Express & Star

Stourbridge metal icons Diamond Head to re-release debut 40 years on

Stourbridge metallers Diamond Head are re-releasing their iconic debut album Lightning To The Nations to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

The cover for Diamond Head's Lightning To The Nations 2020

The record proved to be a catalyst for the movement known as the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) and inspired behemoths of the metal scene including Metallica. But back then, in their hometown, Diamond Head had no real idea that the seven songs they had recorded would have such an effect.

The first single was It’s Electric. Founding member, lead guitarist and songsmith Brian Tatler remembers: “It was written on June 15, 1978. It was the 45th song Diamond Head ever wrote. It was kind of our version of an AC/DC song. I had noticed that AC/DC had gaps in their riffs so I thought I would do one in that vein and out came It’s Electric.

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"It was fast and exciting and soon found its way into our live set. We had the pleasure of opening for AC/DC in January 1980 and performed It’s Electric in the set. I looked over to my left and noticed we were being watched by Bon Scott.”

It’s Electric’ was the first Diamond Head song Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich ever heard on the 1980 MCA compilation Brute Force. “It seemed so right, so fresh," he later recalled. "It seemed so effortless and, above all, it seemed so special. Three-and-a-half minutes after the needle hit the record I was hooked."

Tatler adds: “Metallica covered this song on their 1998 album Garage INC. Sean [Harris, former singer and guitarist] and I wrote It’s Electric in the key of G but Metallica transposed it to F# to make it easier to play. I have played it their way ever since.”

Diamond Head's former member Sean Harris, left, and frontman Brian Tatler, right, with Metallica's Lars Ulrich in 1993

As the 40th anniversary of Lightning To The Nations loomed, Tatler - alongside vocalist and producer Rasmus Bom Andersen - knew exactly what they wanted to do. Tatler adds: “We thought it’d be great to re-record the debut album with this line-up and the modern technology available. The original album was recorded and mixed in a week, and we were very young, still 19 and 20 years old when it was recorded, so there’s a lot of that youthful energy.

“But we didn’t have the technique, time or craftsmanship to record it with the sort of power that we could now. So that was a real thing to savour: the opportunity to go in the studio and record these songs fresh and vibrant.”

Lightning To The Nations 2020 was recorded over several sessions between various locations - from France to band members' home studios, to Andersen’s Raw Sound Studios in London.

Diamond Head last year promoting the album The Coffin Train

When Covid-19 struck in March, Andersen worked on the album between April and July, with Tatler’s ear inspecting final mixes and tweaks last month before sending it off for mastering at Metropolis Studios, also in London.

There are also four cover versions rounding out the anniversary release, with Diamond Head paying homage to fellow Black Country, Staffordshire and Birmingham icons Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest and Deep Purple - and of course Metallica.

With Diamond Head having featured so heavily in Metallica’s early career, the cover of No Remorse seems especially appropriate, according to Tatler. “Lightning To The Nations 2020 is packed with ideas and riffs, but some thought has gone into it all and maybe that’s why it still sounds really good now," he adds.

Diamond Head in 1982, from left, Colin Kimberley, Sean Harris, Brian Tatler and Duncan Scott

Lightning To The Nations 2020 will be released on November 20, via Silver Lining Music. It is available as a CD digipak, double vinyl album housed in gatefold, digital formats and special D2C bundles. For pre-orders, go to the band's smartURL page.

The current Diamond Head line-up is Tatler on lead and rhythm guitars, Andersen on vocals, orchestration, and additional guitars, Karl Wilcox on drums, Andrew 'Abbz' Abberley on rhythm and lead guitars and Dean Ashton providing bass and organ.