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The 80’s British wave featured a huge variety of young promising bands. What made that movement so special was the diversity of sounds, styles and attitude of its many groups. These guys (whose name sounds more proper for an alternative/indie modern rock band) were from the first acts to come and achieve popularity among the British kids, who were so hungry for heavy music. Son Of A Bitch, Mythra or Axe already made something much more fresh than the 70’s decadent (by that time) rock, which was getting despised, ignored and predictable as the decade came to an end. Tygers Of Pan Tang were one of those NWOBHM bands that were hugely influenced by classic rock (just like most of other groups of that movement) and refused to avoid or forget the cliches and topics of the 70’s, though.
They are very nostalgic for the vintage classic sounds of rock. Not only British stuff like Wishbone Ash, Warhorse, Budgie or Baker Gurvitz Army seemed to have impact on their music. Also American rockers like Montrose, Mountain, Cactus and Grand Funk Railroad influenced the band’s roots. The musical basis of these compositions is slightly bluesy, stuck in traditional rock, although riffs are straight, not that weighty and tempos more vigorous from what we heard in the 70’s. The opening track “Gangland” or “Hellbound” are the clearest example of this group patterns: efficient riffs, far from impressive nor technical, performed/written decently to define a consistend hard rock sound. Nothing we didn’t hear before, nothing extraordinary; amusing enough to satisfy, though. Guitars take all attention, specially the superb virtuosism and skills of that young unknown musician, Mr. Sykes, whose rich technical abilities provide these tunes of stunning details and solidity (tremendous difference of potential with Robb Weir). It’s clear these guys are effective musicians and song-writers. In fact, there’s an amusing variety of cuts here. For instante, we got those 2 loose powerful numbers I mentioned before, along with the much more casual and melodic “The Story So Far” (doesn’t that riff remind you of Thin Lizzy’s “Bad Habits”?) and “Blackjack”. “Silver And Gold” and “Tyger Bay” show certain commercial intentions and a lot of emphasis on melody, including very insistent repetitive vocals and simple arrangements. The structures of these songs are not difficult or ambitious, rather easy, basic. Sometimes riffs might get repetitive, generic and dumb, but the good skills and passion of these guys make their music decent enough and enjoyable. Melody is omnipresent, in particular, the group put more attention on it since John Deverill replaced the limited voice of Jess Cox. The result is more professional, even emotional, as you can listen on the dramatic ballad “Mirror”, with Deverill’s tortured voice at its best. With this guy taking the vocal duties, the band’s possibilities and potential increased considerably.
Tygers Of Pan Tang refused the aggression, speed and dark imagery of some of their peers. More in the style of Samson, Stampede, Quartz, Heritage or Black Rose, their mellow music doesn’t sound amazingly fresh or fierce. Rather classy, sophisticated, quiet. However, the influence of their music on later heavier groups would be notable. “We were very influenced by the NWOBHM, specially Venom. Also Celtic Frost, Tygers Of Pan Tang, and Slayer”, Mille from Kreator once recalled. The contribution of each member to make this material influential and unforgettable was essential. Probably with the exception of the humble rhythmic section, which isn’t incredible nor impressive. Drummer Brian Dick doesn’t really sound inspired and professional on the fastest numbers here, and bassist Rocky Laws’s lines are quite hard to hear among the supreme presence of loud guitars and voice. Actually, the production is not that bad, compared to other weaker that ruined many great NWOBHM albums. It’s not powerful or strenghtful; too clean, making this record sound more inoffensive and mellow than it is. Their debut was much better in this point, although the quality of the songs and their arrangements were poorer than the slightly superior stuff of this album. Lyrics are inevitably commercial here, avoiding sarcasm, humor and euthanasia. Singer John Deverill tries so hard to emulate the charisma, vocal tone and presence of Robert Plant, just like Sean Harris, with mostly forgettable results. However, there’s not much screaming nor high notes in these tracks, a fact that demonstrates the intention of these guys to ignore any kind of heavy sound. I wouldn’t really consider anything they did as heavy metal, they seem to feel more comfortable and confident with quiet tempos and melodic riffs, awat from the oustanding brutality of others back then.
Every classic rock romantic would enjoy this. I’m pretty sure Tygers Of Pan Tang would’ve got further than they did if they were luckier, in the right place, right time. Maybe then, all those mainstream rock listeners who are into British legendary bands like Zeppelin, The Doors, The Who and co. would be listening to this. But as we all know, there’s so many great NWOBHM bands that never reached fame, money or recognition while other mediocre “musicians” earned millions with extremely primitive dumb songs back then in the 80’s...and still nowadays (just take a look at the most popular pop videos in youtube). But anyway, forgotten treasures like this album remind us there was a time when music was art, not an empty business.
This is, hands down, the Tygers most solid and unswerving release in retrospect to their later filler soaked duds. The composition embodies the unrefined attitude and ferocity of the NWOBHM movement completely, pre-dating many other musicians’ songwriting that would later take claim to the genre.
Although the writing is rather formulaic and repetitive at times – it still clearly represents positive consistency that is unwavering, ballsy, and vicious in comparison with many of the band’s contemporaries during the time. Though commercial, “The Story So Far” is an extremely well-crafted and catchy track while the adrenaline fused guitar work and speed of “Hellbound” will surely have your head moving.
Killer riffage, speed, and wild guitar licks culminate into one great listen! Ignoring the expected ballad track, “Mirror”, Tyger of Pan Tang’s “Spellbound” is a lean, no bullshit approach to heavy metal that is a great addition to any collection.
Very surprised to see so few Tygers reviews on this site...oh well. SPELLBOUND is a great record, period. Not only does it feature the amazing guitar work of John Sykes (soon to graduate to Thin Lizzy) but some killer tunes as well. "Gangland" is as heavy and brash as the NWOBHM gets, and even the melodic, slightly commercial "The Story So Far" is a killer tune. Really the whole album is very consistent, and the band's reputation as legends of their particulat scene is well deserved. Yeah, it's true the band kinda sold out from this point on, offering poppy metal releases that embarassed their hardcore fanbase (like me) but rest assured that WILD CAT, CRAZY NIGHTS, and SPELLBOUND are excellent NWOBHM that belongs alongside anything by Tank, Raven, Atomkraft, or Samson had to offer!