Samson - Shock Tactics

Samson - Shock Tactics

\r\nThe New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (simply referred as NWOBHM), which started forming in the late 70’s and exploded during the 1980-82 era, had many heroes. Some of them big (Iron Maiden, Saxon), some of them small (does anyone remember White Spirit or Gaskin?) and some others that stood somewhere in between, releasing some good material through the 80’s but never managing to endure both artistically and commercially.
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\r\nOne such case was Samson, who were formed in 1977 in Norfolk, England by guitarist/vocalist Paul Samson. After various changes, the band’s lineup was stabilized with Chris Aylmer on the bass and drummer Barry ThunderstickGraham, who had already made a sort stint with Iron Maiden and was one of NWOBHM’s most characteristic figures, the man appearing with a leather mask and playing his drums inside a cage, which he always tore apart at the end of each live show!
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\r\nWith the above lineup, Samson recorded in 1979 their debut album called “Survivors”, which however is regarded as a bit weak and didn’t manage to make an impact and arouse some talk around the band’s name. Things would change the next year, when the band is joined by a vocalist called Bruce Bruce. The word of course is about Bruce Dickinson, with his stage name being somewhat of an inside joke. The same year the band records “Head On”, which stands out in comparison to their debut and puts them on the rise, mainly due to Paul Samson’s improved songwriting and Dickinson’s voice that immediately draws the attention of the listeners.
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\r\nConfirmation of their rise will come in 1981, when their released “Shock Tactics”, an album that placed them for good in the NWOBHM game, as Paul Samson’s composing capabilities became more than obvious and Dickinson delivered an even better performance than the one in “Head On”. Another element that added some points to the overall result was the album’s very good production, done by Tony Platt, who was already known for his work with AC/DC.
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\r\nThe album’s opener is “Riding With The Angels”, which became one of Samson’s trademark songs, even though many people today may not remember that this particular song is a Russ Ballard cover. Samson’s interpretation is of course more dynamic and faster and gives Bruce Dickinson the chance to show his vocal abilities. The album continues with two very nice songs, “Earth Mother” and “Nice Girl”, which are in a typical NWOBHM style, with the first keeping some 70’s elements while the second is a fast, whipping, almost rock n’ roll song. The follow up is “Bloodlust” which, even though it spans in almost 6 minutes, manages to keep alive the listener’s interest, mainly due to the very good guitar work done here by Paul Samson, who even manages to depict some of his blues influences. Next song is “Go To Hell”, that follows the “Nice Girl” path, with Thunderstick’s drums dominating in the song’s rhythm and Paul Samson filling the song with small beautiful solos. The albums continues in a similar pace, as “Bright Lights” that follows is also in the same up tempo style but it’s not boring at all, even though it shares its blueprint with most of the other tracks. This happens because most songs contain many small but eligible differences that make them recognizable and pleasant, either we speak about a memorable chorus or some of Paul Samson’s guitar fills. Next we have “Once Bitten”, a rather mid tempo song that gives Paul Samson the chance to perform another one small blues demonstration. Things get again faster with “Grime Crime” and the album closes with “Communion”, a beautiful ballad with a rather simple melody over which Dickinson unfolds his performing talent.
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\r\nGenerally speaking, “Shock Tactics” is an excellent example of the NWOBHM scene, as it stands way over the average, both in compositions and execution, while it showcases a band that has crystallized its musical style and is ready for the next big step. Unfortunately things didn’t work out, since Dickinson’s great performance drew Steve Harris’s attention who managed to convince Dickinson to leave Samson and replace Paul Di Anno in Iron Maiden, with whom he tasted glory in the next decades. Dickinson’s departure was followed by Aylmer’s exit and as a result the band was literally disbanded and survived only as Paul Samson’s solo project, with him following different musical directions in the years that followed. Unfortunately we will never know what Samson would have achieved had they managed to stick together, since there is no possibility even for a nostalgic reunion as Paul Samson died in the 9th August  2002, at the age of 49, while Chris Aylmer died in 2007, putting the ending titles for a band that gave so much to metal music but had much more to offer.
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\r\n\r\nLambros “Metalshock” Panetas
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