Quick plays: X-CALIBER, CHRISTILLOW, HAVOC

Havoc - Back For The Kill

If I have built a reputation as a reviewer (have I?) it would be that I tend to write about the oddball and obscure bands from the past as well as homegrown talent from my area. I’ve always sought out bands that were on the fringe, in hopes of finding that sound that I’ve heard for so long in my head.

I also am intrigued by rare and hard to find albums and CD’s. I’m not as avid a collector as I would like to be (money,) but will sometimes check out albums I’ve wanted to add to my collection.

Thanks to labels like Heaven and Hell Records, I am able to add these rare gems to my collection at a greatly reduced price. I follow their releases closely, and try to pick and choose the ones I think are the best of the best.

My approach is as much checking out these great bands, but more so thinking about how far they could’ve gone under better or different circumstances. This time around I have found three excellent releases that share some similarities between them, so I have decided to do a three-in-one review.

The first album is a band from Irwin, Pennsylvania called X-Caliber. Back in 1986 they released their one and only album Warriors of the Night themselves, that over the last few decades has become a highly desired collectable, fetching hundreds of dollars for a copy through Ebay and other sites.

Their music never ventured into my world until H&H announced they would be reissuing this piece of metal history for the first time on CD. Once I gave it a few spins I understood why so many people were wanting it: it’s pretty spectacular. There’s such a mature level of songwriting and performing skills contained within.

It’s the perfect mix of mid-80’s hard rock and early American metal, combining blistering riffs and melodic vocals that have a bit more to offer for the purist metal lovers. The most stunning aspects of this release, other than the songs, was the excellent guitar work and the vocals. It makes me wonder what would’ve been had they gotten on a label and were handled properly? **** 1/2

The next album and band, ironically enough, hails from Philly (same state as X-Caliber,) and is another band that is able to blend melodic AOR sensibilities yet in a much more traditional hard rock delivery.

They’re called Christillow and the album is Standing In the Rain and was only officially available as a demo sent to labels and sold at shows. Much like X-Caliber, the level of their abilities are immense, and had they not gotten off to a start at the tail end of the 80’s hard rock heyday and the formation of grunge, they may have been contenders for bigger things. For some this album may sound a bit dated, but considering the time it had some great potential. ****

Rounding out this massive H&H trilogy is NC’s very own Havoc (not to be confused with the thrash band of the same name.) With their album Back For The Kill, this melodic rock powerhouse were a huge band on the club circuit in North Carolina back in the day. Listening to this album you can definitely tell why they were popular, as they deliver high energy, good time hard rock and metal that dominated the charts during those halcyon days when the hair was big and the music was catchy.

This release is their 6 song EP, plus a handful of additional tracks, all of which seeing the light of day on CD for the first time. Out of the three this was my favorite: it tapped into every single thing I look for, with excellent songs, superb vocals, and fantastic guitar work. Another attraction for this band was the fact that not only was the music melodic, but it had a tougher edge to it than some of the more known bands of this style, adding a little darkness to the sound. ****

Reviews by Chris Martin


David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.


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Featured Albums w/c 14 September (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 PERFECT PLAN Time For A Miracle (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 OVERLAND Scandalous (Escape Music)
14:00-16:00 ANNIE DRESSNER Coffee At The Corner Bar (indie)

Power Plays w/c 14 September (Mon-Fri)

GALLOWS CIRCUS Medicine Man (indie)
ROY ZIV Currents (indie)
NOVATINES Honey (indie)
KILFEATHER Never Stop (indie)
VANILLA FUDGE Immigrant Song (Golden Robot Records)
BROKEN MACHINE Sweet Mary Jane (indie)



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