NWOBHM cult act Mendes Prey finally get most of their recorded material released on CD for the very first time. This cult band and their demo recordings have been circulation in the trading market and underground music collector networks for years and years. It´s not all but fair that they are finally released upon the unexpecting public for the first time, remastered from the original master tapes with top notch sound.
When the new movement tentatively labeled NWOBHM was starting to get momentum in the last year of the 1970´s with brand new releases from Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden, Samson and Angel Witch among others, a new band emerged from the West Yorkshire towns of Castleford, Pontefract and Wakefield. Mendes Prey went through a lot of line-up changes until they started to get serious in May of 1980. The band was christened Mendes Prey and was made up of Jih Seymour on lead vocals, Tony Boulton (ex-Vardis) on bass, Martin Brough on drums with Steve Holt and Phil Lawn being the masters of the six strings. The British press soon started to show interest in this young band and a first demo tape was recorded in 1981 and all 5 songs from that original demo are included on this brand new release entitled The Never Ending Road. In June of 1981, the song “Driftin” topped the Sounds Heavy Metal chart and Geoff Barton wrote a favourable review of the demo in the then newly launched Kerrang! magazine.One further line-up change was to follow before a second demo was recorded in 1982 and further songs in 1983.
One further line-up change was to follow before a second demo was recorded in 1982 and further songs in 1983. Mark Sutcliffe replaced Phil Lawn on guitar. The band wrote a song which would later became a live favourite named “Red Alert” (released alongside “Cry For The World” on the Parkside Steelworks compilation in 1985) which lyrically dealt with the horrors of the Falklands war. A vinyl single was issued in 1982 containing the songs “On To The Borderline” and “Runnin´ For You”. “On To The Borderline” was chosen as the A-side because it was a short song and was deemed to have commercial potential. The band also won a sponsorship from Levi Jeans for the song “What The Hell´s Going On” (released on the Heavy Metal Heroes compilation in 1982) and this song was used in a radio commercial for the jeans. In 1983, the band also embarked on their first tour of the U.K. sponsored by Levi´s Jeans culminating with the headlining concert at the famous Marquee Club in London. In the autumn of 1983, guitarist Steve Holt resigned and the band chose to continue on as a four-piece not replacing him. The first new song to be recorded by this newly revamped line-up was “I Beg For Mercy” in 1984. After this, the band changed their sound to a more melodic and radio friendly style bringing flavours of AOR into their music. The recordings also became more sophisticated and the songs better produced as an attempt at commercial success. On this CD, the new direction is represented by songs like “Can You Believe It?”, “Listen” and “Breakin´ My Heart”. Mendes Prey released a single in 1986 called “Wonderland” (Demon cover) with “Can You Believe It?” on the B-side. “Breakin´My Heart” was the band´s last recorded output recorded in early 1986 and when the summer came that year the band went their separate ways permanently. The break up was due to growing frustration out of never getting that elusive record deal they had worked so hard to get during the last six years. The band also struggled to find a musical direction that would enable them some kind of commercial success. Vocalist Jih Seymour now resides in Australia while the rest of the band still remains in the UK.
The Never Ending Road
First I have to admit I had never heard of Mendes Prey before reading the No Remorse Records press release. I immediately looked up a couple of songs on Youtube and they were definitely good enough for a purchase. When you listen to some of the albums getting reissued today that were originally recorded in the 1980´s you can actually hear why the record deal never came their way – the songs and the band are just not good enough. Not so with Mendes Prey! Some of you might have traded tapes and listened to Mendes Prey before but to me they were a new acquaintance. You get a whole bunch of quality songs on this CD. I find Mendes Prey to be a real surprise with a couple of really strong metal songs in the traditional NWOBHM style (“Red Alert”, “On To The Borderline”, “I Beg For Mercy”). “Take Me Across The Water” has a really catchy chorus and I´m trying to get it out of my head as I write these lines. There are loads of quality riffs on this album but also a twist here and there. There is always a great hook behind the next corner and it keeps your attention throughout. Compared to fellow UK bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden, Mendes prey keep most of their songs in mid-tempo and with a melodic edge. You also get your hands full of power ballads like “Cry For The World” and “Driftin´” which are as good as any major hit in the mid to late 1980´s when power ballads ruled the airwaves and MTV.
At the end of the CD, you get a couple of later tracks which are really strong but have a distinct AOR feel to them making them a bit different. This never makes this a too mixed affair though and Mendes Prey never go too far and risk losing their distinct identity. You can always here that this is Mendes Prey. Songs like “Can You Believe It?” and “Breakin´My Heart” should make the mouth water on every AOR fan out there but still keeping the sharp edge with a grooving guitar riff building up and dominating the song structures. The “bonus” live songs come with a live version of “Driftin” and an instrumental track called “Flight to Moscow”, both recorded live in 1983. These songs do not bring any more substantial value to the release and could as well been left off in my book. Strangely the A-side of the last single“Wonderland” has been left off this collection and I really don´t know why.
The sound quality and production on this CD is great and matches any official studio album released in the early to mid-1980´s. Seymour‘s vocal style is personal and to me reminds me a bit of Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy and sometimes with a touch of punk. The songs are almost all of them very catchy and memorable which makes this album really nice to spin in your CD player. A varied mix from clear cut metal songs like opener “Red Alert” to power ballads like “Cry For The World” to AOR flavoured tracks like “Listen” makes sure it never gets boring during the 16 track CD. Only the closing live tracks are “fillers”. At first I had a bit of a hard to get into Seymour´s voice which I found a bit too “punky” and mellow at times but these changed with a couple of spins. Now I think the vocals are brilliant and really fit the music well. As usual I have to give a lot of credit to the guys at No Remorse Records in Greece for digging this gem out of closet and also for a really nice CD issue where you get all the lyrics to the songs, a Mendes Prey biography and of course lots of photos spread out over a 16 page booklet. No Remorse are turning out to be a real specialist at finding obscure NWOBHM bands and releasing them on CD. Now I´m crossing my fingers they will get their hands on the early Grim Reaper demos with Steve DeMercao, that would really make my day. Their rooster is ever growing! 8/10 Geeks is the reward. Well done! Now let us prey…..