1. – Virgin Steele – Virgin Steel I (MFN 1)
Before he became a hoarse-voiced, whispering freak, David DeFeis fronted one of the most exciting bands on America’s East Coast in the shape of Virgin Steele. As a young, penniless Welsh headbanger you could only dream of owning albums like the Virgin Steele debut on vinyl Import, so the advent of London-based Label Music For Nations, whose mission seemed not to be to put out any old crap by English bands (hello Neat!), but rather to trawl the world in the quest for classic metal for the masses – all at low, low prices – was an absolute Godsend. Virgin Steele was their first full-length release, and, looking back now, you can see why MFN thought it was worth a punt.
Defeis is in fine form, content for guitarist Jack Starr to take most of the load – the florid keyboard orchestration you’ll be familiar with from later albums is largely absent here – and take it he does. His raw guitar sound is a delight, and his neo-classical yet bluesy technique (is such a thing even possible?) shines through on killer tracks like Danger Zone and American Girl. Bassist Joe O’Reilly also shines, putting in a great performance in the engine room with drummer Joey Ayvazian throughout and occasionally taking the spotlight himself with some nice playing.
If you like traditional hard rock with metallic guitar playing in the vein of pre-speed metal Riot or early Savatage you could do worse than score yourself a copy of this. I’ve seen decent copies go on Discogs for under 5 British Pounds (although a mint copy of the original MFN version can set you back around the twenty quid mark occasionally).
Current Discogs Median for the MFN Original: AUD 16.73 EUR 10.35 USD 11.60 GBP 9.00
Gavin’s Gold Standard Rating: 60/100
2. Tank – This Means War (MFN 3)
Long term fans of the band Tank will probably tell you that the pre-MFN releases by the band are where it’s at, but there’s an undeniable brilliance to This Means War that, for this listener at least, puts this album right up there with their best. Opening track Just Like Something From Hell is one of the best metal album opening tracks ever, and the production, by former Argent man John Verity, was the best the band had ever had up to this point, giving their meat and potatoes metal a glistening edge that had been sadly lacking before.
The filth hounds had arrived as far as the young Strickmann was concerned, and the band’s triumphant slot supporting Metallica on the Euro leg of their Ride The Lightning tour seemed to confirm that. Of course, we know better now, but listening back to the pompous likes of Hot Lead Cold Steel and Echoes Of A Distant Battle you can still get a whiff of just how exciting the future looked for the band in 1983.
Six quid will secure you a copy on Discogs if the record collecting Gods are with you, although mint copies of the MFN original have been known to change hands for up to twenty five pounds. But whatever the cost, all fans of true British metal should own a copy of This Means War.
Current Discogs Median for MFN 3: AUD 33.82 EUR 20.90 USD 23.50 GBP 18.00
Gavin’s Gold Standard Rating: 79/100
3. Manowar – Into Glory Ride (MFN 6)
Of course we all know about Manowar now. But in 1983, save for a couple of chortling pieces in Kerrang! Joey DeMaio and co. hadn’t penetrated too far into South Wales… if you see what I mean. So when the opportunity to snap up Into Glory Ride on a British label for a fiver came up I did so out of curiosity rather than any deep knowledge. I wasn’t disappointed. From the opening ‘strains’ of Warlord’s rude opening to the final triumphant ending of March For Revenge (By The Soldiers of Death) there isn’t a single moment wasted on Into Glory Ride. They call music like this doom these days, but quite simply IGR was the most metal thing I’d ever heard in 1983, it still gets a regular run on the wheels of steel chez Strickmann, especially when Mrs Strickmann is out for the day, and (and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this to someone reading Sentinel Daily) if you haven’t heard this record, you need to put out of your mind any prejudices you have about the way the band looks and just wallow in the glory of Secret of Steel and Gates of Valhalla.
An original MFN copy of Into Glory Ride (hopefully in better nick than my dog-eared old faithful) can set you back as much as forty pounds in pristine condition, although if you’re less fussy you can pick one up for a tenner if you don’t mind a bit of ‘foxing’.
The average price for a copy of Into Glory Ride on Discogs is: AUD 47.38 EUR 29.30 USD 33.00 GBP 25.00
Gavin’s Gold Standard Rating: 92/100
4. Battleaxe – Burn This Town (MFN 8)
Geordie rockers Battleaxe were, like many of their ilk at the time, slightly confused. Burn This Town is a case in point, opening up with the Priestesque fury of Ready To Deliver before settling into a much tamer hard rock groove for much of the rest of the album. The opening track is by far the best thing here, but at the other end of the spectrum the chugging Dirty Rocker isn’t without charm either, with vocalist Dave King giving a good account of himself in either style. The brittle-sounding Overdrive is another energised riff-rocker, and the album ends strongly thanks to the band’s eponymous Anthem and the excellent Thor- Thunder Angel.
I guess thirty six years after the fact this is a period piece at best, but there’s enough of the good stuff here to make it worth seeking out for fans of old-fashioned Brit metal. Despite the chucklesome cover, there’s still a market for the album, with a pristine copy of the original MFN release looking like setting you back about eighteen quid at today’s prices.
Burn This Town On average will set you back: AUD 22.75 EUR 14.00 USD 15.75 GBP 12.20
Gavin’s Gold Standard Rating: 65/100
Until next week – happy hunting!
Prices correct as at 15/05/19.