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Schitzophrenic, yet Seminal - 77%

ArchfiendNocturnal, April 22nd, 2013

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.