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Fans not familiar with the Birmingham, U.K.-based group may be surprised to learn that they were actually prominent members of the second era of heavy metal artists, or NWOBHM era, even though this album may not reflect it to listeners. Produced by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, this album actually reflects more of a streamlined, '70s-era rock sound than a signature Sabbath-esque protégé. While the songs may sound dated, there is much to sample for metal fans as Quartz was a band that had influence despite lack of commercial success.
The opening track, 'Mainline Riders', could be lyrically interpreted from themes as varied as drug use to vampirism. While the lyrics are quite ambiguous, the riff is well-known to fans of metal since it was transformed and 'resurrected' by the producer's band a few years later (coincidentally after bringing in a former Quartz member to the band, Geoff Nichols) on Sabbath's 'Heaven and Hell' release.
The focus on this album should be the odd numbered tracks since they show the direction the band would take into their epic 1980 album, 'Stand Up and Fight'. 'Street Fighting Lady' shows the band's ability to blow an amp with the best of them along with Mick Hopkins' ability to shred a Gibson SG, much like his producer. A classic Quartz cut.
'Devil's Brew' opens side B for those actually fortunate enough to own a vinyl pressing of this recording, since its scarcity is quite apparent to those interested in tracking down a copy. This number is actually one of the first non-Sabbath, occult-themed lyrical songs of the metal genre with lines such as "the cries for sacrifice hide screams that seem to rise up to the sky" and "through the darkness of the night, I offer you my soul". Coupled with an ominous riff and steady bass line, it is truly a seminal heavy metal effort.
'Around and Around', along with its acoustical intro, 'Smokie', show off more of the band's ability to build on riffage to catapult a song from take-off to soaring within a few minutes. Though the lyrics tend to lose focus, the song itself drives through any set of eardrums to form a mainstay of metal rhythm for future bands.
Overall, the songs lend themselves to critique, most notably the dated sound of KISS '70s rock along with a kind of T-Rex glitz on the production end, but strip away the glam influences and the foundation of what would be a movement in musical history can be found in this obscure, yet highly influential album.
Certainly early starting as far as bands that can be considered NWOBHM (along with Saxon, Iron Maiden and the likes), Quartz get stuck in early on with this United Artists release. Featuring an array of talent from members who have played in such well-known acts as Copperfield and Black Sabbath, the abilities of the band are showcased in this classic 70’s heavy metal offering. The sound is not particularly similar to any one contemporary act, but one could draw the fairly “stretchy” comparison to elements of Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, and other hard-rockers, if pressed. Quartz is a fairly unknown act, outside of those old enough to be around, and head-banging at the time.
Kick-starting with a fairly good effort in “Mainline Riders” the band shows it has something to prove, and sets a heavy and fairly original sound from the outset. The song has some heightened intensity and strong guitar sound, along with some very 70’s Bonham-esque drum stuff that arguably continues in other tracks, such as “Hustler”. “Sugar Rain” (track two) is a somewhat dated slower number at times, but offers glimpses of the bands originality. Definitely not a likely favourite, however. Our third track “Street Fighting Lady” kicks us back into dirty 70’s heavy metal territory, with hard hitting “woman centred” subjectivity, and some impressive and enjoyable “rock” guitar work, including especially around the 2:08 mark. Superb number that would well-suit a hot day and a case of your favourite beer, preferably in holiday-time. “Hustler” keeps that strong 70’s rock feel happening, offering some more emotive guitar, including some acoustic verse work, layered with nice licks. Another slow one, but with a bit more creativity, and “oomph” this time round. “Devil’s Brew” starts off continuing the slow pace, but with some synth-y atmosphere created. It then kicks into classic hard rock kingdom, with some epic, well crafted lyric work, with synth continuing here and there.
The album was produced by none other than lord of the axe, Tony Iommi, and is a supremely well crafted collection of numbers. If you like harder 70’s rock, you should look no further than Quartz. It’s easy to forget this is a debut album, as the band has a profound air of professionalism, even authority, on this offering. Plenty of top-notch numbers, with few weak moments, I would be happy to have had bands like this, Rainbow and Sabbath around in 1977. Definitely pretty hard music for the time. Anyone seeking to expand their NWOBHM collection should seek it out, as should avid 70’s hard rock fans. If you like the sound of Priest’s earlier works, such as “Rocka Rolla” and “Sad Wings” as well as Rainbows Dio era stuff, and later Deep Purple, also highly recommended. An excellent debut. A bit more of a rock release than their thunderous follow-up though, and less refined and complex than their 3rd album - this one is still very enjoyable underappreciated stuff. Interestingly the original cover art, featured a naked child in a crystal (read Quartz) like landscape. This was subsequently altered, and eventually changed. - meaning there are at least 3 versions of the LP. a great collectors item.
“We Are the Pleasures – Get Yourself a Good Time!!!!”