Vardis – “Red Eye” (Steamhammer / SPV)
Crashing in over 3 decades ago with their now cult “100 MPH” live debut (guaranteed – no overdubs!) came Vardis, a NWOBHM power trio fronted by the enigmatic Steve Zodiac, who played bare foot and bare chested with a flowing barnet of ice blonde hair! Forged in the merciless circuit of northern English working men’s clubs, Vardis soon developed a no nonsense, energized live show that won them respect and a legion of young fans that saw them get signed and then tour with Hawkwind and Slade, eventually playing at the infamous Port Vale Heavy Metal Holocaust alongside Ozzy, Motorhead, Frank Marino, Triumph and Riot! Happening days indeed, although Vardis’s eccentric mix of 70s glam rock, heavy metal and Quo-ish blues rock soon had their genre questioned by many as saxophones, bagpipes and pianos were introduced with 1982’s “Quo Vardis” pushing the boundaries even further outward. Things came to an abrupt halt however, when Zodiac sued his management and publishing companies, and despite winning, walked away from the music industry for the next 30 years. In 2014, a reunion to play Bro Fest with bassist Terry Horbury and drummer Gary Pearson culminating in an emotional homecoming show at Unity Hall, Wakefield – where it all began – soon saw the band fired for more. Despite losing Pearson once more and Horbury tragically passing away in December 2015, new powerhouse drummer Joe Clancy (Adrian Smith’s Blues Band) and bassist Martin Connolly (ex- Rick Wakeman, Paul Fox, Entire Population of Hackney) have proven to be more than worthy successors on this 5th release – 30 years after its predecessor! Right from the off, it’s clear that nothing has changed about Zodiac, right from his hard to pen style still to his raw telecaster sound. Likewise, the music remains as true to original Vardis on tracks like the aptly titled ‘Living Out Of Touch’, reflecting Zodiac’s undaunted perspective on the music business as he revvs up his new crew on the wild, hammering ‘200 MPH’ with Clancy pummeling relentlessly away and Connolly digging deep on that bass – super! As if you were gonna ask, the 12 tracks have a definite live sound true to Vardis’s legacy – not to mention eccentricity thinking of the slide guitar on ‘Hold Me’ – although the stripped down addiction of amped up boogie tracks like ‘Lightning Man’, ‘Jolly Roger’ and ‘Back To School’ soon had me going mental (once again!). Needless to say Vardis are back and I can’t wait to see them live again!