(Vulcan Records 2017)
The name Troyen may ring a bell among the more ardent historians of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. Troyen recorded a well-received 4-track demo (cleverly titled The Demo) back in 1981 and played approximately 130 gigs in the 1981-1982 period. The band’s star appeared to be on the rise, with genre flagship label Neat Records expressing interest in a three-track single and possible LP; however, Troyen sadly imploded before those designs came to fruition. Fast forward to 2014 and Troyen reformed to play the prestigious Brofest in Newcastle, England. They’ve been going strong ever since, with the band’s ranks boasting both guitarists from the classic 1981 lineup (Steve McGuire and Nick Mannion) as well as original drummer Jeff Baddley, now joined by new bassist Andy Stephenson. McGuire also handles lead vocals. A compilation of demos entitled Finish What You Started saw the light of day in 2015, and this summer Troyen unveiled a five-song EP entitled Storm Child. This EP includes three brand new songs, as well as re-recordings of the two best-known songs from The Demo, in the form of “Dreams Never Lie” and “Futures Friend.”
With some NWoBHM reunions, the bands have elected to embrace modern recording techniques and sounds for their new material in order to bring their sound up to date in the new millennium. That’s an understandable, perfectly valid artistic choice; however, Troyen selected a decidedly different path on Storm Child. The production values, tones and vocal-forward mix are kept authentic to the early 1980s period from whence the band came, with everything sounding delightfully unpolished and raw. If you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven for thinking Storm Child was a collection of lost Troyen tapes from the golden days locked away in a time capsule, rather than new 2017 recordings. Some listeners may be put off by the rough’n’ready sonics, but I strongly suspect that’s exactly what Troyen were going for on this EP. Three and a half decades after the fact, they have beautifully recaptured both the bristling energy and the youthful naivete of the period.
As mentioned, the concept of Storm Child was twofold, with Troyen both showcasing three new songs and also remaking two of their early classics. Of the new material, the title track is the clear standout, boasting an urgent rhythm, smoking guitars, a killer hook, and an absolutely convincing vocal from McGuire, whose strong, confident and honest voice is perfectly suited for the NWoBHM style. If you’ll pardon the expression, I’ll wager that “Storm Child” goes down a storm live. Also worthy of mention is “Flight of Fantasy,” a more laidback melodic hard rock track elevated by a sterling chorus, some tasty guitarwork and another memorable vocal performance. “Cheatin’” is a bit of an oddball with its throbbing, dominant bassline and uplifting/overtly accessible melody, but somehow the song works. As for the two remakes, both are beyond reproach in my book. Sure, they don’t sound exactly like their 1981 counterparts. I suppose some people might be unhappy about that fact, but (i) most listeners probably aren’t familiar with The Demo anyway, and (ii) there would be no point in recording carbon copies of the demo versions today. To me, “Dreams Never Lie” is one of the great, unheralded anthems of early British metal. It’s the kind of timeless, glorious song that made the NWoBHM movement as revered and cherished as it is, a tune that warms your heart and carries you back to the simpler, carefree days of the early ‘80s. “Futures Friend” is superb as well, and this classic track likewise shines with the remake treatment here.
Fans of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal should seek out Storm Child without reservation, because it shows a band from that hallowed period not only alive but thriving in 2017. More generally, devotees of quality handmade hard rock/heavy metal from the old school (High Spirits would not be a terribly far-fetched modern-day comparison) may find much to their liking here. As for me, I recently learned that Troyen will be performing at the Xmas Rocka 2 festival in Sheffield, England in December. I can’t wait to see and hear these songs live. Dreams never lie, indeed.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~