Samson : Don't get mad, get even
(Polydor - 1984)
Category : underrated
Samson : Before the Storm
(Polydor - 1982)
Category : underrated
There once was a NWOBHM-band called Samson, led by guitarist Paul Samson and supported by among others the masked, mysterious drummer Thunderstick. They had a decent singer called Bruce Bruce. But one day he left the band and joined a new NWOBHM-band that would later turn out to be the movement's leader: Iron Maiden. In Iron Maiden he joined another ex-Samson member (Clive Burr, drummer) and replaced their first singer Paul Di'Anno (read a Di'Anno review here). He was now also known under his real name Paul Dickinson and had in the mean time perfected his acrobatic singing style, which gave him the nickname 'the Siren'.
To fill the void Bruce left behind in Samson, they attracted a radically different type of vocalist called Nicky Moore. And it's around this singer that most criticism about the two albums 'Before the Storm' (1982) and 'Don't get mad, get even' (1984) seems to revolve. People keep comparing them to the albums Samson recorded with Bruce, not troubled by the fact that Bruce wasn't even an exceptional singer when he was in Samson. But the thinking seems to be that, since this was the great Bruce of Iron Maiden, no one could possibly fill his shoes, right?
WRONG! All Samson did was replace a singer who was merely good, by someone who was phenomenal. Nicky Moore came from a very interesting but obscure Progressive Rock band called Tiger (read a review of this band here). If I recall it correctly he was in a Blues Rock band just prior to joining Samson. Anyway, his sound and style was totally different, as he had a lower, much bluesier voice. He didn't hit those high notes, but his voice had a warmth instead that was very rare in the Hard Rock genre. It was also somewhat coarse and above all it sounded powerful, with a lot of body (no, this is not meant to be a funny remark about the singer's physique). Finally, as far as I am concerned, Samson had the singer that fitted them.
Overall the song writing on these two albums, especially on 'Don't get mad...', is the strongest of all the Samson albums I heard (I've heard most), even of those albums that got a lot of praise in the press and that now are concidered minor classics.
Before the Storm
Leaving behind the NWOBHM sound of the Bruce Bruce era, Samson adopts a more classic Hard Rock sound which suits them a lot better. The resulting material is strong throughout, but there are three standout tracks. 'Dangerzone' is a mid tempo Hard rock song with a memorable chorus. 'Test of Time' is a rather fast and energetic song that's reminiscent of their earlier work. Probably the strongest track on the album though, and certainly the one with the most personality, is a sad ballad (Yes. A ballad!) called 'Young Idea'. It's the story of a naive girl who turns to prostitution (if I interpret the lyrics correctly) in search of success and luck, but who finally commits suicide. What makes this track so strong is Moore's subtle way of singing. It underlines what a good singer he is, as his emotions feel real here (which cannot be said by what you hear in most Rock ballads). At the end the song turns into an energetic instrumental Heavy Metal song, before finally going back to the ballad's dramatic chorus. The contrast between the parts is big, but the transitions don't feel forced.
Don't get mad, get even
Overall 'Don't get mad, get even' is a bit stronger, but it clearly comes from the same Hard Rock mold as its predecessor. I feel there are six stand out tracks on this one, but these are the strongest: 'Love Hungry' is a rather simple uptempo Hard Rock song with double bass drum, that's simply fun. 'Doctor Ice' is a Boogie Hard Rocker and a smooth listen. The best song may be 'Front Page News', a song that criticises stardom: "you got there at any price. I wonder if you still sleep easy in your bed at night.". It's a Hard Rocker with lots of variation and it's exactly this variation that makes it such a interesting tune.
Unfortunately, when Samson released 'Don't get mad', the NWOBHM movement, of which they were still considered a part (even though these two albums sound a lot less Metal than those of others NWOBHM bands), was already over its peak. When the band finally started getting more attention, it was only to be stopped dead in their tracks by the shift of the Heavy Metal gravity point from Britain to the United States, where more extreme sounding bands like Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax had just started making waves. Samson would disband, regroup a few times with different personnel (not including Moore), release some more CD's, but never with succes. Moore resurfaced in the fat men band Mammoth but I still think his best material can be heard on these two Samson albums and on the older stuff he did with Tiger. Paul Samson died in 2002.
Paul Samson's website: http://www.paulsamson.co.uk
Thunderstick's website: http://www.thunderstick.co.uk