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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22 thoughts on “Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations (1980)”

  1. discodjango says:

    Great to see this album featured here!

  2. OliveFox says:

    I would never deny the influence of this album. But, I sort of can’t listen to it anymore. Maybe I hear to much of the bands that were influenced by them, or maybe that Deep Purple-y 70s stuff creeps in and I start to feel like every one of my weird uncles who still drove a Mercury Cougar long into the 80s.

    Still…important stuff, no doubt.

    1. Abominable Goatpenis says:

      Deeb Burble leaves a worse taste in my mouth than Bee Jizz, or Boney M. Some things are just meant to to stay burried under the mound of its own filth and faeces, such things as KISS™.

      1. Once you’ve seen metal, why go back to rock?

        It’s why I find Venom, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin uninspiring.

        The blues is sort of a universal language of very simple, catchy music. But the nature of the scale also makes it mournful and weak, centerless and planless.

        Metal grew up out of that and transcended it, transgressed it. This was a positive development. It showed the maturation of an audience in awareness.

        But to stumble backward? No, thanks. It’s why I listen to little Iron Maiden outside of the second album, which while it is “bluesy” has a much wider range. Even the Black Sabbath pop years are too much at this point, or Metallica past the second album (except for “Orion” and “To Live is To Die” of course).

        Metal fans want an intensity out of life. This requires darkness, but not melancholic self-pitying introspection.

        1. Phil says:

          “Once you’ve seen metal, why go back to rock?”

          Because some people like rock music too, with it’s modern introspection and bluesy ululations.

          1. Belano says:

            Exactly, I like some rock here and there (Zappa, Beefheart, Pixies, Tim Buckley, King Crimson, among others), even if I normally listen to metal a lot more. I know that here a lot of people dislike rock, but I like both genres. To me, when I listen something (and read something), what’s important is that the form used could show the vision of the artist in a really personal, creative way. And you can find a lot of conventional, bad music in any genre, but also a little really personal music in almost any genre.

            It’s also interesting listening to Riot, Diamond Head, Deep Purple, etc., to see how one can track the specifities of metal in the undifferentiated magma that was the beginnings of the heavy metal genre.

        2. Fine Erection Milky as fuck says:

          So Brett, should I buy this album or not? Please tell me!

          Also, what are your thoughts on the new 2016 record from Ripper the speed-death band? Last time your added this band to your Best of the Year list.

        3. vOddy says:

          What’s the name of the scale(s) used in blues?

          I’d like to look it up and try playing on it on my shitty old Casio keyboard, to see what it’s like.
          What you said has sparked my interest. A genre defined in large part by its scale? That’s weird. Metal can be in many scales.

          1. vOddy says:

            I have never heard blues in my life, that’s why I am asking.

              1. vOddy says:

                I assumed that the genre wouldn’t have its own scales named after it. None the less, I should have just googled it.

          2. There is a series of pentatonic scales used, but the skinny is that these are just the diatonic scale with key notes removed. You end up with only the “color” notes of the diatonic scale, which means an emotional texture which is easy to play harmony/improvisation to.

            The blues is several things. It’s an English/German drinking song format, the use of the denatured scale, and certain topics that are brought on by a keyless emphasis on color notes. African-Americans may have adapted the waltz percussion and vocal timbre. White blues added the song form variation. The original pentatonic masters came from India. Like many other things, blues/rock is a distillate/aggregate made for commercial convenience.

            1. Can you survive the blitzkrieg says:

              Ha! That is such precise descriptions of micro progressions, old music before metal is primitive and only good for movie soundtracks. This is coming from someone who has heard so many records of differing genres I could probably write a record guide for lonely fat hipsters who “care” and hover around record store pining for some tight hipster ass. Once you’ve crossed the threshold, and really have read some decent Stevens writings, you can’t really shake that info out of your head and it has significant bearing on not only everything you hear but reality in general. That is why there is such the cult following for this site, but I’m sick of commenters trying to ale the fucking writing style of the articles like “ooooh I’m really smart too!” Cut that shit out and be yourself.

              1. vOddy says:

                Are you calling me a poser?

                1. vOddy says:

                  My goal is not to pretend to be what I am not, in order to gain favour on this site.
                  I will prove this by mentioning a list of bands that I think are worth listening to, all of which are looked down upon around here (I assume):

                  – Ensiferum
                  – Wintersun
                  – Kalmah
                  – Finntroll

                  I have reasonable arguments for all of these. I can point to romantic traits, structural traits, or both, and explain what I find good about the music.

    2. Poser Patrol says:

      I agree. Much like Venom, Diamond Head are historically important but outside of that there is not much value in listening to them.

      Actually, I don’t know if they are worthy of even that label. You don’t hear any bands mention them besides Metallica. And Diamond Head aren’t really doing anything here that isn’t a stones throw away from early Black Sabbath or (especially) Judas Priest.

  3. After Nespithe and Transilvanian Hunger, this is what metal has been regressing toward. Give me Neptune Towers, Hliðskjálf, Sort Vokter, or Goatcraft over this. Something interesting. Just about every death metal and black metal release after Todessehnsucht and Pure Holocaust is pre-manufactured corporate Jewish nihilism to pacify the audiences of paid opposition. What’s good for art is not good for business – just look at drunken headbanger era At The Gates and “sometimes spooky” grindcore riff infested Incantation. A stranglehold on a small market, and more beer tickets after playing a tired set at some festival for hooligans waiting to go back to their Hammerfall albums.

    1. Transilvanian Hunger was a regression just like Panzerfaust.

      1. hypocrite says:

        Transylvanian Hunger was a purification, a reduction. I really don’t see how it regressed at all.

  4. Doug Killjoy says:

    There was a lot of cross-pollination going on around this time with some interesting if mostly farcical results. Here’s a rock band doing their best Slayer impression back in ’83, fuckin hilarious!

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PTNzuBh6zTg

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