'Guilty As Sin' (CD, LP, digital)
Release Date: 13th November 2015
All female Metal band Girlschool have been on the go since the late 70s, on and very occasionally off, and now release their long awaited 13th album.
Originally part of the NWoBHM scene, the band have also had a long association with Motörhead (original label, management, numerous tour support slots), including the joint Headgirl EP "St Valentine's Day Massacre".
But that association does not, despite what many will argue, run through all the music as Girlschool's Metal has more in common with punk and glam, the latter already proven before work with Slade and Gary Glitter in the mid 80s.
The current line-up of guitarist Jackie 'Jax' Chambers (aka The Blond Bombshell, also of Blitzkrieg) and returning original bassist / vocalist Enid Williams alongside the founding and ever present guitarist / vocalist Kim McAuliffe and drummer Denise Dufort, have been going strong for some years now and this album is as good as anything they have ever done.
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Formed out of the cover band Painted Lady, the line-up was cemented by the aforementioned Dufort, McAuliffe and Williams, with lead guitarist Kelly Johnson.
After a 7" single on the independent City records, the band signed to Bronze and released four albums. The 1980 debut, 'Demolition', kicked off amazingly with 'Demolition Boys' and there's a cracking cover of 'Race With The Devil' to boot.
The Mot¨orhead collaboration followed, the best cover of 'Please Don't Touch' you'll ever hear. A Top Of The Pops performance saw Dufort take the drum stool due to Philthy Phil's broken neck, the neck brace hidden by a larger collar.
1981's 'Hit And Run' was an even stronger, if slightly less punky affair, the title track and 'C'Mon Let's Go' popular live and on vinyl. The cover of ZZ Top's 'Tush' was a standout. Look out for the red vinyl version, and some foreign pressings having a different running order.
'Screaming Blue Murder' followed in 1982, much overlooked and underrated, and featuring Killjoys bassist Gil Weston, and the 'Wildlife' EP led with 'Don't Call It Love', a melodic stonking classic. The following year's 'Play Dirty' saw a more polished and slightly glam direction; production from Jim Lea and Noddy Holder, and covers of 2 Slade penned tracks and T Rex's '20th Century Boy'.
Johnson left after the tour, and the band expanded to a 5 piece with Jackie Bodimead and Cris Bonacci. The resulting 'Running Wild' LP was only released in the US and proved a disastrous attempt to break the market. The band's view of the album may have softened now but they've told me many times how bad it was.
Two albums for GWR as a four piece saw out the 80s; 'Nightmare At Maple Cross' featuring Bonacci and Weston alongside McAuliffe and Dufort was good but didn't sell well, and then 'Take A Bite' which was a melodic return to roots and by far the best and most overlooked Girlschool album of the century, featuring Rock Goddess bassist Tracy Lamb.
After a brief hiatus, the eponymous 1992 'Girlschool' album was more Metal and featured bassist Jackie Carrera.
After a couple of live albums (some retrospective), 2002's 'Not That Innocent' saw a returning Kelly Johnson and Enid Williams as well as work with Tracey Lamb and Jackie Chambers.
The current line-up was then cemented with a contribution to a NWoBHM 25th Anniversary set and the albums 'Believe', 'Legacy' (featuring Dio, Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clarke, Neil Murray and JJ French) and 'Hit And Run Revisited'. Continuing to play live, the band have been working hard. They have also paid fitting tribute to Kelly Johnson, who passed away from cancer in 2007.
The new album, in keeping with the more recent releases, is polished and heavy. It kicks off with 'Come The Revolution', a blistering smack in the face. The guitar work, like the production, is solid and rocking, the rhythm really grabs you and the guitar solos shred with aplomb.
Some of the vocal harmonies nod to the glammier roots. There's a touch of Mot¨orhead to 'Take It Like A Band', a fast riff and a chunky rhythm. The title track, 'Guilty As Sin', is structurally a nod back to the early/mid 80s , albeit heavier and with a more prominent guitar solo.
The punk roots are noticeable in 'Treasure', and 'Awkward Position' is a slower track with good vocals and some neat guitar work. The few bars mid song of drums/bass is almost stoner.
The obligatory cover is a surprise here, 'Staying Alive'. Yes you heard right - 'Staying Alive'. It sums up the band well with what they've been through, the riff is true yet the song is made their own.
'Perfect Storm' follows, mid tempo, and has a proper attitude. A touch of punk snarl, of sleaze, and some melodic Metal all thrown in.
Fast, slow, melodic, punk or Mot¨orhead, everything classic Girlschool is here; beefed up and recorded well.
Ten wonderful tracks, and two bonuses, re-recordings of 'Coming Your Way' and 'Tonight'. If you have any Girlschool records or have seen them live, you'll recognise these classics. The shred on these is as good as any. Ever.
As good as ever, proof that Girlschool are still rocking and still relevant. Maybe at last they'll get some of the credit they deserve.