Wednesday 22 April 2020

Badge - Supernova (2020)

Country: UK
Style: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Apr 2020
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives

Wow, here's a blast from the past! I remember Badge from a single that they put out back in 1981 called Silver Woman. It was a decent NWOBHM song that's shown up on a number of bootlegs of the era, often alongside other bands who only put out a notable single and then vanished. Well, apparently they have been back for a while, even if vocalist Graham Waudby is the sole member who dates back to that single. They finally issued their debut album in 2012, no less than 32 years into their career and two tracks from Stormrider show up here as bookends, though both songs were written back to the eighties.

The first is Blizzard, which hints at being an homage to Ozzy Osbourne even though I don't think it is, and it sets the stage well, because it's decent if not spectacular NWOBHM style hard and heavy stuff. The other is Finding My Way and it's even better, a smooth song that isn't afraid to get mellow even as it rocks. Listening to the two is like we're standing in 1980 with Finding My Way looking backwards to the seventies and Blizzard looking ahead towards what's on the horizon.

In between are nine other songs, all presumably new or at least new-ish and all just as decent if not spectacular NWOBHM style hard and heavy stuff. If it wasn't for a 21st century mix, any one of these eleven tracks could have been the flipside to Silver Woman almost four decades ago. The sound really isn't that different, which means to 2020 ears that it's refreshing but far from original. That's perhaps the best and worst thing about this album.

Thinking from the perspective that it's the best, this is a real journey of nostalgia. Frankly, we forget the modern mixing technology pretty quickly, a deep sound that couldn't have happened on early eighties equipment, and this becomes an old NWOBHM era album that we've just never heard before. I'm not unhappy about that at all and there's a big scene out there that still loves that old sound who will lap this up like, well, Cream, from which band Badge got their name.

Unlike a few recent albums from name NWOBHM bands who seem to have forgotten what made them great back in the day, there isn't a bad song here. Every one of them does its job and does it well and there's almost fifty minutes here to enjoy. The old songs (and they are old: Blizzard was originally recorded on the band's 1980 demo and Finding My Way dates back at least as far as the demo they recorded in 1988) feel pretty consistent with the new material.

Thinking, however, from the perspective that it's the worst, there's nothing here that you haven't heard before, even if it wasn't on an album by Badge. Outside of nostalgia, this is still decent stuff but it isn't going to feel particularly relevant to an audience that doesn't even know what NWOBHM was. To those who only know it because Metallica cover it a lot, this is going to seem tame and uninspired.

In other words, your response to this and your likelihood to buy it is going to revolve around what you think when you hear that a band who were founded in 1980 have just released only their second full length album and it sounds like they recorded it four decades ago. That's it. Nothing else I can say is going to change your mind.

I could try, of course. I could say that the guitars on See Me Gone are neat and Supernova gets a bit proggy with keyboards and narration. I could point out that Valkyrie is built on a Status Quo-esque riff and Rock Chicks is as dated as its title suggests but is just as catchy. Really, though, the track you should check out it you haven't made up your mind already is Cry in the Night. Maybe it's on YouTube.

Cry in the Night is the entire album in miniature, from its uninspired title on down. It's built on top of a good riff and simple but effective drumming. It has a decent guitar solo in the middle. It has rough but effective vocals singing straightforward lyrics. And it's done by the four minute mark so we can move on to the next song, happy but not blown away.

I would certainly go to see this band live if they played anywhere near me. I liked every song here, even if I didn't really love any of them, and they seem like they'd put on a reliable show as solid support for a more stellar band from the era like, say, Diamond Head or the Tygers of Pan Tang, both of whom put out fantastic material last year. But hey, I'm also old. Drop a point off this rating if you aren't old too.

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