Diamond Head has been around for the better part of 40 years. They’ve been there since the beginning, when heavy metal as a genre was being created. Their influence is well-documented; their importance in the canon of the heavy metal story is solidified. But you’d be hard-pressed to find any metalhead worth their salt not willing to admit that this band reached its creative peak early on in its career. Any but the most hard-headed among us will be right there to tell you that Diamond Head has one essential album, one very good album, and then a mixed bag of material in the decades that followed 1982.
Fast forward to the year 2016, and Diamond Head is still alive and kickin’. And somehow they are still releasing albums. I won’t dwell on the music this band has released in the 2000s, but it’s worth noting for perspective that it’s far from amazing and nothing like the Diamond Head of old. So with realistic expectations, I threw on their self-titled album. I was less than 30 seconds into my first listen and my jaw just dropped. This, this is fucking Diamond Head! This, this is NWOBHM!
Diamond Head has a new vocalist. That’s the first thing I noticed. His name is Rasmus Bom Andersen, he’s Danish, and he fucking rules. He’s a young gun, but his voice is perfect for this style of music. Diamond Head’s original vocalist Sean Harris isn’t quite the best singer of all time, but his voice has such character and a touch of soul that I always found it an endearing quality of the old songs. I think Andersen fills this same kind of role very well. His bluesy delivery of a line like “Hold on with every breath inside your blood…” in the song “Shout at the Devil” puts a childish grin on my face. It also makes me very excited to hear how he handles the older songs in a live performance.
The guitar work is stellar as well. This is riff-driven classic metal – I really think Brian Tatler and his gang really focused on writing good songs, and it paid off. They stuck to the old school style, and that’s what makes this the best thing they’ve put out in years and years. This really is a resurgence for Diamond Head. In particular, the song “Speed” has everything you’d want in and old school metal tune – driving rhythm, harmonized guitars, soaring vocals, and even a brief bass solo in the middle. God damn right! The more subdued guitar harmonies in “Blood on My Hands” are like smooth caramel in my ears. The riffs are memorable, the pacing is quick, and there’s more than enough fist-pumping moments to make me think this album could have come out in 1984 rather than 2016. Give this album two or three listens and you’ll already know the songs.
So is this Diamond Head proving they still have gas in the tank? Or is this a band that realized it needed to refuel in order to stay on the road? It doesn’t really matter, because this album is great. In a time where old school bands are releasing “reunion” albums left and right, this one hits the nail right on the head. For the old school metal fan, I couldn’t recommend this album more highly. I guess diamonds really are forever.
For additional reading, check out Gruesome Greg’s review of the same album: hellbound.ca/2016/04/diamond-head-self-titled.