THIS WEEK I’M LISTENING TO... DIAMOND HEAD The Coffin Train (Silver Lining Music)
If you thought Diamond Head’s 2016 self-titled release was a flash in the pan, think again. Three years down the line, the superbly-packaged yet bizarrely-titled ‘The Coffin Train’ shows that Stourbridge’s finest have much more up their collective sleeves yet. Bearing all the hallmarks of classic Diamond Head ‘The Coffin Train’ is a no-nonsense contemporary metal album, with punchy and aggressive shorter numbers rubbing shoulders with epic, well-rounded compositions. And while it’s set in the present, its roots are firmly in the past, with strident opener ‘Belly Of The Beast’ channelling ‘Helpless’ from way back when and songs like the title cut and ‘The Sleeper’ reminiscent of those oh-so-majestic cuts like ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ and ‘To The Devil His Due’ that were so instrumental in marking Diamond Head out from the rest of the pack.
Vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen’s shoulders are almost certainly broad enough to bear the praise that’s rightly lavished upon him for his role in re-energising the band. A man with an incredible voice and huge talent, Andersen’s recruitment seems to have given Diamond Head renewed impetus and certainly brings out the best in founder member Brian Tatler – one of the most famous and influential guitarists and songwriters of all time – and his long-term partner and drummer extraordinaire Karl Wilcox, who’ve kept the band going for such a long time. With Andy ‘Abbz’ Abberley slotting in alongside Tatler and new(ish) bassist Dean Ashton locking in with Wilcox this is almost certainly the strongest line-up the band have ever had, which would have been an inconceivable thought (in fact, almost heresy) back in those early days when love was sucked and lights were shot out. And, OK, so what if the intro to ‘The Messenger’ flies a little too close to WASP’s ‘Wild Child’? It’s still a great song, all the same.
Singling out any of the CD’s ten tracks – the vinyl loses ‘The Phoenix’ but you get a download code anyway – is almost a fruitless exercise, although ‘The Coffin Train’ itself and ‘Shades Of Black’ are each as good a song as the band have ever written (no mean feat considering their back catalogue) and draw on the inventiveness and ingenuity that made the band’s early years so musically diverse. Elsewhere the aforementioned ‘Belly Of The Beast’ is a frenetic call to arms and ‘Death By Design’ is a pugilist just looking for a rumble. The sound is great, the songs are great, the band are great, and there can be little doubt that ‘The Coffin Train’ will undoubtedly be featuring in many writers’ end-of-year Top Twenties when the points are tallied in December.
© John Tucker May 2019