Interview: Brian Tatler of Diamond Head

Diamond Head new band shot 2016

A few weeks ago I conducted a short interview with Brian Tatler (center), the guitarist and primary songwriter of Diamond Head. Their new self-titled album was released on April 7th and will be reviewed on Death Metal Underground shortly. Marred by technical difficulties, here is an edited transcript:

Hi Brian, I’m Daniel from Death Metal Underground. I understand Diamond Head has a new album coming out this spring?
Yes we do. Diamond Head comes out April 7th.

Did you try to hearken back to your early work or go in a more commercial direction?
In a way. We took a look at everything we’ve done over the years. This album should sound like Diamond Head. We took a very Diamond Head approach.

Did you modernize your music? Use digital production and all that?
Well it’s still the old Diamond Head sound. I used a Diesel amp and we recorded into Pro-Tools too. We wouldn’t have been able to get that sound back in 1982. Writing is the main thing. We try to capture the magic in the rehearsal room.

Songwriting is the most important thing.
I agree.

So much modern metal is just one cool guitar riff and then chugging along until the next part that has no relation to the first.
You still need to write a song.

Who are your songwriting inspirations?
Well, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, those sorts of bands. I don’t listen to that modern sort of stuff that much. Some say we write the same songs over and over. That’s the way that stuff is. Diamond Head sounds like Diamond Head. The most influential records were the first few Led Zeppelin, Sad Wings of Destiny, Machine Head.

How do you feel about your influence on the metal and the more extreme sub-genres? Inspiring bands like Metallica, Celtic Frost, and Darkthrone who sometimes copied directly from you?
It’s easy to get deep into the stuff from your youth. You watch these bands play, get a tape from across the ocean a thousand miles a way, and after a few months of playing and writing your own material, what do you know? You have the same riff that’s on the tape! It’s nice to be influential. It makes the band feel important; justifies what we were doing. It’s been said Diamond Head were a musicians’ band: a band that other bands liked. We never sold that many records.

Even things like “Search and Destroy” having the same riff as “Sucking My Love” in a different key?
“Dead Reckoning”. It’s not the same; it’s slightly different. It’s flattering. I’ve got my own stuff from somewhere. Bits of Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Diamond Head were a stepping stone between thrash and them.

I noticed on songs like “The Prince”, you have tempo and rhythm changes in the drums uncommon for metal of the time.
Well we moved the drums around to get more out of each section. We had to get it as good as it had to be. No nudging through

“Am I Evil?” is perfect.
“Am I Evil?” took a while. It took a while to do it. The intro, lots of verses, the last section to the ending, and then going back to the main riff, and testing it out live.

So many bands never have the opportunity to play live now. How important was that?
We tested out everything live to see what songs and verses did work. What would work up a crowd. Some songs didn’t work. This one worked.

Did you start playing live early on?
We formed in ’76 and played our first show in February of ’77.

In local venues like pubs?
Lots of venues. Some not local. One in Birmingham. We started playing in pubs. No clubs. We would put on our own gigs.

Sabbath were from Birmingham. Was that a big deal?
We felt we were following in their footsteps: Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. It’s the second biggest city in the UK. Birmingham had so many bands. Always did too…

How much pressure did Diamond Head feel to become more mainstream and commercial rock?
A bit of pressure. We signed to MCA in 1982. Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and all UK bands appeared on Top of the Pops with their singles. Our long songs prevented that: “Sucking My Love” is 9 minutes long; “Am I Evil?” is 7:40 even. Not a comfortable fit. MCA wanted us to be more like Led Zeppelin except we had no PR, no real touring support with good lineups , nor a huge studio budget. Being managed by our singer Sean Harris’s mother didn’t help. We were dropped from MCA as she wouldn’t agree to a change in management.

Was it a Manowar type situation where he lived with his parents?
He lived with her then. I believe he still lives in the same place but on his own.

The Manowar singer still lives in his parents’ basement in upstate New York.

Any upcoming touring plans?
Lots of dates across Europe. We’re playing Hard Rock Hell and some dates in Germany, the UK, and Ireland.

Good luck!
Thank you!


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Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations (1980)

diamond head lightning to the nations

Diamond Head were who Metallica and Megadeth desperately wanted to be. A seventeen-year-old Lars Urlich famously flew to London to see them play after buying their debut from a magazine ad. Celtic Frost owed their career to the Holst-opened classic “Am I Evil?” Lightning to the Nations, is the “the missing link” between the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal and later speed metal.

The guitarwork and songwriting are excellent throughout. Driving Motorhead-style rhythm riffs served by pounding pickup beats and groovy bass lines progress power chords into solos that Blackmore and Tipton wish they had written. These extended leads serve not only as climaxes but continue building tension, alleviated only when the original verse riff (or a variation thereof) returns. Clever variations in the extended riff phrasing enable verses to wind and flow freely around catchy choruses, continuing effectively long after lesser groups would have ran them their course.

Yes, Lightning to the Nations is bluesy with many influences from the riff-based hard rock of the seventies. The vocalist even multi-tracked himself on “Sucking My Love” in imitation of Robert Plant. None of these rock roots serve to lessen the force and creativity present in the music. The atrocious keyboards and reverb mixed into the 1993 Metal Blade reissue do. Stick with the original LP and the 2011 “Deluxe Edition” CD remaster from the original tapes.


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Upcoming Miasma – Changes Reissue

miasma changes reissue

Miasma’s Changes is being reissued on CD and LP by Rotten Relics Records. This pressing of the long out of print and compositionally coherent caveman death metal classic is the first with the original sound since the original Lethal Records one from 1992.  It is being done with the approval of all band members, who contributed comprehensive art, photos, lyrics, and liner notes. Rotten Relics says T-shirts will be available too and warns that a Brazilian reissue intended for the South American market only (yeah right) without authorization of the band and probably without the original master is scheduled for release at the same time so watch out.

Listeners may stay informed on Rotten Relics’ Facebook page.



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Vader – The Ultimate Incantation Reissue

VADER ultimate incantation reissue 2cd
‘s debut, The Ultimate Incantation, is being reissued on June 3rd on both CD and LP by Polish label Witching Hour. The original, discarded recording session produced by Tomas Skogsberg at the famous Sunlight Studio in Stockholm, Sweden is included as a bonus disc. The lost Swedish session released for the first time should make this reissue worth checking out for fans of the band along with those of Swedish and Slayer-style death metal in general.

We are proud to present the long awaited reissue of VADER’s debut album “The Ultimate Incantation”. This album was a milestone in death metal history and a groundbreaking masterpiece for the Polish scene allowing our bands to be heard beyond the Iron Curtain. With this record VADER’s international career begun and it’s a cult classic since then. Once again we made our best to deliver this classic album as a top notch release. To match our words we will attach an extra stuff with never before released original album session done by THOMAS SKOGSBERG in SUNLIGHT STUDIOS. And that’s not all. We also asked the master himself – DAN SEAGRAVE to prepare new artwork for this release.

The 2xCD digipack may be pre-ordered from Witching Hour here.


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Profanatica reveal The Curling Flame of Blasphemy

profanatica the curling flame of blasphemy

Profanatica have revealed the art and track list for their upcoming album The Curling Flame of Blasphemy. One of the few fruitful artists in current metal and a mainstay of our best lists, drummer Paul Ledney (also a founder of Incantation) and guitarist John Gelso have spent the third millennium refining the first wave.

Track list:

1. Ordained in Bile
2. March to Golgotha
3. Magic & Muhr
4. Black Hymna
5. Host Over Cup
6. Rotten Scriptures
7. Yahweh Rejected
8. Bleed Heavenly Kingdom
9. Vile Blessing
10. Curling Flame

Track six, “Rotten Scriptures” may be previewed on Hells Headbangers Compilation Volume 8.

Scheduled for an early summer release, the frequently “funderground” label promises that The Curling Flame of Blasphemy will be another:

metalucifer heavy metal bulldozer


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Here In After Turns Twenty

immolation here in after

2016 marks twenty years since the release of Immolation’s sophomore album Here In After. Completely leaving speed metal convention behind, dissonant riffing and jazzy drumming weld into an infernal, polyrythmic Bosch canvas. All songs burn narratively: verses melt into Vigna’s Luciferian leads. These guitar heroics marshaling the hellfire make Here In After a dawn-bringer for the uninitiated in Immolation. Crucify the criminal Christ again!

dali corpus hypercubus


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Sarpanitum – Blessed Be My Brothers…

Sarpanitum blessed be my brothers

Sarpanitum’s Blessed Be My Brothers was one of Death Metal Underground’s rejected albums for the Best of 2015. The album initially showed promise. The introductory track, “Komenos”, presents the audience with Sarpanitum’s combination of chromatic death metal riffs, melodic heavy metal leads, Unique Leader Records brutality, and Emperor-like use of a melotron to approximate medieval polyphony to anchor the concept album’s theme of the Crusades.

“By Virtuous Reclamation” surges forth with soaring, harmonized guitars calling for the conquest of the Holy Land continuing into an Immolation style rhythm riff. A break starts the counterpointed dissonant riffing in the Unique Leader style that variates logically enough for Pope Urban II to call for crusade against the heathen Saracens with a metalcore scream, providing a harbinger of the randomness to come. The band returns to the opening riff minus the accompanying lead. The lead’s eventual return signals the start of the Emperor melotron. A sudden slowdown for a cheesy emotional solo continues into the original riffs, climaxing into a polyphonic blend of every musical element and texture. The song barely avoids falling on its face on the way to to the finish line.

The second real song, “Truth” opens directly with Unique Leader riff salad. The Emperor worship is only to plant listeners in a Western European medieval mindset to distract them from the fact the tension built up by the dissonant riffing is never appropriately resolved. The emotional stadium rock solos are just as disconnected from the death metal as the Emperor aping. “Glorification Upon the Bones of the Sundered Dead” better glues the riffs together but still resorts to emotional, Slash-style solos to impart the triumph of the Siege of Jerusalem.

If Blessed Be My Brothers had ended there, it would have been a disparate but listenable concept album. Instead Sarpanitum use the second half to tell the Muslim side of the later Crusades through similarly flawed but less effective songs. This isn’t just a 180 degree change in perspective: the band added another of their heavy metal heroes to the blender. Ersatz Gorguts riffing plus even more masturbatory glam rock solos leads distract from the effective atmospheric and brutal elements. The songs turn even more so into senseless technical deaf metal with Emperor rendered down into pop hooks.

The drastic changes of viewpoint and influence betray the album’s semi-successful first half. The atmosphere of Western mysticality established using Emperor to approximate a polyphonic medieval choir is wrecked by the hippie drum circle interlude, “I Defy For I Am Free”. Blessed Be My Brothers is a postmodern, apologetic Frankenstein. Wikipedia “neutral point of view” metal for meek liberals is antithetical to Emperor’s classical triumph and heavy metal’s “Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched and the weak,” virtus.

Listen at Willowtip Record’s Bandcamp

Better yet, just listen to In the Nightside Eclipse again instead.


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Good Friday Crucifixion Playlist

conan crucified boris vallejo

Billions celebrate Constantine’s syncretic solar deity’s crucifixion by eating fish today. Here’s a playlist of seven classic speed and death metal songs to contemplate this excruciating Roman suffocation method:


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Sammath releases “De Heidense Vlam Zal Branden” lyric video


Sammath have released a lyric video for “De Heidense Vlam Zal Branden” to promote the vinyl reissue of their debut album, Strijd, on Hammerheart Records.  Strijd is more conventional than Sammath’s later albums and one of the best releases in the atmospheric, late nineties black metal style reminiscent of Summoning. Unlike their tawdry contemporaries, Sammath arranged primal tremolo-picked riffs with keyboard leads into narrative compositions. While the keyboards sometimes may seem a tad excessive today, the record succeeds in conjuring up romantic visions of dark age barbarity worthy of its Arthur Rackham cover. Those who enjoyed Kaeck’s Stormkult should take special note.


Strijd may be listened to in its entirety on Folter’s Bandcamp page. The LP may be ordered from Hammerheart Records.


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Demolition Hammer reunites

demolition hammer epidemic is reborn

Demolition Hammer have apparently reunited according to the group’s Facebook page. The brutal New York speed metal band last released notable material almost a quarter century ago with the hammering death/speed hybrid Epidemic of ViolenceAlex Marquez of fellow death speedsters Solstice (and Malevolent Creation’s Retribution) is taking over the drum stool from the deceased Vinny DazeWhether any touring or quality material rises from this reunion remains to be seen.


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