Diamond Head : Living on Borrowed Time
(MCA - 1982)
In the early eighties Diamond Head was, for a very brief moment, one of the most important bands of the NWOBHM-movement. Their rise to fame seemed imminent, when their debut 'Lightning to the Nations' gained support from the specialised media and was heralded as some sort of masterpiece. Rightfully so. With its Black Sabbath-inspired riffing and strong melodic vocals it was a respectable collection of classic Metal tunes that stood its ground next to the other iconic releases of the time by the movement's more important bands like Iron Maiden, Motörhead and Saxon.
MCA took notice and quickly signed them. But MCA, being a commercial record label, immediately sought to drive Diamond Head in the mainstream, which resulted in a more commercial sounding Hard Rock album. They hoped it would help them sell more copies. But the fans hated it and it was the beginning of a quick downfall. When the following album 'Canterbury' turned out to be filled with generic tunes (for the most part anyway), the story was over. Until, years later, Metallica payed tribute to Diamond Head for having been one of the main influences in the development of their signature sound, by recording covers of several of their songs. But that's another story, so let's return to 'Living on Borrowed time'.
It's easy to understand why many people prefer the debut to this one. It was more direct and brutal. But I have always felt that the rough production worked against at least some of the tracks on that album. Diamond Head has always been a melodic band, so maybe MCA was right when they glossed things over. For me the slick production makes sense, even on the re-recorded version of their classic anthem 'Am I Evil?'. The songs sound finished and mature here, and despite of what people say, I think they still have enough bite left to put them in the Metal camp.
But there's another aspect that makes me enthousiastic about the album. It's something many seem to overlook when they talk about this band. That's the fact that they also sometimes had a Progressive side to them. Nowhere is this made more clear than on the more lengthy compositions of this album. This is also exactly what drives me to the statement that the three highlight tracks 'To heaven from Hell', 'Borrowed Time' and the revisited version of 'Am I Evil?' are the best things they ever recorded. Call it herecy, if you like. At my dizzying heights I can't hear you anyway.