Diamond Head, huh? One of those essential NWOBHM bands that are classics by merit, but people only know one album from? The band that was lifted to fame by a certain Lars Ulrich? Yes, these may be the first ideas that come to mind for a majority of Metal fans (age aside), when mentioning the name of these Metal pioneers from Stourbridge, England. Even if these statements are largely correct, there is still more to Diamond Head than what usually meets the eye, and their latest album, “The Coffin Train“, is maybe underlining the fact the most since their debut thirty nine years ago.
Even largely seen as 1980’s band (due to their heyday), Diamond Head are still above anything torchbearers of 1970’s music. There has always been plenty of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in them, in smooth fusion with the late 1970’s punk such as the The Damned. Along with Mercyful Fate, they were the biggest Metal manuals that certain dudes from Metallica were reading when they were writing such epic Metal masterpieces as “Master of Puppets” or “And Justice for All”.
The debut album of Diamond Head, “Lightning to the Nations” (1980) is a classic if any, but as the band did not fit at all to the mindset of the 1980’s Hair Metal, their success was modest to say the least. They were not pretty enough, and did not write enough hit songs with big, repetitive choruses. When the overall popularity of Metal decreased to all time low in the 1990’s the scathing lack of enthusiasm by the Grunge favouring press made Diamond Head call it quits eventually. They have been active again since 2000, but were largely relying on former glories. Until now.
“The Coffin Train” introduces us to a reborn and refreshed Diamond Head. The 2.0. version. No longer looking to the music of late 1970’s alone, but firmly rooted in the modern day and age, “The Coffin Train” is an impressive fifty minutes of dynamic Heavy Metal. Yes, there is still plenty of Rainbow, Zeppelin, and Sabbath to be heard here, but the sound has been brought to 2019 with results that are equally impressive and dynamic, serving the magnitude of riffs in a stunning fashion. Their current vocalist Rasmus Andersen definitely stands out on the mission, letting his inner Chris Cornell soar through the album. His performance alone is enough to update this album to the standards of today, but when the classic Diamond Head rumble paves the way to something that could be even slightly Museish the big surprise is about to step in. And it will too. Trust me.
Even after several spins of the album, I am still a bit puzzled over the “The Coffin Train“, but it in a very positive and curious ways. Above anything, “The Coffin Train” is an extremely well written Heavy Metal record, looking firmly to the 2020’s. It has more than plenty of that classic Diamond Head in it, but it is not rooted in nostalgia to any great degree. You can tell it is Diamond Head, but then again it still feels somehow like a new band, with the same guys involved. The change has indeed been that effective. If the post-comeback albums of them have been a bit tired, this one is a hungry locomotive set out to impress. Those of you who went ‘EEEEEKKKK’ with the mentioning of Muse (yes, I could hear your assorted goat noises up to the Prog Cave even!!) can rest assured that the modern choruses and build-ups in “The Coffin Train” are not flattening the Heavy Metal rumble of it a bit. Rather the new found dynamics only make those Blackmore/Iommi-esque riffs Brian Tatler has always mastered well come across as even more impressive. Like a thunderstorm after many calm days of heat.
Why I am giving the record ‘only’ a four out of five is because I’m still working over the record in my psyche. There’s a definite feel that this might be building up to TOP TEN of the year even as the dust and astonishment settles, but it’s still greeted with careful admiration alone as I want to see how I can react to this after becoming accustomed with the new sound. Nevertheless, I have been listening to the album almost daily since I got the promotional copy and there seems to be no end in sight in that department. So like I have stated, the 2.0. version of Diamond Head is here and it has a new seem to have fond a new charge to them that is hard to put into words. It has something old, something new, and something mesmerizing to it. And yes folks, It’s still electric.
Rating – 4/5