Stourbridge, England 1976 would serve as ground zero for Diamond Head, and in many ways, the birth of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Guitarist Brian Tatler, vocalist Sean Harris, drummer Duncan Scott, and bassist Colin Kimberley would spend the next four years crafting their debut album Lightning to the Nations. While they saw it as little more than an extravagant demo, the metal world would be forever altered with its release in 1980.
Despite the abundance of memorable and quality riffs on that seminal debut, and despite its broader impact on the NWOBHM scene and metal as a whole, Diamond Head would not become the household name its contemporaries like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Def Leppard would. The band toiled for two years after the debut album’s release on a nothing label before MCA finally signed the band. They would issue two more classic albums, Borrowed Time (1982) and Canterbury (1983) for their major label, before drifting into obscurity. Why this happened no one knows. Rock and roll is riddled with exceptionally impressive bands that failed to achieve the heights their music deserved. Still the influence remained. A young Lars Ulrich would tap into the Diamond Head sound for the nascent Metallica, who would go on to record several of the songs from Lightning to the Nations. Likewise, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth revealed that Tatler and Diamond Head helped inform his own songwriting.
Diamond Head has remained active over the years releasing Death and Progress in 1993, All Will Be Revealed in 2005, and What’s in Your Head in 2007. While all were solid records, none contained the immediacy and energy of those first records. Producer and vocalist Rasmus Bon Anderson would join in 2014, and the band would return to its vintage riff driven, high energy sound for a self-titled record in 2016 and last year’s fantastic release, The Coffin Train. Diamond Head is back, stronger than ever and ready to bring it’s music to a new generation while celebrating with its longstanding fans.
Lightning to the Nations stands as one of the Top 10 Metal Albums of 1980, (and of Top 100 all time), and its place in history is cemented. This year, as the album celebrates its 40th anniversary, Tatler, who remains the band’s sole founding member, chose to re-record that iconic debut with the band’s current line-up featuring Ras, drummer Karl Wilcox, guitarist Andy Abberley (guitars), and bassist Dean Ashton.
On November 27, Lightning to the Nations 2020 will be released, and it is a feral beast (read our review here). The modern production and four decades of performing these songs live has added so much muscle and power. The band also includes four cover songs from Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, and appropriately, Metallica. Today the band dropped an animated video for their take on “No Remorse”.
Metal Nation caught up with Tatler to discuss both versions of Lightning to the Nations, surviving 2020, his thoughts on the best and most underrated Black Sabbath and Metallica records, and where the band is with regards to new music.