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Tredegar is something of a rarity in the NWOBHM world. Instead of having to play sweaty clubs and gig tirelessly to gain any kind of recognition in the scene, they had the luxury of being the project of Tony Bourge and Ray Phillips, formerly of the legendary and much-revered Budgie. As such, they were able to release this album as well as a single from it (“Duma”) in 1986, considered by many to be the very last year of the NWOBHM movement, without so much as a demo.
As the song titles and cover artwork might suggest, this is not the typical speedy, punkish NWOBHM that many bands of the era churned out. This is of the more melodic, heavy variety, with lyrics that are so delightfully outlandish they make Ronnie James Dio seem tame by comparison. The entire album concept seems to revolve around kings, castles, and knights, though done in a slightly more tasteful manner than the aforementioned Dio. One thing worth mentioning, of course, is that this sounds nothing like Budgie at all. Bourge’s trademark heaviness is here, but where he used to accompany Burke and the gang on musical flights of fancy and Beatles-esque ballads, what we have here is more 80’s-tinged heavy metal with only slight hints of Bourge’s Budgie work.
The album’s single is “Duma,” the leadoff track, which sounds like it was intended to be a hit. Bourge plays a simple but catchy riff while singer Carl Sentence provides the cadence for a medieval battle of swords and sorcery before launching into the chorus, a repetitive but effective chanting of the song’s title. After the band shakes off the obligatory commercial track, though, things get interesting. “The Alchemist” is a multipart epic that combines speed and heaviness to immediately transport the listener to King Arthur’s court. “Battle of Bosworth” is a half ballad/half rocker that takes the listener by surprise. “Which Way To Go” is another highlight, a slow number with very catchy guitar work, and featuring a vocal performance by Russ North (later of Cloven Hoof).
Carl Sentence is truly the star of this album—his voice fits perfectly into the landscape the music creates, and while the other musicians are stellar, they are really providing a perfect backdrop for Sentence’s superior vocal talents. “Duma” is the best example of his abilities, as his voice builds to an impressive crescendo on the pre-chorus bridge and never lets up for a second. Throughout the album, his voice perfectly suits all situations, and it is clear why he was recruited for this project. Sentence would later be employed in various degrees by a myriad other bands, so his abilities did not go unrecognized at the time, but his accomplishments never quite matched those displayed on this album.
At eight tracks (the original recording, which I own, ends with “Wheels”), it can be easy not to have filler, and indeed, there is none. Every song here is fully realized and clearly a product of creativity and hard work. The success was no match for Budgie, who were still selling plenty of albums through their demise in the early 80s, and the songwriting doesn’t quite match up to Budgie’s best output, but this album stands as a last hurrah for fantasy NWOBHM and is recommended for all classic metal fans.