Diamond Head's history is certainly among the most peculiar in all of rock. One of the most remarkable talents to arise out of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the band's career never fulfilled its early promise, yet their legacy still ranks among the most influential of the genre. Sounds metal editor Geoff Barton (the man who coined the phrase N.W.O.B.H.M. in the first place) once remarked that "there are more good riffs in your average single Diamond Head song than there are in the first four Black Sabbath albums"; and Iron Maiden leader Steve Harris weighed in that Diamond Head "looked like they were going to be the next Led Zeppelin for a while." Such lavish praise had been sparked by the band's unassuming, independently recorded first album, which by all rights should have been just the first step on the road to a legendary career. But this was not to be...here's the story why.
Diamond Head formed in Stourbridge, England, in 1976 by schoolmates Brian Tatler (guitar) and Duncan Scott (drums). They soon recruited Sean Harris (vocals) and a few months later, Colin Kimberley (bass) joined their ranks. Barely out of school and vehemently opposed to joining the cover band pub circuit, the fledgling young band also had the heyday of punk rock to contend with and were forced to develop their sound in relative seclusion through endless rehearsal and songwriting sessions. Still unable to attract any record company attention three years later, despite occasional gigs in and around the English Midlands, the group decided to take matters into their own hands, issuing a couple of self-financed singles, "Shoot out the Lights" and "Sweet and Innocent." These were soon followed by a self-produced full-length album, which they recorded between February and April 1980 and made available via mail order through their own Happy Face Records. By naïve inexperience or artful design, the LP was packaged in a conspicuously anonymous white sleeve, lacking so much as song titles, and sent to members of the British music press. As it turned out, a copy of the nameless LP (later commonly referred to as the "White Album" or "Lightning to the Nations", after its first song) soon found its way into the hands of Sounds metal editor Barton, who was so floored by its contents he quickly proceeded to interview the band for the respected music weekly. Soon being heralded by most everyone in-the-know as an undeniable masterpiece, the album quickly passed into legend as one of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal's most seminal documents. Indeed, between Tatler's towering power chords and Harris' delicate yet muscular voice, Diamond Head had stumbled upon the perfect synthesis of un-godly, Sabbath-sized riffing and Zeppelin's epic musicality.
If only the rest of the story was as remarkable. Encouraged by such a euphoric response, Diamond Head quickly signed with MCA, issued the Four Cuts EP, then set out on a relentless touring schedule that included a legendary appearance at the 1982 Reading Festival. But the dream began to shatter as soon as they entered the studio to begin recording a follow-up album. MCA's and producer Mike Hedges' excessive tampering and the band's inability to just say "no" transformed Borrowed Time into a disappointing, vague reminder of their glorious first album (the fact that Sean Harris' mum acted as their manager didn't help matters any). For their part, as brilliant as they were at composing complex heavy metal anthems, Tatler and Harris proved incapable (or subconsciously unwilling) to pen radio-friendly singles. Re-recorded versions of first album standouts "Am I Evil?" and "Lightning to the Nations" also paled in comparison to the genuine article, and though it entered the British charts at a very respectable number 24, Borrowed Time quickly fulfilled the prophecy in its title and tumbled from sight. As initial expectations gave way to disappointment and pressure began to mount, the band started work on their third album. But they would splinter in half during the sessions for 1983's erratic Canterbury, with the rhythm section of Kimberley and Scott both fired and/or quitting. Another commercial failure, the LP's chances were further curtailed by a pressing error that resulted in 20,000 faulty copies. A slot in that year's massive Castle Donington Monsters of Rock Festival couldn't staunch the bleeding, and a frazzled Tatler (by now standing on the brink of a nervous breakdown) finally pulled the plug. Diamond Head effectively ceased to exist.
Here's where things get interesting, however, for among the band's early worshipers was a young Danish drummer named Lars Ulrich, who had been so deeply affected by Diamond Head's early material that he proceeded to pattern his own brand new group (future metal gods Metallica) on their idiosyncratic style. Not only did Metallica base the bulk of their early live set on Diamond Head's songs, they also covered the first album's "Am I Evil?" for the B-side to their "Creeping Death" single in 1984, and later repeated the gesture with "Helpless" in 1987. This unexpected exposure began to slowly resurrect Diamond Head's music among fans, and when Tatler and Ulrich finished compiling a greatest-hits disc, released later that year as Behold the Beginning, unsuspecting American audiences were also, finally given their first glimpse of Diamond Head. But, Tatler remained wary of attempting a complete comeback and it wasn't until 1993 that he again teamed up with Harris, bassist Pete Vuckovic, and drummer Karl Wilcox for a set of club dates under the name Dead Reckoning. The full-fledged reunion was made official by a new album, entitled Death & Progress (featuring guest performances and songwriting contributions from Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi and Megadeth's Dave Mustaine), which nevertheless failed to ignite serious interest in the band. Following a number of high-profile concert appearances in the U.K. that summer, Diamond Head once again disbanded, but not before releasing the Evil Live album, recorded at their Milton Keyes performance where they supported Metallica, ironically enough.
A slew of unsatisfactory greatest-hits sets has been released in the years since, but it wasn't until 2001 that fans were finally treated to a fully restored re-issue of Diamond Head's legendary debut by Sanctuary/Castle. Their desire to promote the long-lost classic led to another reunion, which included Diamond Head's first-ever performance on U.S. soil at the New Jersey Metal Fest on April 5, 2002.
2004 heralded a landmark in Diamond Head history as they embarked on a new phase with new singer Nick Tart. The year saw them rehearse and write new material as a revitalised band, and record a new album with Nick, 'All Will Be Revealed'. The end of the year saw them perform their first gig infront of an invitation only crowd at JBs in Dudley. Harking back to the early days and the 'do it yourself' attitude, 1000 self financed copies of their new album were pressed. These quickly sold out at gigs and via their website.
In February 2005, Diamond Head embarked on a massive European tour supporting Megadeth which turned out to be a massive success for the band, impressing long standing fans and picking up younger ones along the way.
2005 proved to be a succesful year for the band. Cargo Records picked up All Will Be Revealed and gave the album a full commercial release allowing a much greater audience than the lucky few who had managed to get a hold of the pre release copies. The year culminated with another short tour and Diamond Head headlining a 25th Anniversary of the NWOBHM at London Astoria in November. The Astoria show was professionally recorded which resulted in a live album, 'It's Electric' and Diamond Head's first ever official DVD. The DVD was released in August 2006 and features bonus material of interviews and in the studio recording All Will Be Revealed.
Diamond Head released their new album 'What's In Your Head?' on Livewire/Cargo on 30th July 2007 and the band toured the UK and Europe including KIT Festival, Germany, Diamond Head's first headlining tour of Ireland and Hard Rock Hell.
In December 2007, Diamond Head toured the UK as special guests to Thin Lizzy on their 30th anniversary tour of Live & Dangerous.
In August 2009, Universal records released a triple Diamond Head CD. Titled 'The MCA years', it contains re-mastered versions of Borrowed Time, Canterbury and Live at the Reading Festival. The release also includes some bonus material and demos, some of which have previously been unavailable.
This is the first release of Borrowed Time and Canterbury on CD in the UK. The Reading set was previously released on Raw Fruit in 1992, but has long since been deleted and is a much sought after item by Diamond Head fans.
In 2010 Diamond Head tour the UK as the special guests to Europe on all dates in February.
Brian Tatler's much anticipated autobiography; 'Am I Evil?' is now available in an exclusive hardback FIRST EDITION print run of 500 copies. This book is now available for Diamond Head fans worldwide through this website.It contains many unseen photos and has forewords by both Lars Ulrich and Dave Mustaine.
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