In the mid-to-late ‘70s, there was a metal explosion in England that resulted in what has been called the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal). At the forefront of this movement was Diamond Head, who would end up being one of the most influential bands in the history of the heavy metal genre. Metallica’s own Lars Ulrich would be the first to admit that there might not have been a Metallica if it wasn’t for Diamond Head. Founding member and guitarist Brian Tatler sits among metal guitar gods such as Tony Iommi, Dave Mustaine, Glen Tipton, and Ritchie Blackmore. Diamond Head carved out some of heavy metal’s most enduring classics such as “Am I Evil?” and “Lightning to the Nations” thirty-plus years ago but it wouldn’t be until 2009 that they first toured in America. When Diamond Head finally came to the States they somehow managed to skip Los Angeles. Some thirty-three years later Los Angeles’ headbangers got their wish when England’s Diamond Head came to The Vex on October 17, 2013.
October looked to be the moment many fans had waited decades for. But with every great triumph, there can be tragedy. Just as Diamond Head were getting ready to make their highly anticipated trek to North America vocalist Nick Tart had to return to England for a family emergency, leaving many wondering if Los Angeles would ever be graced by the legendary Diamond Head. Rather than throw in the towel, Diamond Head called upon long-time friend Chas West to fill in on vocals for their long overdue North American tour. Most bands would find it nearly impossible to find a singer to fill in for them on such short notice, especially given the vocal range it takes to accurately pull off songs from Diamond Head’s hallowed catalogue. But as any great band knows, the show must go on, and Diamond Head did not want to disappoint their Los Angeles audience who had been waiting a long time to see their heroes finally come to town.
Following fellow NWOBHM legends Raven, Diamond Head headlined a night of old school metal madness at The Vex. From the moment Brian Tatler, Karl Wilcox, Eddie Moohan, Andy “Abbz” Abberley, and Chas West took the stage the crowd came alive, headbanging and cheering like it was 1979. If you’ve seen footage from some of the Iron Maiden documentaries where they show Neal Kay’s heavy metal club, "Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse", then you would have a good idea of what Diamond Head’s show was like. Kay’s club played an important role in the history of heavy metal as his club provided an outlet for metal bands to get their songs heard and for kids to headbang and listen to music that was very much underground at the time. But I digress; there was an amazing energy during Diamond Head’s set that evoked something I had not seen in a long time. It was as if heavy metal had just been born right before my eyes and the reaction from the fans was positively electric.
Tatler and company tore through Diamond Head classics such as “Helpless”, “Borrowed Time”, “It’s Electric” and the classic metal anthem “Am I Evil?” Tatler displayed his guitar virtuosity through Diamond Head’s set and the crowd was absolutely rabid as they moshed and sang to every song. Special attention should be given to vocalist Chas West who filled some very big shoes and sang some of metal’s most beloved songs with a respect and unique style that was a delight to hear. Mixing Robert Plant-like banshee wails along with the intensity required to sing Diamond Head’s songs, West kept the show moving forward. Those who were at The Vex got a rare chance to see a legendary band shine in the city of angels. One can only hope that Diamond Head doesn’t take too long to return to America to strike some lightning in our nation once again.