Featured three members that would thereafter join the more famous Iron Maiden
The year 1981 had just kicked off and yours truly was into his teen years, psychologically nourishing on a staple diet of Metal to assure a healthy development (!). I had actually not heard “Shock Tactics” until later on, when curious to listen to the album that featured 3 members that would thereafter join the more famous Iron Maiden.
The historical importance of this jewel is not as much its revolutionary value as the fact that it celebrates an important era in the evolution of Metal. In fact, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) was then at its peak although a handful few bands were already ahead of the rest. Black Metal pioneers Venom, who were releasing their first groundbreaking full-length (“Welcome To Hell”), hadn’t yet played their first gigs. Iron Maiden woke to their first accolades, thanks also to their “Iron Maiden” L.P.. And guitarist Paul Samson’s namesake band, had garnered a enviable reputation as authors of classy metal songs.
On lead vocals was a certain Bruce Bruce, thereafter known as Bruce Dickinson, who was also active in Samson’s songwriting. The bassist was Chris Aymler, and enigmatic Thunderstick (“the drummer with a rapist’s mask”) played drums. Being the band’s third album, it was most successful, though ironically this might have contributed to the band’s downfall later on.
“Shock Tactics” gets off to a headbangin’ start with a heavier version of Russ Ballard’s ‘Riding With The Angels’, followed by ‘Earth Mother’ that features some great guitar licks as well as some vocal histrionics by Bruce. ‘Nice Girl’ comes next – a song ideal for any arena gig being catchy with great guitar solos by Paul. ‘Blood Lust’ is one of the slower-tempo songs – not a ballad though, but one featuring several riffs and one cool psychedelic vibe. In ‘Go To Hell’, the tempo picks up again as Thunderstick’s intro gives way to a excellent guitar-solo and the body of the song – probably Paul Samson’s best performance in the album. ‘Bright Lights’ has a Rock’N’Roll feel to it. Remorseful ‘Once Bitten’ however, has bluesy undertones but still is a rockin’ air-guitar-inducing song. ‘Grime Crime’ is a groovy sort of metal song. “Shock Tactics” is then wrapped-up by a song very unusual from the rest. ‘Communion’ is in fact rather dreamy and laid-back. I always liked this song, however. It’s a sort of ideal way to rest your brain after having head-banged throughout the rest of the album!
I reckon the forte of “Shock Tactics” is the songwriting level as well as an excellent performance throughout by Bruce.
A curious trivia surrounding this album is that while being recorded, Iron Maiden were next door recording what would be the “Killers” album. And during breaks in recording sessions, it seems both bands often hanged out together drowning the stress of recording-sessions under multiple pints of beer. Worth mentioning here is the fact that Clive Burr and one Barry Graham, who both played drums in Iron Maiden, had also both previously played with Samson.
This was the last studio-album Bruce did with Samson. In fact, a tour Iron Maiden had done with Samson and co-nationals Angelwitch, convinced Steve Harris and co. that Bruce should be the one to replace Paul Di’Anno. The rest, as they say, is history.
Samson was plagued by line-up changes and dragging legal hassles, which made the band’s unfortunate split inevitable. The band had reunited and even played some important festivals in the summer of 2002. Sadly, however, Paul Samson died on the 9th of September of that year at 49 years of age.
“Shock Tactics” is not easy to find nowadays, and similarly elusive are the other 2 albums Bruce Dickinson did with this band. Opinion might differ as to whether this ranks as Samson’s best album but if you get hold of the original vinyl version, I suggest not letting go of it!