Dissonance [Release date 22.09.17]
Vardis have to be one of the most underrated and overlooked bands of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal genre.
Their brand of metal, often dipping into boogie/biker metal, could also be seen as a forerunner to bands like Engine and (to a lesser extent) Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts too. Fronted by guitarist Steve Zodiac, the band formed in the early 70s as Quo Vardis and released two singles, before later entering the NWoBHM with the rare 100MPH EP.
Their first album proper was 1980’s live 100MPH, on the Logo label, by which time Vardis had created waves and built up quite a following, largely through their energetic performances.
Alongside Steve Zodiac were bassist/vocalist Alan Selway and drummer Gary Pearson, and the debut is a high energy live affair. It’s straight in with the guitar to ‘Out Of The Way’, no intro (or at least not on the record), and if’s riff after solo after riff after solo.
‘Lion’s Shar’e is introduced as a new number which, even before the release of their first album, indicates a steady crowd familiar with the material. ‘Situation Negative’ is a stand out track, a good riff, tight and energetic, and a solo that doesn’t need to go completely shred on your ass. The song finishes with quite a roar from the crowd. And judging by the response to the intro to the title track, it’s already a familiar song. The set closes with the classic and high tempo ‘If I Were King’, an excellent steam train rhythm and a strong riff – I’ve always loved that track. ****1/2
The Word’s Insane, the second album and first studio LP, and is very underrated as the few who do talk about Vardis seem to stick to the debut. Yes it’s studio so the edge is off, but there’s still plenty of power, energy and passion. Opener ‘Power Under Foot’ is as blistering as anything you will ever hear.
‘Money Grabber’ (could it be a dig at the music industry?) is a solid mid-paced number with boogie undertones. The title track slows down with a blues touch, yet the guitar is equally outstanding.
Surprise inclusion is a cover of Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’ – and epitomises a decent cover in that it’s kept the elements, the melody, yet made it their own, upped the tempo. ‘Police Patrol’ features bagpipes and the album includes Status Quo’s Andy Bown on piano.
‘All You Ever Need’ is a Vardis classic, and the album closer ‘Steamin’ Along’ is high octane up tempo steam train rock’n’roll metal that will leave you blistering. ****1/2
1982’s Quo Vardis was a little more slick; still high energy though and a thoroughly enjoyable set. ‘Do I Stand Accused’ is a good opener, a great song.
Tracks like ‘Where’s There’s Mods There’s Rockers’, good though they are, seem to lack the edge of the first two albums. The rhythm to ‘Please Do’ nods to skiffle gone metal, it still sounds good, as does ‘Dream With Me’.
The single ‘Gary Glitter Part One’ nods back to the debut, but given the subsequent events it’s a song title best forgotten. ‘To Be With You’ is more acoustic, a big arrangement, a melodic love song that would stand up strongly anywhere else but a Vardis album. Contrast that to the following track ‘Together Tonight’ which has a lot more bite. A mixed bag. ***1/2
The band would record one more album (Vigilante) in 1986 before splitting, reforming in 2014 (that’s another chapter), I think due to management and label issues disillusionment with the industry.
For all the ups and downs, three fantastic albums; all with extra tracks. But given the singles, the free 7” that came with early pressings of Quo Vardis, exclusive compilation tracks (the unique version of ‘If I Were King’ on the New Electric Warriors LP for example), there is definitely scope for further expansion. But that said, the three albums have not been available on CD before individually (there have been a number of compilations). Really really worth having.
Review by Joe Geesin
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