Album review: THE ALMIGHTY – Welcome To Defiance (7 CD Boxset)

HNE / Cherry Red Records [release date 26.03.21]

Glasgow band, The Almighty, was formed in 1988 and revolved around Ricky Warwick on guitar and vocals. (He now does the same job for the Black Star Riders.)
Such was the band’s initial impact, they were signed up by Polydor a year later.
After five years and three hard rock albums, they moved to Chrysalis.
That’s where this mammoth, 7 CD boxset begins.

1994: CD1 : Crank was a hulking bruiser of an album. A significant sideways shift into the rough and tumble punk rock of their youth, informed by the heavy metal basics of their previous albums. It got a good critical and public response. Two tracks were released as singles, ‘Wrench’ and ‘Jonestown Mind’ both sailed up the UK charts into the Top 40. This at a time when Take That and Wet Wet Wet were selling in the millions. The album peaked at no 15 in the UK album charts.

1996: CD2 : The follow up, Just Add Life was released by indie label, Castle, after Chysalis turned it down.
By the mid nineties, the dark underbelly of UK hard rock had been hollowed out and replaced with Ska, punk and alternative metal musings. The Almighty embraced change, and their mashup’s highpoints … the big brass meets The Clash on ‘All Sussed Out’ and ‘Do You Understand’, both rippling with punkified energy… worked surprisingly well. Well enough to push the singles into the UK charts once again. Producer, Chris Sheldon made sure there was plenty bottom end, thickening out the punk stylings on a bedrock of pounding heavy metal. For some though, the album proved an experiment in sound too far.

2000: CD3: The Almighty : some inevitable line up changes – ex Whatever guitarist Nick Parsons replaced ex Alice Cooper sideman, Pete Friesen, who had joined the band for the Just Add Life album. Parsons was an accomplished songwriter, contributing some cracking tracks. His ‘Broken Machine’ and ‘TNT’ are probably the album’s standout cuts. But otherwise, they entered the 21st century rather unconvincingly, dragging their ten year old reputation behind them. They were a band with a past who once had a future, which now looked uncertain.

2001: CD4: Psycho-Narco came hard on The Almighty’s heels, as if to say, oops, sorry ’bout that, this is the real us.
The real us turned out be much like the old us, regurgitating sounds and songs from the past, disguised as new product. But it’s new product delivered in an upbeat manner, with the occasional jolt of pop optimism grabbing our attention. ‘Galvanise’ and ‘Blow Out Kit’ are designed using a singles’ template, and tempted new fans into the fold.
But it was the band’s last studio album.

CDs 5,6 and 7 are where the real treasure is.
The band had two real strengths. One, they were dynamite live and two, they knew how to pack the visceral energy of their music into an accessible single.

1995 : CD5 : Crank And Deceit, Live In Japan was recorded on tour in Osaka on the back of Crank the album, and the hit singles, ‘Wrench’ and ‘Jonestown Mind’.
This was a band truly at the top of their game. The elemental drive of ‘Addiction’, ‘Crucify’ and ‘Ultraviolent’ energises the audience, whose response becomes more frenzied as the gig wears on. It significantly pushed up sales of the studio album and created great demand for the live version. It was the highpoint of the band’s career and they fully capitalised on it.

CD 6 and CD 7 : Live B-Sides, Session stuff and Remixes – treasures troves of “not quite” arcana, are spread across these two discs.
The band toured the Crank album through Europe in ’95 and recorded many of the gigs, primarily the Stuttgart concert, and subsequently used these live tracks as the B-sides on single releases. These have been compiled on CD7. Essentially, each track is a stopping point on the band’s European tour of the album. An historical document with music, if you like.

The band and label/s always showed real marketing nous. They ensured the single releases provided genuine value. Thus many singles came with exclusive bonus tracks. These are compiled on CD6, like the amusingly titled non album tracks, ‘Desperately Seeking Something’ and ‘Tense Nervous Headshake’, as well as the “Therapy remix” and the “Ruts remix” versions of ‘Jonestown Mind’.
The collection also includes a couple of clues, if any were needed, as to where the band got their influences, by featuring battle hardened versions of pub rockers’ Eddie And the Hot Rods’ ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’, and a blazing cover of hardcore punk band, GBH’s ‘Give Me Fire’.

The band split up in 2002, and have reformed temporarily to play some well received live gigs a few times since.
This collection serves them well. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

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