The Lowdown: British heavy metal band Diamond Head are most well remembered for their instant-classic debut album, Lightning to the Nations, which was a cornerstone inspiration on Metallica’s early career. The original band failed to complete a suitable follow-up and later splintered. Original guitarist Brian Tatler has assembled a group of talented young musicians to help him keep the torch lit and, with the new album The Coffin Train, has delivered the first worthy successor to the 1980 debut LP.
The Good: Tatler and his current crew of hired guns delivered a solid but somewhat pedestrian self-titled album in 2016, and toured behind it with some success. The band sounds emboldened on The Coffin Train, with opening track “Belly of the Beast” the most exciting Diamond Head song since 1980. Much of the credit goes to singer Rasmus Bom Andersen, who made his debut on the 2016 LP. Yes, his voice sounds more like Chris Cornell than original singer Sean Harris, but he has more range than Harris ever did. Andersen’s performance on The Coffin Train is one of the best vocal performances on a rock album of any stripe this year.
The Bad: Diamond Head may have been so proud of their new material and singer that they assembled The Coffin Train with impatience — it’s seriously front-loaded. “Belly of the Beast” may be a pure burst of electricity, but it’s the most energetic track on the album. Remaining songs stick in a moody mid-tempo groove and — “The Sleeper” aside — tend to decrease in quality. The Coffin Train would be a much stronger record with a few more fast and bruising numbers; without them, it peaks too early.
The Verdict: The Coffin Train is the best Diamond Head album since Lightning to the Nations, but it also sounds almost nothing like the band’s classic sound. Tatler’s new direction is moodier and darker — not to mention anchored by Anderson’s jaw-dropping vocal performance — and it suits him. That said, even Andersen’s singing can’t keep the excitement up on the record’s slower, brooding second half. A little more of the band’s classic speed metal sound would only make the record that much better. Even so, it’s remarkable that Diamond Head have returned with such vigor after the better part of 35 years treading water.
Essential Tracks: “Belly of the Beast”, “The Coffin Train”, “The Sleeper”