a ‘look’ and a ‘sound’, it was already over). So a random sampling of new (and unsigned) Brit metal bands were exposed to the general public in one of the biggest music weeklies on the continent, and a new musical movement was born. Of course, Metal bands had been forming and breaking up all over the world, as they had been for a decade… just not under the white hot spotlight of the British music press.72de789a455668f93acea7ac5ac4cf12

At the same time in America, Circus Magazine published an article entitled ‘Will Heavy Metal Survive the 70’s?’, while Creem Magazine had basically declared Heavy Metal dead just by asking the question, ‘Is Heavy Metal Dead?’ on the cover of their October ’79 issue. Having not yet been clued into the burgeoning NWOBHM, Circus and CREEM surveyed the post-Punk Metal landscape and found it wanting. Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple were all MIA, and the ‘second wave’ of mostly U.S. bands had just dropped a bunch of duds: Aerosmith with ‘Night in the Ruts’, BOC’s ‘Mirrors’, KISS’ ‘Dynasty’, Nugent’s ‘Weekend Warriors’. Something needed to happen, and quickly… Enter the NWOBHM.

According to the popular media on both sides of the Atlantic, it would appear that the NWOBHM really did save HM. And once the press got the ball rolling, it seemed like something exciting was once again happening in the UK. Young metal bands with a new streamlined sound were popping up all over Britain, breathing life into a tired genre. The US Rock press jumped on board in 1980, further validating the movement as a legit musical phenomenon. NOWBHM bands got some US print exposure, and the young British bands started to gain some notoriety across the pond. Metal’s UK resurgence went global. Day: Saved.

But did it actually need saving? As mentioned previously, most established U.S. stadium-fillers were experiencing a serious slump, although Van Halen and Rush managed to put out successful albums during the NWOBHM years. Where these two bands strong enough to carry the American fire? Was there nothing else metallic happening in the good ole’ USA between 1979 and 1981?

To answer that question, we have to duck under the radar just a bit, and also widen the net to include Canada. Yes, several classic albums (and some worthy obscurities) came out of while the NWOetc monopolized Metal Nation’s attention. Most of these North American bands endured the Punk Era only to find that everyone’s attention had instantly shifted to the UK Metal scene, so let’s all pause for a few to pay them a little attention.

Here ya go: a run-down of 12 notable records released by North American bands during the NWOBHM that you may have missed, by year:

Sammy Hagar / Street Machine 1979
After searching for a solid direction on his first 3 post-Montrose solo albums, Hagar becomes the Red Rocker for real on his 4th studio album ‘Street Machine’. What took him so long? Hagar and band kick into high gear with a set of all-original material (his previous solo efforts were peppered with covers) that showcase his guitar playing, his amazing band, and his ballsy R n’ R attitude. Hagar was clearly on a mission here, as ‘Street Machine’ was the first album of material written and produced solely by Sammy himself. ‘Trans Am (Highway Wonderland)’ and ‘This Planet’s on Fire (Burn in Hell)’ are highlights. Hagar would do one more record in this direction (1980’s uneven ‘Danger Zone’) before signing with Geffen and becoming an AOR star.

St. Paradise 1979mi0003247544
Put Denny Carmassi, drummer on all 4 Montrose albums and 2 of Sammy Hagar’s solo records, together with Derek St Homes and Bob Grange, half of the band that made Ted Nugent’s first 3 albums, and what do you get? Well… With John Corey on keyboards, this ‘supergroup’ signed to Warner Bros. and recorded a classy, radio-friendly hard rock record… at the worst possible time. It was great to hear St Homes’ voice again (guy should have been a mega-star) and this record is far better than the Whitford/St Homes album from 1981; but nothing, and I mean nothing happened, and the band barely lasted one year. Curiously includes a ‘cover’ of Nugent’s ‘Live it Up’, a song that St. Holmes co-wrote and sang for Ted’s ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ album in 1977. ‘St. Paradise’ is hard to find but worth it.

Pat Travers Band / Live! Go For What You Know 1979
Canadian Pat Travers solidified his backing band in 1977, adding Tommy Aldridge and Pat Thrall, and hit paydirt with the essential ‘Heat in the Street’ in ’78. For ‘Live! Go for What You Know’, recorded in the US during the ‘Heat’ tour, Travers changed his moniker to ‘The Pat Travers Band’, and rightly so; this line-up kicks serious ass. Thrall and Travers were a match made in heaven, raising the late-70s shred game by several notches, all the while backed by a rhythm section unparalleled in 70s Hard Rock. Wisely held to a single album of faves from Travers’ 4 studio albums, it’s a tight, powerful statement by a band that must have been an intimidating opening act. Non-single ‘Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)’ was a welcome blast of amped-up axework on American radio during the summer of 1979.

The Rods/ Rock Hard 1980rods-the-rock-hard
The Rods were a scrappy 3-piece from NYC who played hard-as-nails, meat and potatoes street metal, with the occasional harmony vocal and catchy chorus. In 1980, the band put together some demos and self-released their first LP ‘Rock Hard’, limited to 1,000 copies. Packed with simple, driving hard rock, with bar band chops and dum-dum lyrics, ‘Rock Hard’, um… rocks hard. This is what we’d always hoped the Godz sounded like. (Godz/Rods? Hmmm…) ‘Rock Hard’ was an underground hit, and was picked up by Arista, remixed, re-sequenced and re-released with a Ramones-like cover pic in 1981 as ‘The Rods’. Guitarist/vocalist David ‘Rock’ Feinstein is the cousin of one Ronald Padavona, and played on the first Elf album in 1974.

Gamma / Gamma 2 1980
Montrose (the band) ended after two mediocre post-Hagar records, and after releasing an excellent instrumental solo album (‘Open Fire’), Ronnie Montrose updated his sound with a new band: Gamma. Featuring the very latest in synthesizer technology, Gamma sounded hi-tech and thoroughly modern. Montrose’s guitar sound and playing style had also evolved, and as the techno-flash 80s arrived, Ronnie was ahead of the game. Gamma had achieved the impossible: synthesizer-heavy hard rock. It was a daring move for Montrose, and this new sound worked best on ‘Gamma 2’. Album openers ‘Meanstreak’ and ‘The Four Horsemen’ pack a serious punch, While ‘Cat on a Leash’ and ‘Skin and Bone’ stretch the band’s sound boldly into the future. One of the coolest album covers ever. Rest in Peace, Ronnie.

Blackfoot / Tomcattin’ 1980
Blackfoot had been kickin’ around for a few years before the NWOBHM arrived, releasing albums on Island and Columbia before moving to Atlantic and cranking up the crunch on their third, ‘Strikes’. ‘Strikes’ is probably the ‘go-to’ Blackfoot record for many, as it contains ‘Train, Train’ and ‘Highway Song’, two radio hits that earned the band their first ‘Gold’ record. But ‘Strikes’ at a very short 33 minutes and contains only 5 original tunes… Might I suggest the follow-up, ‘Tomcattin’? A solid southern ass-whoopin’ from start to finish, Rick Medlocke and gang power through what is probably the hardest southern rock album ever, leaving Molly Hatchet and their ilk in the dust. Medlocke leads the way with a confident swagger, and the guitars are 10 feet tall. A much more satisfying record than ‘Strikes’.

Y&T / Earthshaker 198152283045_1
Y&T were the missing link between Montrose and Van Halen; in fact, the mighty VH used to open for them. After two promising albums as Yesterday and Today, the band signed to the majors (A&M), shortened their name to Y&T (A&M… Y&T…!) and finally nailed their sound. Earthshaker roars out of the speakers, a powerhouse of crunchy SoCal party rock honed in countless California dive bars. Earthshaker’s winning balance between power ballad harmonies and scorching hard rock would prove very influential as the 80’s progressed. Y&T broke through to the 80’s Metal mainstream with their next two albums ‘Black Tiger’ and ‘Mean Streak’, but their true breakthrough was ‘Earthshaker’…a record that could only have been made by an American band.

Riot / Fire Down Under 1981
Despite hailing from New York, Riot were awarded ‘honorary’ NWOBHM status due to the UK underground’s embrace of their first two indie albums ‘Rock City’ and ‘Narita’, their frequent appearance on DJ Neal Kay’s metal playlist in ‘Sounds’, and their obvious musical inspiration to many young UK bands of the era. All of this led to their appearance at the first Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington, on of the key events in the development of the NWOBHM. But their popularity with the movement was a double-edged sword… The story of ‘Fire Down Under’ is a tragic one, and I’ve written in-depth about the record here:, but if you are inclined to check out any of the records discussed here, start with this one. ‘FDU’ is not only Riot’s finest album, it is one of the greatest American metal albums of all time, with only Montrose’s debut keeping it out of the top slot.

Frank Marino / The Power of Rock and Roll 1981
Yes, this is Marino’s 8th album, it’s also his most straight-ahead metal record. It’s Marino’s first with out the ‘Mahogany Rush’ tag, first with brother Vince on 2nd guitar, and most of the jazz noodling and Hendrix influence, so prevalent on previous albums, is now largely absent. But it’s the presence of one specific track, ‘Ain’t Dead Yet’, that demands attention here; not just because Marino rips through the song with an urgency and fluidity that is seriously scary, but the song’s lyrics answer CREEM Magazine’s ‘Is Heavy Metal Dead?’ headline and encapsulates the frustration and futility felt by many North American bands that survived the Punk era, as well as the hope for a resurgence fueled by the NWOBHM:

All around we hear the sound the voices in our ears
They try to bring our whole world down playin’ on our fears
Designing rules, deciding who, they’re gonna give the chance to
And all the while, the phony smile, they just want to romance you
It’s time that we fight now
The timing is right now
Well did you hear what they said?
They’re tellin’ us rock is dead
Well we ain’t dead yet!’

So there’s your proof! A handful of solid listening from an oft-overlooked time period in American Hard Rock/Heavy Metal history. How do they stack up against the records released at the same time by the young upstarts across the pond? Well… any comparisons wouldn’t be fair, because most of the records highlighted here were made by seasoned veterans; the youthful energy and freshness inherent in the NWOBHM’s best records make them hard to beat. But there’s a lot of worthy music here that has been unfairly ignored and neglected. Frank Marino was right: American Metal wasn’t dead during the NWOBHM… Maybe on life support, but not dead. Tell it, Frank!