Diamond Head – “Lightning to the Nations”


The making of Diamond Head’s “Lightning to the Nations”

released: 1980

label: Happy Face


It’s a stretch to call Diamond Head’s 1980 debut, Lightning to the Nations, “extreme” metal. In their era, the über-influential New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Diamond Head—four teenage mates from Stourbridge, England—were well-respected practitioners of a burgeoning new form of metal that was brash, raw and relatively fast. But extreme? Hardly. Diamond Head are being inducted as much for their ultimate impact and influence as the quality of Lightning, a self-released effort which featured a meager original vinyl pressing of just 1,000 copies.
If metal’s Book of Genesis begins with the creation of Black Sabbath, who then begat (and still continue to) many other significant bands, Diamond Head—admitted Sabbath disciples themselves—begat a couple of bands, Metallica and Megadeth, that eventually became two of the major players in metal’s New Testament: the extreme era. And since it has been well-established that Decibel won’t enshrine any of the first three Metallica albums in the Hall of Fame because bassist Cliff Burton isn’t alive to participate in the discussion, the importance of Diamond Head’s Lightning to the Nations to the extreme metal pantheon—four of its seven songs having been recorded by Metallica—becomes that much more crucial.

Further adding to the mystique of this nearly 30-year-old album is the fact that, despite the hype that surrounded the band when Lightning was released—they were being touted by the UK press as the next Led Zeppelin before they even had a record deal—Diamond Head ultimately sold very few records and were plagued by bad luck and ineffective management. In 1980, what seemed like the promising debut of an ambitious young band destined for great things ultimately turned out to be their most consistent and solid effort. Two subsequent major label releases on MCA—Borrowed Time and Canterbury, both now out of print—were scattered and probably overly-ambitious, and by 1984, the original foursome of guitarist Brian Tatler, vocalist Sean Harris, bassist Colin Kimberley and drummer Duncan Scott had split up.
Lightning to the Nations, however, originally recorded in one week as simply a demo to get a record deal, remains an essential proto-thrash classic.

—Adem Tepedelen

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