Style: Heavy Metal
Release Date: 27 Sep 2019
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I've been highlighting bands that crawled out of the woodwork in 2019 and I don't think Weapon UK quite count because they kind of started that trend a few years ago. They were formed as far back as 1980, under the name of Fast Relief, quickly became Weapon and then split up in 1982 after one single and one demo. They got back together in 1984 and promptly split up again. And so we fast forward to the 21st century. They tried and failed again in 2005 but got themselves properly organised at last in 2009, finally releasing a debut album in 2014, 34 years after it all began. They were the Rosy Vista of 2014 and this is their follow-up album.
Now, I haven't heard Rising from the Ashes, but I like this a lot. As befits their origins in the NWOBHM scene in England in 1980, this is very much old school NWOBHM stuff, full of hard rock riffs, vocal hooks and a little punk attitude, though it's fair to say that the latter is easily most obvious on the band's rework of Set the Stage Alight, the flipside of that 1980 single so not one of the many new songs here.
I was enjoying the nostalgic feel for half of the titular opening track and then they added a whole other level. Clare Cunningham, the Irish lead singer of Swedish rockers Thundermother, shows up for a fantastic folky section in the middle of the song (it returns for the reprise at the end of the album). As it all heats back up, she heats back up with it to finish it all out with a roar. This isn't just a good Weapon UK album, it should be an intro to her band too, because they deserve the attention.
Ghosts of War is a really good song that's stayed with me, but Queen of the Ride is the best one on offer. It's quintessential NWOBHM, combining melody and power with a seventies Gillan hard rock vocal over a faster and heavier backing ready for the new decade of the eighties. The whole point of what I do here at Apocalypse Later is to highlight all the great music coming out a decade or four after Weapon UK were formed but I can't help but wonder here what they could have done during that intervening span had they been able to stay together.
This album is utterly rooted in the NWOBHM era and, if you doubt that, just check out '79 Revisited, with nostalgic lyrics that cleverly riff on the old "Saturday night and I just got paid" line from Rip It Up. Massive respect to the band for ending with the Friday Rock Show ident which defined the era as much as the opening to Am I Evil.
However, winding the musical clock back forty years doesn't mean that every song here is the same. NWOBHM was a movement but Diamond Head weren't Saxon, who weren't Iron Maiden, who weren't Angel Witch, and so on. Weapon UK find a lot of different sounds on this album without losing authenticity. Sea of Hope adds eastern flavour at a reduced tempo; it's slower but heavier than anything else here. All I Need has a stalking bluesy vibe. Tourniquet has a real growth to it. Queen of the Ride just gallops along. Emerald God starts out like a Status Quo song before adding power.
This isn't a new Lightning to the Nations or Killers for 2019 but it's good stuff throughout and great stuff on occasion. It's certainly a better album that Angel Witch or Steve Grimmett's Grim Reaper have managed lately and I'm looking forward to a third album.