ANGUS is Back! A Review Of Both Reissued Albums

 

Dutch legendary heavy metal band Angus finally gets both their albums reissued on CD with plenty of bonus material thanks to Sonic Age Records and their subsidiary Cult Metal Classics. Both albums got released in the mid 1980´s on a small label with very limited distribution. Sentinel Steel Records reissued both albums on one CD in 2001, but this is the first time they get issued on individual CDs with plenty of bonus material (including their first 4-track demo from 1983). Many fans of this kind of classic heavy metal never even knew these albums existed (including myself!). They prove to be a great find now that they are available again.

Biography
Angus started in the spring of 1983 when four friends started to rehearse in the attic of an old canal house in Amsterdam, Holland. They played as fast and as loud as they possibly could. The four friends were Ed Sprey on guitar, Ed Lois providing lead vocals, Gerard Carol on bass and finally William Lawson on drums. Sprey described their music as “rugged” like a Scottish bull. That particular type of bull is called Angus which was also the first name of one of his favourite guitar players, Angus Young of AC/DC. It proved to be a perfect name for the new band.

Original Angus line up.
Picture courtesy Jolly Jokers Ohrenbalsam

The Dutch metal scene in the early 1980´s was dominated by bands that combined speed and melody. The initial Angus sound was based on classical musical structures which was quite different from most other bands of the era. That combination of uptempo metal guitar riffs, classic etudes and fast double bass action made the material unique and stood out from the rest. The band recorded a 4-track demo after just a couple of months as an active band and started to play gigs around the Amsterdam area. In 1984, they launched their first national tour of Holland. The first line-up changes occurred when Sprey was replaced by Bert Foxx, taking over the guitar duties. The first opportunity to commit some of their songs to vinyl came in the summer of  1985 when they recorded two songs for The Heavy Touch compilation (“Lonesome Fighter” and “Aliens“). Together with five other Dutch metal bands on the rise Angus went on tour throughout Holland once again. The compilation album got a lot of positive press and the album sold well.

The compilation album brought Angus to the attention of Boudisque Records subsidiary Megaton Records which signed the band.  The debut album called Track Of Doom was recorded and released in 1986. This album was filled with great classic heavy metal and was produced by the band themselves. The result was really impressive with Lois‘ mighty vocals and a really tight band that had crafted a bunch of really strong songs. The album was played on national radio stations and on TV channels in Holland. Track Of Doom also made it into the top 20 in the Polish metal charts. Poland was at that time a socialist country behind the Iron Curtain so that was no small achievement. The record sales were promising and the album got a lot of positive reviews from the press. Track Of Doom was released in the US in early 1987 on Restless/Enigma Records which also handled bands like Poison and Stryper.

Cover of 7″ single Papa Don´t Freak
Picture courtesy Jolly Jokers Ohrenbalsam

Before work on the follow-up started the band re-worked the epic Madonna hit “Papa Don´t Preach” into a metal setting  rebuilding, rewriting and renaming it “Papa Don´t Freak” which was released as a single. The cover of the single shows the band members in women´s underwear in front of a peep show shop in Amsterdam´s famous red light district. It was another unusual move by Angus and the result was the media renaming their music as “Sexmetal”.

In the summer of 1987 the band entered the studio to record their sophomore effort with British producer John Tilly. Production wise the album was recorded with the latest studio and computer technology of the time. During the recording bass player Gerald Carol had to leave the band due to medical complications so studio bass player Andre Versluys laid down the basslines on Warrior Of The World. The album was released in 1987 and on the live dates that followed Mike Shultz played bass. The album shot Angus into the top league of Dutch heavy metal with its pure classic heavy metal sound coupled with strong melodies. Music Maker Magazine named it heavy metal release of the year in Holland. Warrior Of The World was definitely a huge leap forward for the band who supported the album with another national tour. Unfortunately, the band broke up when the driving force of drummer William Lawson left the band after a disagreement with Megaton/Boudisque Records and their management in 1988.

Reunited Angus. Picture courtesy Heavy-Metal-Gems.com

Reunion
In 1999, Denis Gulbey of Sentinel Steel Records contacted William Lawson and they started to search for old Angus material. The master tape for Track Of Doom was found in the vault of CBS Records in Los Angeles. The album was remixed and mastered for a re-release. Lawson re-formed Angus with a completely new line-up in 2011 and the band has started to write songs for an all new Angus album. The current line up includes Nico Perreijn on lead vocals, Pat “the Axe” on guitar, Rene “Basbeer” Bouwer on bass and of course William Lawson on drums.

Original LP of Track of Doom
Picture courtesy Play it Loud Forever.

Track Of Doom 
Time to spin the debut album a couple of times. The album starts off very unconventional with an instrumental track called “The Centaur” which to me is a very strange opening track. I think the album would have benefited greatly by using a track with lyrics as an album opener. It is followed by “When Giants Collide” which starts with a fast guitar riff that transpires into metal groove when bass and drums join. Then a short stick and some double bass drumming as the song kicks off for real. This song features a very strong vocal performance from Ed Lois whose vocals on this song very much remind me of the great Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper/Lionsheart fame. Lyrically it’s a song about the Gods fighting for fun and it sounds like a giant collision. Up next is the title track “Track Of Doom” which starts out with a great guitar riff and a nice and melodic verse. A mid-tempo rocker with a great guitar solo from Bert Foxx making it one of the strongest songs on the album. The song also has a couple of interesting tempo shifts and it’s a tune that deals with the threat of a nuclear war. Next is “Heavyweight Warrior” which starts with an ultra fast riff and continues in an up-tempo beat  throughout most of the song. A tune about an undead army waking up at sunrise to steal your soul. Up next is “Finally Out” that starts with an acoustic intro which then fades out and the heavy and fast riffing takes over again with some really fast drumming from Lawson. “Finally Out” has one of the best and catchiest choruses and some of the strongest melodies on this album. A great heavy metal song about love gone wrong. It ends with another acoustic outro. It is followed by “The Gates” which starts off with a Priest-like guitar riff from Foxx that naturally drives the song forward. A memorable and punchy chorus and this great riff makes this song one of the top picks of Track Of Doom. The song is simply about the Heaven’s gates being open for you and me to enter. Once there its time to let the rage begin.

The latter half of this remastered CD (including bonus tracks) starts off with another fast paced instrumental song that is somewhat of a filler called “Dragon Chase”. A song to skip with the remote. The mighty voice of Ed Lois is back again on “Lost Control” which is also the last song on the original vinyl album which contained only eight songs. It starts out with a strong groove and a couple of really nice guitar harmonies/solos from Foxx. A couple of nice tempo shifts with the odd acoustic guitar adds more value and keeps me interested throughout the whole song. Then the four bonus tracks from the first demo take over with original guitarist Ed Sprey handling the guitar. The first song is “Night Fight” which starts with a slow, almost ballad like, intro which then turns into a fast paced song. The chorus features some falsetto screams from Lois that is not my cup of tea. You can hear this is a band in the early stages of development and the lyrics sometimes do not follow the English grammar. The song is about a killer stalking at night and you have to try to stay alive. The tempo changes again for a slow outro of the song. The CD continues with track no 10 which is “Keep On Shouting”  and it  is a much stronger song than its predecessor. It starts with a nice riff from Sprey and this mid-tempo rocker has a decent chorus and a melodic hook to go with it. A song about dancing, shouting and partying. Up next is “Virgin Girl” which is a nice mid-tempo rocker with a distinct chorus. A drum intro is joined by a heavy grooving, almost Sabbath-like guitar riff. Definitely the strongest song off the first demo and would easily have made the album in my book. The CD ends with “Leading You Back” which is another groovy and heavy song about leading you back to the place where you were born and where you belong. It’s easy to lose your way.

Picture courtesy of  Jolly Jokers Ohrenbalsam

Track Of Doom is a little bit speedier than the sophomore effort Warrior Of The World but still within the formula of classic heavy metal though. The band bio presents it as a speed metal record, but I would not label this as speed metal. More of a traditional heavy metal record with a few faster songs. The production is a little bit rough around the edges. The music reminds me quite a lot of The Rods, Picture and at times Manowar. What really strikes me is the very strong vocals from Ed Lois who sometimes sounds like a dead ringer for Steve Grimmett and at times, as fellow Dutchman Shmoulik Avigail (The Rods). The songs are great heavy metal songs and the musicianship is top notch. but lack some of the direct impression a great chorus can have. My top picks from this album would be “Track Of Doom”, “Finally Out, and “The Gates”. The bonus material from the first demo is a nice addition and an important historical document in the Angus history. The sound quality and the production is of course dated but if you can live with that you will find this to be a great bonus. I reckon many fans of Heavy Metal/Hard Rock had not even heard of this band before (including myself) and most of you will find this a great find if you give it a couple of spins. The original vinyl hardly made it´s way out of their origin country of Holland (Poland being the exception) so now it´s time for the rest of the world to discover Angus thanks to the guys at Sonic Age Records.

Warrior of the world original vinyl press
Picture courtesy of popsike.oom

Warrior Of The World
Angus‘ follow-up album was recorded with a proper producer (John Tilly) and the latest studio technology and you can clearly hear the sonic evolution as well as improvement in the songwriting department. Warrior Of The World starts out with the title track which is a strong heavy metal song with a catchy riff and a driving melody. Ed Lois‘ vocals are more polished which I decide is a good thing. What is the song about? This short line in the verse says it all: “We are here to steal your soul with metal rock n roll” – priceless! My head starts banging immediately and involuntarily so I guess that means they stole my soul. “Moving Fast” is up next and this song is literally moving fast. With a riff and hook that is repeated one too many times this is not the strongest song on the album. The lyrics deal with living fast – dying young which is somewhat of a classical theme for a rock song. Song number three on the album is “Leather And Lace” yet another typical cliche lyric of a rock song but with Angus you wouldn´t want it another way, would you? It starts off with another catchy and driving riff from Foxx that carries the song onward. A strong song but somehow lacking that big chorus you are waiting for. Sadomasochism is the theme of this song. “Money Satisfies” starts off with double bass drumming and it is an upbeat metal song with an interesting chorus that stands out a bit from the rest. All this makes it one of the most interesting songs on the album. It’s a song about seeking fortune, how money can make you feel good and working really hard to succeed. Then it is time for one of the albums faster songs called “Black Despair” which is an OK fast paced rocker with some nice guitar work from Foxx. A song about lying in your bed trying to sleep when depression takes over. A situation many of us can relate to I guess. Then we have the epic and long “2086” which has got a lot of progressive elements and tempo shifts. It also deals with heavy issues as destroying ourselves in an apocalyptic war with aliens and returning 100 years later (in 2086) to see that life is slowly coming back once more. A song that does not hit you instantly in your face but grows the more you listen to it. A very complicated song texture makes it harder to easily dig into. Definitely something new from Angus but also a song without a memorable chorus line. After that treat, its time for another straight ahead rocker in “Freedom Fighter” with  a great melody pulsating throughout the tune and a cool bassline from Andre Versluys forms a great background. A song about fighting for your freedom and your right to choose the way you live.

Angus bull with logo
Picture courtesy of Metal-archives.com

The second part of the CD starts off with the first and only ballad ever from Angus and it’s a really good one; “I´m A Fool With Love”. It starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar from Foxx and some nice keyboard harmonies building a delicate background. A great vocal from Lois and a nice guitar solo from Foxx makes this one of the highlights of the album. An attempt to gain some radio play and write that power ballad that turned out really nicely. Then it´s time for the song with the longest title and the very last song on the original vinyl album; “If God´s In Heaven (Why Is There Hell On Earth). This song is carried by another great and melodic riff and a nice vocal from Lois. That question in the title of the song very much sums up what the song is all about lyrically as well. This song has got a really strong chorus. The bonus material starts off with “Lonesome Fighter” from the compilation album The Heavy Touch from 1985. Again Gerard Carol handles the bass on all the bonus tracks as they all were recorded prior the Track of Doom sessions.The sound quality and production is not as good as on the album but it is a great up-tempo song with a really strong chorus that you can easily sing along to when taking a shower. A song about having to fight for your life in the night although you are not a killer or a criminal. You can be attacked anyhow by some shady figure. Definitely a great addition to this CD reissue. The liner notes say this was the strongest song on the compilation and I can certainly understand that. Up next is the second song from Angus on that compilation called “Aliens”. It starts off with some fancy stuff from Foxx on the guitar and continues on in a furious tempo. Not as strong as the previous song and a song about having to leave earth that has been invaded by “Aliens” who no longer had air on their home planet. Now we are fleeing from the “Aliens” from star to star. The next song is “Ruthless Men” which is a pre-production demo that in the end did not make the album Warrior Of The World. It seems to me to be an earlier version of “Warrior Of The World“- the melody for the chorus is the same just the lyrics are different. Up next is an unrecorded and unreleased song called “Men of Hades” and the below par and bad sound quality becomes almost unbearable. I guess it was included for historical purposes. It´s a song with another apocalyptic message which the band seemed to be heavily into at the time. The CD then rounds off with the cult single and remake of Madonna’s super hit “Papa Don’t Preach”. In the Angus world, the chorus has been re-written to “Papa Don´t Freak”. This single’s cover art also sported the band in women’s underwear and they were labeled as “Sex-metal” by the media.  Hilarious! It starts out with the band singing acapella and they have really given it the Angus treatment with a heavy guitar riff and thumping bass. A great addition and bonus material! My top picks from the album would be “Warrior Of The World”, “Money Satisfies”, “I´m A Fool With Love” and “If God´s In Heaven (Why Is There Hell On Earth)”.

Summary
Both these albums contain great and surprisingly fresh traditional heavy metal the way it sounded in the 1980´s. I must give a great thumbs up to Sonic Age Records/Cult Metal Classics for a great packaging with 16 page full-colour booklet containing all the info you would need. You have got a band biography, all the lyrics reprinted and who plays what on every song in detail. The bonus material gathered for these re-releases are just fantastic and for the first time available to the masses. These releases must be the ultimate Angus re-releases making all prior ones obsolete. I have never been a fan of putting together two albums on 1 CD and the previous CD issue did not contain any bonus material. So even if you bought the Sentinel Steel reissue you will find plenty of reasons to buy this re-release.

When it comes to the music both the production and songwriting are better and more mature on Warrior Of The World compared to Track Of Doom. It, on the other hand, has got a nice rawness to it. My guess is that you never heard of Angus before either. In that case – do yourself a favour and pick up a copy right now. This reissue is limited and will not be available for a long time. Both these albums prove that Holland could produce great heavy metal and it was not only limited to Picture. I would give Track Of Doom a 7/10 rating and Warrior Of The World a 7,5/10 rating. Time to take the bull by the horn and spin it one more time!

The Lionsheart

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