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Reviving the sounds of two Shields rock bands

Saracen.
Saracen.

The sounds of two South Shields rock bands are with us once again thanks to the re-issue of an album upon which they feature – and a blog telling music fans all about them.

The groups in question are Saracen and Hollow Ground, who, along with Teesside-based Samurai, appeared on a compilation album called Roksnax.

Martin Metcalf, of Hollow Ground.

Martin Metcalf, of Hollow Ground.

The album, produced by Terry Gavaghan, was originally released in 1980 by Guardian Records. Now it is being re-issued by Nick Vrankovich’s Buried by Time and Dust Records.

News of the re-issue along with the story of the bands are detailed on a blog, Metal On The Menu – The Making of Cult NWOBHM album Roksnax, from renowned South Shields film-maker Gary Wilkinson.

“The album went on to become a cult New Wave of British Heavy Metal favourite,” explains Gary, “and influenced Metallica who when making a documentary, included a Hollow Ground song. The blog includes interviews with the bands involved.”

This is a flavour of the treat in store at METAL ON THE MENU – The Making of Cult NWOBHM album Roksnax

Terry Gavaghan, Guardian Records.

Terry Gavaghan, Guardian Records.

“I remember the buzz of being involved in Roksnax,” recalls Martin Metcalf, of Hollow Ground.

“The whole experience of being in Guardian Studios during November 1980 was magical. We met up with producer Terry Gavaghan and talked through the idea of a compilation LP with a couple of other bands from the North East.

“Our mates from Shields, Saracen, were also on the record.

“We were in the studios for two days and slept overnight there. The studio was basically two terraced houses knocked into one.

Roksnax album cover.

Roksnax album cover.

“I still remember the brown cork tiles in the studio and having to Sellotape the headphones on my head when recording.

“The great memories of honing the songs and bringing them together with my friends, still burns brightly.

“The fine tuning and adjustments as we worked on them was a great feeling of coming together as a band, a unit. We used two of the songs from our EP Flying High and Rock On and added Fight With The Devil and The Holy One to make our four tracks for the Roksnax album.”

Martin goes on to say: “It’s real music made by real musicians. You can’t replicate it with machines.

“Sparking off each other while recording the tracks will stay with us forever. It’s what being in a band is all about, and we loved it. We were so proud of the music that we produced, and still are!

“It stands the test of time, and the whole album is a perfect snapshot of the vitality of the NWOBHM movement.”

And he is obviously still thrilled by the Metallica connection, explaining how: “Lars Ulrich from Metallica bought a copy of the Roksnax LP in Los Angeles and that led to our track Fight With the Devil being played in a Metallica documentary.”

Saracen’s Lou Taylor says: “It’s not the world’s number one album but everyone involved with it agreed that there’s a wonderful feeling and something special about getting your name on a piece of vinyl. Terry was true to his word and got the album in the shops. I bought six of them straight away ha ha.”

Lou’s words express a real sense of pride in the music and their place in heavy metal’s history.

He speaks of “just being prominent enough to be invited to be part of something which we had no concept of how much impact on the British music scene the emerging talent in this genre we actually had. NWOBHM say what? Guardian Studios were famous enough already due to releases from acts in the region so this opportunity seemed too good to pass up!”

So if you were a fan of the two groups’ music first-time around, or missed out and want to catch up on some wonderful sounds of the past, check out Gary’s evocative blog and the re-issued album.

The last word on the album goes to Nick Vrankovich who says: “When you talk of the magic of heavy metal or the mysticism of the NWOBHM, surely they must be referring to releases like this.”

Give it a spin and let me know what you think.