Wicked Lady, Night Sun and more...
(1969-72, The Axeman Cometh, Psychotic Overkill)
Wicked Lady was a rabble-rousing trio from the UK that never intentionally recorded anything for actual release. The band’s The Axeman Cometh and follow-up Psychotic Overkill albums, released in the mid-‘90s, were never more than sketched demos of songs, tracked on tape for the band’s own benefit. However, vintage rock fans being the obsessives that they are, Wicked Lady’s works were unearthed and the band has found some overdue recognition. Wicked Lady had a rebellious image, and there’s no doubting The Axeman Cometh—which draws recordings from 1969–72—is imbued with a bad-ass sense of purpose. Feedback galore and over-driven jams make up the album, and it’s an exceedingly raw, blues-drenched fusion of Sabbath and Hendrix loaded on pills and booze. Psychotic Overkill is similarly debauched, and just as crusty, and while the crudity of the recordings are apparent on both albums, each is an energetic basement rock essential. See also: Sudden Death (Suddenly) and Icecross (Icecross).
In Germany in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the crossover between Krautrock, hard rock and progressive rock was frequently blurred—each genre adding and subtracting from the other, resulting in a raft of engaging albums. While Night Sun is infinitely more hard rock than Krautrock, the band’s one and only album, 1972’s Mournin’, was recorded by pre-eminent Krautrock producer Conny Plank. That’s not Mournin’‘s only distinction, of course, because it’s a free-for-all organ, guitar, and percussive melee. Comparisons to Lucifer’s Friend ring true, but Night Sun was looser, and more manic and abrasive. Heavy, demented tunes mixed space rock with acid-laden, terrestrial excursions—all combining for a studio-tweaked sprint through forbidding hard prog. Mournin’ is a berserker rock extravaganza, and Night Sun backs its cult reputation with some genuine bohemian genius. See also: Euclid (Heavy Equipment) and German Oak (German Oak).
Late great UK radio legend John Peel championed many a worthy band, and British duo Tractor released one of its best albums on the famed DJ’s own Dandelion record label. Formed in the mid-‘60s by Jim Milne (guitars/vocals) and Steve Clayton (drums/percussion), the group originally went by the name the Way We Live—recording its little-heard debut, 1971’s A Candle for Judith, under the same name in a brisk in 48 hours. Peel, inspired by his rural homestead, suggested a new name, and Tractor was born. Returning with its self-titled 1972 album, Tractor tilled the fields of acid folk and freak rock with a fittingly bucolic bent. However, what Tractor is truly celebrated for is tracks such as “All Ends Up”, “Hope in Favour” and “Little Girl in Yellow”. Those tracks saw distorting chainsaw guitars and walloping percussion mix with multi-tracked bulldozing noise—where pastoral harmonies and melodic vocals were engulfed by wicked psychedelia, taking the tunes into another realm of heaviness altogether. See also: Aardvark (Aardvark), Aunt Mary (Loaded) and Armaggedon (Ger) (Armaggedon).
If you think taking a single day to record an album reeks of self-indulgence, then Floridian hard rock band Bolder Damn is just for you. The band knocked its debut (and sole) album out in four hours. Released on a tiny run of 200 copies, Mourning includes the 15-minute-plus lurch of “Dead Meat”, a proto-downer metal classic whose title proved prophetic given that Bolder Damn’s fire was soon extinguished as members were called up by the draft. Elsewhere on the album, you’ll find MC5 tussling with Alice Cooper (as Sabbath and the Stooges look on gleefully) with wah-wah wailing and abundant underground discord being fervently discharged. Connoisseurs of obscure doomy rock and disagreeable boogie will find a lot to enjoy on Mourning. It’s raw, ragged, and fittingly jeopardy-laden, and with nary an overdub in sight, those four hours the band spent in the studio resulted in a cult LP of hard rock thrills and psychedelic sub-garage spills. See also: Frijid Pink (Frijid Pink), the Rugbys (Hot Cargo) and Stone Garden (Stone Garden).
Late ‘60s UK trio Gun found Top 10 favor with “The Devil’s Gun” from its 1968 self-titled debut. However, as is often the case with the vintage rock crowd, the band members found the most fame elsewhere. Following Gun’s split after 1969’s less interesting Gunsight LP, bassist Paul Gurvitz and guitarist Adrian Gurvitz played with Ginger Baker in the Baker Gurvitz Army, but their success elsewhere doesn’t diminish Gun’s proto-metal credentials. Gun sits right on the edge of shadowy pysch tumbling into disagreeable rock, and it’s all the better for is schizoid approach. The 11-minute wig-out of “Take Off” sees the band taking a psychedelic and psychopathic approach, and while the album has plenty of quirkiness to lighten its tone, when Gun is barreling down the hard rock path, there’s plenty of weighty footfalls for fans of proto-metal to appreciate. Also of note is Gun‘s delightfully ghoulish cover, which was the first cover art from iconic artist Roger Dean. See also: Bohemian Vendetta (Bohemian Vendetta), Strange (Strange Flavour), and Three Man Army (1971, A Third of a Lifetime).