Quartz – “Too Hot To Handle” (Skol Records)
At one stage, poised to follow in the footsteps of Black Sabbath and AC/DC whom they had supported, Quartz had Brian May guest on guitars and Ozzy Osborne on backing vocals. Signed to Jet in 1977, the band toured heavily during this time, playing the Reading Festival three times and joined the NWOBHM, touring with likes of Maiden and Saxon as well as already established acts like Rush and UFO, who were also riding the wave. Despite this the band’s Brummie connection to Sabbath seems to have been a double edged sword, undoubtedly opening doors but also seeing a drafting of personnel into its backing ranks, firstly with Geoff Nicholls, who provided keyboards and songwriting contributions for the next 24 years! Next up was drummer Malcolm Cope, who having graciously bowed out of working with the by now solo Ozzy, ended up on pre production demos of “Born Again”. Needless to say, the band folded around 1983, probably squeezed by the faster bands around and the early smell of thrash. Reforming in 2011, and the current line up consists amazingly of all the original line up along with vocalist David Garner, who partially wrote their final album “Against All Odds”. “Too Hot To Handle” is a re-mastered collection of 16 previously unreleased songs recorded between 1981 and 1982, some of which were re-recorded in different versions for “Against All Odds” with the remainder seeing the light of the day for the first time ever! To say this is a time capsule is an understatement. If there were ever a release that embodied every aspect of late 70s hard rock cum heavy metal then this is it! From the muffled biscuit tin production to the authentic hum of the instruments there ain’t no pro tools here but the very essence of the band itself. That said, Bart Gabriel, Skol’s chief luminary, has done a fine job of bringing out the best in the recordings, allowing this to be proudly stated as a true album rather than something often marketed as such but in reality not going on beyond a quality boot. Songs like ‘Gold Digger’, complete with its 70s groove and harmony vocals take me right back to that era, while the bluesy twin guitar rock of ‘Crack The Sky’ points to where Maiden may have got a hint whilst its thick guitars and melody seem to feature in many a stoner / doom band of today. Coming into its own has to be ‘Buried Alive’, undoubtedly influenced by ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ and following in similar headbanging glory as I hear the death rattle of doom sounding across those pounding riffs that still sound shit heavy even after four decades! The early Sabbath influences are evident throughout but Quartz were a complete package that could’ve been something even in a changing landscape, and this album certainly reflects that.