They could have been huge. They could have been stars. They could have been a household name.
If only they hadn’t been based in the Netherlands. If only they hadn’t signed with an American label that had no idea what to do with them. If only the original lineup didn’t slowly fall apart just as their fortunes were (potentially) set to rise. And, if only, the shambolic version of the band that eventually signed to a major label didn’t lay a giant turd called Rockarama in 1985 that effectively destroyed the band’s previously sterling reputation.
Highway Chile was an American-fronted Dutch metal quintet formed in the early ’80s. They were contemporaneous with the NWOBHM (the band formed in 1981) and played a similar style to their UK counterparts. Their first album, Storybook Heroes, was released on Dutch label Lark in 1983 and a remixed version with a slightly different track listing eventually found its way to the U.S. market via Mirus Records, which did not specialize in metal, that same year.
That debut album, in this old-school ‘banger’s opinion, was a classic of the era. It garnered positive press in Kerrang!, Metal Forces and other metal ‘zines and was quickly followed up by a mini-LP in 1984 called For the Wild and Lonely, which was a little more commercial, but still packed with great songs. The inability to promote these two releases outside of the Netherlands ultimately stunted the band’s progress and its Chicago-native vocalist, Armand Vanderstigchel (who’s now a chef and author in upstate New York) said adios. Highway Chile ultimately crapped out on a very bad note with Rockarama (featuring UK vocalist Sav Pearce, who was once vocalist for proto-NWOBHM band Marseille) and all momentum and goodwill for the band was lost.
Those two seminal first albums quickly went out of print, never to be (legally) reissued. They also never saw CD release and were truly lost to the ages and impossible to find. Until now. Vanderstigchel, who still maintains a detailed Highway Chile website featuring biographical info and tons of photos, has remixed both Storybook Heroes and For the Wild and Lonely and made them available digitally through Spotify, iTunes and CD Baby.
Apparently there’s also a “lost” Highway Chile album featuring Vanderstigchel that he intends to release in the future, as well. In the meantime, here’s a song each from those reissued cult classics.