Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations 2020 Review

I am not a fan of bands rerecording old classic material. But I make an exception in the case of Lightning to the Nations 2020, the latest offering from NWoBHM elders Diamond Head. Why? Because I can kill two birds with one stone: I write my weekly review as well as a Yer Metal Is Olde article at the same time. Now that’s how you maintain high efficiency! The crux if this review won’t be “how good is this album?” We already know Lightning to the Nations is a super album. It will be “do we need this version?” That’s what enquiring minds want to know.

Lightning to the Nations displayed a raw and hungry young band, still rough around the edges, much like debuts from Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Metallica. That raw, aggressive edge is hard to replicate, especially forty years later, and Diamond Head make no attempt to harness that youthful energy, instead aiming for a slick, professional, and highly accomplished take on the material. Look, this is still an 80’s metal debut. It’s going to be loaded with flaws, whether it’s the misogynistic lyrics, or the sometime hokey arrangements, but the playing and production (aside from the drums) is far better. Standout cuts “Am I Evil,” “It’s Electric,” and the title track are superb, with only minor deviations from the originals.

The other original songs are strong in their own right, although “Sucking My Love” and “Sweet and Innocent” evoke more winces lyrically now that I’m an actual adult. Those songs were much cooler when I was a pubescent boy. Still, the seven Diamond Head songs are a blast to listen to. And in a case of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” the band covers Metallica’s “No Remorse” with aplomb. They also take on “The Immigrant Song,” which nobody ever needs to cover, and Judas Priest’s “Sinner” and Deep Purple’s deep cut “Rat Bat Blue,”1 both of which are worthy additions. These songs might be more interesting on first listen than the Diamond Head tracks for the novelty factor, and while the band steers close to the originals they kick them out with power.

This might be heresy to the olde and fervent among us, but Rasmus Bom Anderson is a more gifted singer than Sean Harris, as he demonstrated on last year’s stellar The Coffin Train. His voice has a classic metal tone to it, and he brings that same kind of rockstar delivery to the lyrics that we loved back in the 80’s. Brian Tatler is the only original member here, so remaking this historic album was obviously his decision. Tatler’s guitar work, much like the guitar playing on last month’s Mr. Bungle re-recording, is definitely more professional than it was forty years ago.2 All around, the band delivers a slick, sharp performance, where the only issue is the questionable drum production. The drums are loud and boxy-sounding; the material deserves better.

Do you need this album? If you want to hear a more modern, refined take on a classic record, and you want a few catchy cover tunes to boot, yes. If you’re more than happy with the original, or even the 2011 remaster with its additional songs, no. Diamond Head are sharper than ever, Anderson delivers a superb vocal performance, and aside from the shoddy drum production this is a great-sounding recording. Having never owned the original, but still having heard it many times, Lightning to the Nations 2020 is a worthy addition to my collection, and one I’ll enjoy many times over.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Silver Lining Music
Websites: diamondheadofficial.com | facebook.com/DiamondHeadOfficial
Releases Worldwide: November 27th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Off of Who Do We Think We Are if you’re looking for it.
  2. It better be! Every musician on the planet improves with age. Lars being the exception that proves the rule.
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