NWOBHM Band of the Week (9th December 2008): Praying Mantis

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9 déc. 2008, 17h35m

(Next NWoBHM Band of the Week)

Having freed up a few extra days in the week's journal calendar. I've decided to begin a new project. If I can keep to my plan: Every week I will investigate a band that didn't quite achieve the success of, say, Saxon or Iron Maiden and I will present a summary of my research for reader's ease and (hopefully) pleasure on Tuesdays. Kicking off in no particular order, I've picked Praying Mantis pretty much randomly off a list.

So, in brief, who are Praying Mantis? On their first documented official release, a 7" single evidently known as both "Soundhouse Tapes" and "Captured City" released in 1980 (and documented here), the band consisted of brothers Tino and Chris Troy on guitar and bass respectively as well as second guitarist Pete Moore and drummer Chris Hudson. Vocals were credited to Tino, Chris and Pete. I've found all three of the album's tracks at youtube.
-Captured City (youtube)
-The Ripper (NOT a Judas Priest cover, youtube)
-Johnny Cool (youtube)
I don't know about you but I think I could hear prominent influence from Thin Lizzy and Chuck Berry setting them apart from many other NOWBHM bands. Moments in Captured City also make me think a little of Asia (though they had yet to form), but not as much as some of their later work I've managed to find does.

The band only managed two full length albums during the 80s before an eventual reunion in 1990. The first of the two being their best known release: 1981's Time Tells No Lies (documented here on the band's official site), by which time the band had already been reduced to just two founding members, the Troy brothers. Steve Carroll was their new guitarist and Dave Potts was the band's new drummer. Steve, Tino and Chris shared out lead vocals, taking turns as lead vocalist on different tracks of the album. This album contributes the majority of search results when one searches youtube for "Praying Mantis NWOBHM", so I won't link every track I can find from youtube. By the time this full length album was released the band was showing leanings toward American sounding AOR, particularly vocally and were far from the most aggressive of the then NWOBHM bands. Check out Children of the Earth (youtube, Lead vocals: Chris Troy) to get an idea of the often extravagant chorus vocals almost reminiscent of the Beach Boys, mixed with a fair helping of dual guitar breaks, which while not pushing the tempos to the extremes that some of their contemporaries did, it still represents the NWOBHM riffing and soloing style admirably.Cheated (youtube, lead vocals: Carroll) may also be of interest as a similar representation of the band's sound, but with the additional backstory that the track was written after the band had recorded a version of the Russ Ballard penned track I Surrender which as anyone who knows their classic rock history will know was then also recorded by Rainbow who had a hit with it first, forcing PM to scrap their version and write a replacement. Tracks where Tino Troy took lead vocals however, were far more usual for the NWOBHM: Panic in the Streets (youtube) or Flirting With Suicide (youtube) are examples, though the later still has the early prog/AOR vocal style in the chorus.

The band's only other release of the 80s was 1984's Throwing Shapes for which the band temporarily changed its name to Stratus and found itself yet another new lineup, again only retaining the Troy brothers. As Stratus, the band was arguably an amalgamation of Praying Mantis and another NOWBHM band called Escape (formerly Clive Burr's Escape). The new line-up featured ex-Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr (Iron Maiden->The Number of the Beast) and designated lead vocalist: Canadian Bernie Shaw who would go on to later join Uriah Heep and was completed by a keyboardist (note, not a second guitarist) by the name of Alan Nelson. Unfortunately I haven't found any sample tracks from this release.

After Throwing Shapes things must have turned sour - Most likely through either lack of sales or management/record label problems. Praying Mantis weren't heard from again until a 1990 reformation. A live album featuring the Troy brothers, drummer Bruce Bisland and ex-Iron Maiden members Paul Di'anno and Dennis Stratton recorded in 1980 was then released titled Live at Last and credited to "Praying Mantis & Paul Di'Anno, Dennis Stratton".

A 1991 album soon followed Predator in Disguise featuring Live at Last's line-up minus Di'Anno. Once again without a designated lead vocalist Chris Troy and Dennis Stratton alternated as lead vocalist. It was easy to dig up the album's second track She's Hot (Stratton on vocals, youtube).

The band has continued since the reunion with Stratton adn the Troy brothers remaining stable members and drummer Bruce Bisland a regular band member with just a few absences from the line-up. The position of a designated vocalist from here on however has been frequently filled and vacated by many a singer. From the post 1991 period, during which time the band have enjoyed success in Japan, I've managed to find a promo video for a 1993 (I believe) track called Only the Children Cry and a 1995 live video for the very proggy sounding Letting Go (the latter featuring Clive Burr and vocalist Gary Barden formerly of MSG and sounding like the band can't decide whether they want to be early 70s prog band or a late 80s NWOBHM survivor).

Only the Children Cry:
Letting Go (live 1995):

Hmm, I can hardly believe I used the words 'in brief' at the beginning of this. So what's my verdict on the band? Personally, I'm quickly taking up the belief that there weren't any 'bad' bands originating from the , but I can see why Praying Mantis weren't a huge commercial success. Their harmonised chorus lines must have set them apart as "less manly" than 90% of their competition within the movement, and the infrequency of releases couldn't have helped. The 90s only seem to have urged the band into less and less fashionable territory, perhaps beckoning a reclassification to Arena Rock or comparison to the similarly unfashionable Magnum and Power Quest, lying somewhere between the sounds of the two despite not having a keyboardist in the band. But fashions aside, I'm not sure the band's recent material even holds up to either Power Quest's keyboard driven power metal or Magnum's light proggyness, though I do have to acknowledge that a great deal more research and familiarisation could have gone into those comparisons. Though my limited research shows the Stratton-era band as an increasingly light and not particularly boundary pushing melodic hard rock band, there is certainly some value to the band's early output - an exhibition of the NWOBHM's defining characteristics with some unique (for the movement) chorus vocals and memorable tunes complete with effective tempo changes and good instrumental passages (in fact probably the highlight of the band's early output). Not my favourite of the NWOBHM bands I'm planning on covering as this journal (hopefully) progresses, but worth checking out for fans of the movement (and Stratton) provided you have the time to do so.
Envois approuvés
Altar of the Metal Gods

Commentaires

  • GrantRS

    [quote]Did you really pick this group randomly without knowing the ties to Maiden beforehand?[/quote] More or less. I picked a batch of about 5 (can't remember the exact number) near randomly off a list. One of the other 4 I've yet to finish the research on was not a random pick and was picked for a Maiden connection, but the others were either totally random or picked because they had cool names. This was one I picked partly randomly and partly because they had a cool name. It was a coincidence therefore that I discovered three connections to Maiden in their history. As they were part of a batch though I guess there was then an element of choice to bring them up first of the batch, although it was more a choice to delay the others (and thus do a better job of them) than to bring this one forward. But yeah, that's why it's "pretty much randomly" and not completely random, though I think you can see there was quite an element of randomness to that. (Oh yeah and obviously I had to filter out of the list the REALLY well known ones. eg. Maiden, Saxon, Priest, Motorhead, I could hardly produce a brief summary of those without it being completely redundant.) You probably found Magnum through Bob Catley's Avantasia and Ayreon appearances. Interestingly enough, I first heard of them because I went to school with guitarist Tony Clarkin's nephew. I told him I was into prog and he asked if I'd heard of his uncle's band, unfortunately I hadn't at the time and accused him of making it up. :( I still don't have any Magnum albums yet, but I think I've got a good enough idea of how they sound to pass some rudimentary comparisons and judgements. Anyway, glad you like the idea as it took a while to cross reference all the information. Won't it be nice if I ever get to the end of the list? I'll then have an encyclopedic knowledge of the NWOBHM and can move on to another 'genre'.

    10 déc. 2008, 9h41m
  • GrantRS

    [quote]Ummm... don't you mean 'era' ? :P[/quote] Hence the quotations. :P [quote]I don't think so.. I don't even recall that name! I'm going to have to google him now and see what else I find :)[/quote] Bob was the Tree of knowledge in The Metal Opera part 2, and also appeared on Cry Just a Little. He was one of the Forever on 01011001, handling many of the softer male vocals - he's the one marked in the booklet with a pinwheel. He appeared on Liquid Eternity ("Once a world of fear and dismay, of fleeing and hiding..."), Beneath the Waves (the second voice to enter, immediately after Jonas Renske's part the verse starting "I still feel the rising tides embrace me..."), he has quite a few verses in Newborn Race including the "We'll plant our seeds.." verse. Bob also alternates lines with Anneke at the beginning of the fifth extinction, then has one of the "World of Tomorrow Dreams" choruses immediately before Hansi, and comes back in a bit later after the Sherinian solo alternating the second verse from the final movement with Daniel. Later he alternates lines with Jorn in Unnatural selection, and then later in the same song alternates lines with Steve Lee at the bit where it speeds up fairly quickly until "We gave them dreams and what did they dream?", a harmony between Bob and Steve. Then River of Time only features two vocalists, Hansi and Bob. Finally on the Sixth extinction Bob has the piano backed verse beginning "Don't give up, remember how we felt/Fire rushing through our veins" and then has the slot immediately before Jorn in the ending adlibs. Remember him now? I didn't need to go to the length of typing that out, but by the time I realised it was going to be long I was halfway done with it so I thought I'd finish it off.

    10 déc. 2008, 17h35m
  • GrantRS

    He has quite a mellow voice, so he was used mostly in the calm parts...meaning that he'd have to do a hell of a good job to be noticed over the people who got most of the high energy parts like Floor, Jorn and Steve. Thing is I've listened to the album enough times (mostly by mp3 player on commutes, otherwise Ayreon would be easily in my top 20) to know exactly who is singing, by name, at any point when listening through. Still always miss the mechanical count-ins on Age of Shadows (both at the beginning and after the We ARe Forever interlude). I reluctantly have to agree though that Bob is probably one of the overshadowed ones on the album, though he was one of the ones I knew (vaguely) before hearing the album. ...But we're now well off the original topic.

    10 déc. 2008, 19h41m
  • saronix

    I like em, never heard of them before honestly. A rare gem, good find!

    15 déc. 2008, 2h27m
  • GrantRS

    :) Thanks for the vote of confidence. We'll see if this week's is as good soon.

    15 déc. 2008, 23h22m
  • GrantRS

    Thank you. I'd like to think the articles got gradually better after this first one, see if you like those and the bands represented.

    14 avr. 2009, 19h31m
  • maidenhell

    please post here: altar of the metal gods

    5 mai 2009, 4h55m
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