Kal Swan: vocals
Stevie Gibbs: guitar/vocals
Steve Mann: guitar/vocals
Dave Harrison: guitar/vocals
Kevin Riddles: bass/keyboards/vocals
Les Binks: drums
Simon Wright: drums
The legendary Angel Witch split in 1981, their rhythm section, bassist Kevin Riddles and drummer Dave Dufort almost immediately forming a new outfit, the more trad hard rock Tytan, playing their first Marquee headliner early in '82. Their lineup remained fluid throughout the band's year-and-something existence, core members guitarist Stevie Gibbs and silver-larynxed Tamworth wonder Kal (born Norman) Swan joined by a series of drummers and second guitarists coming and going with monotonous regularity, from Dufort to future AC/DC tub thumper Simon Wright and ex-Judas Priest man Les Binks, amongst others, while guitarists Gary Owens (ex-A II Z) and Steve Mann took their turns playing alongside Gibbs. Someone must have fronted the band a fair bit of cash, as they recorded a full album in a decent studio, probably in late '82. A 12" single of Blind Men & Fools crept out on Kamaflage Records, backed with Ballad Of Edward Case and Sad Man, but the album never happened.
I (slightly) knew two of the band (Riddles and Gibbs) at the time, giving me some minor inside info. After the band's split, Stevie kindly did me a tape (third or fourth generation, but it was great to have it in any quality) of a ten track album, minus the two b-sides, as expected. And that was that. Or was it...? In 1985, I was hanging out in London's legendary metal emporium, Shades - as you do - when the familiar strains of a track from the album came blasting over the shop PA in pristine quality. You've never seen anyone move so fast... How did the assistant know to stick it on, or was it sheer coincidence? Anyway, I don't know the story, but the album came out two years after the event on the Metal Masters label, as a twelve-tracker, with both single b-sides added, presumably for completion's sake.
Given the band's brief lifespan, Rough Justice is a blinder, making one wonder what it might have done had politics not done for the band and it had escaped on a 'proper' label. Admittedly, we could probably lose a couple of tracks from the eventually-released version, but ten out of twelve's a bloody good hit-rate in my book. Stylewise, it mostly sits in the 'tuneful hard rock' camp, the kind of stuff that was very rapidly going out of fashion to be replaced by cheeso commercial hard rock/AOR, although few non-US bands made the big league.
Blind Men & Fools: Tytan set their stall out with the intro to their album opener and lone single released during their lifetime, an epic, choral mock-Gregorian chant (a Korg vocoder, apparently) and massed keys, bursting into a massive, powerchord-fuelled intro proper. The song itself is a pounding, mid-paced stormer, shifting to double pace on the chorus, with its yell of "Liar!"; lyrically, we're on the subject of politicians and their misdeeds, although I believe it was misread by at least one observer. Just when you think it's all over, it works its way through about four false endings; Motörhead eat your heart out.
Money for Love: Although the band never used keyboards live, Money For Love opens with a stuttering bass synth, leading into another mid-paced chugger, with as catchy a chorus as you could wish for while avoiding the dreaded AOR tag. The song takes a left turn towards the end, as the band drop out and the synth pulse repeats under the chorus harmonies before a final blast of the chorus proper, finishing on an a capella "Money for love!"
Women on the Frontline: Although it wasn't released as a single, Women On The Frontline is the most 'commercial' thing the band wrote, on the basis that it's the poppiest, although it rocks harder than I remember. Lyrically, it sympathetically tackles the subject of violence against women, chorus backing vox sung by Jody Turner of the now largely- (deservedly?) forgotten Rock Goddess, who also gets a solo spot in the nearest the song gets to a middle eight.
Cold Bitch: And after a song about female emancipation comes Cold Bitch... A little confusion here, perhaps? This sometime set opener is actually an excellent, rocking effort, despite its dodgo lyrics, double kicks speeding along nicely in true 'first song of the set' style. As with so many Tytan songs, the riff doesn't always go in the most obvious direction, one of the things that made the band stand out from the pack at the time.
Ballad of Edward Case: The first of those b-sides, Ballad Of Edward Case (Ed Case, geddit? Geddit?) is, essentially, a formless, thrashy mess-about that the band used as an encore, which should be stamped with the legend 'Not to be taken seriously'. The studio version judders to a halt halfway through, shifting into a pub-singalong version of the old 'Nobody loves, everybody hates me, think I'll go and eat worms' playground chant, followed by a ridiculous collage of running, shouting and breaking noises, engine starting effects and the like, rounded off with a massive crash and a mock-gay "Oh, poo!" Not exactly PC, but it was thirty years ago... Frankly, this seems to be here for completion's sake, rather than for its actual musical merits.
Rude Awakening: The album's second epic, Rude Awakening opens with a backwards gong, before shifting into a riff best described as the bastard son of Kashmir, first heard as part of Angel Witch's The Night Is Calling (available on the Sinister History archive set), which poses a question: The Night Is Calling is credited to the Witch's Kevin Heybourne, Rude Awakening to Riddles and Swan. So who wrote that riff, eh? Anyway, one of this album's best tracks is enhanced by the guitar harmonies in the chorus and the massive build-up of vocal harmonies, not to mention Riddles' little burst of classical piano at the song's close; don't forget, this originally closed side one, even before the addition of the b-sides.
The Watcher: Epic no.3 features a rumbling drum intro, an angular (well, by hard rock standards) series of riffs, a doomy, keyboard-laden section, the album's only Sabbath-esque riff/tempo change, harking back to Angel Witch days and a repeated, echoed descending guitar-to-fade run that closes the track. In some ways, I'd have loved the band even more had they stuck purely to this type of song, but the album could well have ended up sounding somewhat samey, I suppose.
Far Cry: One of the album's lesser tracks, Far Cry is decent enough, but something of a poor cousin to, say, Money For Love, despite the clean, picked section at the end of the chorus. But is the rock'n'roll section in the middle eight entirely necessary, I ask?
Sadman: Second Blind Men 12" flip Sadman began as a Stevie Gibbs song before being partially rewritten by Riddles, turning into Black Sabbath's Children Of The Sea in the process. Steve's picked guitar intro and falsetto are fab, making you wonder where the song originally went; maybe it didn't, which could be why Riddles rewrote it... Steve's tasteful, clean, bluesy solo over the song's second picked section also stands out, making this one of the reconstituted album's best tracks. Why wasn't this originally mooted for the long-player, I wonder?
Forever Gone: Not dissimilar to Far Cry in some ways, Forever Gone is another 'by numbers' Tytan effort, sounding a little too like several other tracks here to really stand out.
Don't Play Their Way: Ed Case aside, this is definitely the album's weakest track, a perfunctory verse followed by a perfunctory chorus and a clumsy bridge. Is there anything about it worth hearing? Hmmm. Not really, no. OK, maybe the incendiary soloing.
Far Side of Destiny: And now, ladies'n'gents, the album closer... Despite only being in the four-minute range, Far Side Of Destiny is an epic in every reasonable sense, from its picked intro, galloping verse riff, doomy chorus and guitar harmony sections. Slowing down halfway through to reiterate the intro is pretty much de rigeur for this type of song and Far Side Of Destiny doesn't disappoint; we also get the obligatory gong smash at the end. It's the rules, OK?
Phew, what a scorcher... OK, a few weak tracks, but who's counting? The album appeared on CD on Majestic Rock Records in 2004, then again with their BBC session added a couple of years later (grrr). I haven't heard the expanded version, but even without the extra tracks, this is more than worth your outlay.
And then... Nothing. The band split in '83, ground down by financial and record company hassles, its members dispersing to the four winds. Stevie formed a band called Briton who ended up sacking him, Riddles went into band transportation and Swan moved to the States and formed a fairly unsuccessful outfit called Lion. Well, have you heard of 'em? As previously stated, at least the album found its way into the public arena, but far too late to be of any use, other than to those who either remembered them or wanted to hear them after the event.
At the time of writing, Riddles has just reformed the band for a German festival in April 2012; hurrah! As luck would have it, a friend of mine (hi, Andy) is drumming in the new lineup, allowing me to meet some of the band again and hopefully get to see them play a London warm-up, if nothing else. With any luck, this means that the band (sans Swan, who apparently can't be bothered to come over for it) will carry on working together sporadically for a while to come. Incidentally, this might be a good place to get in an amusing story concerning Mr. Swan: apparently, he went for the job in Samson before Tytan (they ended up giving it to Nicky Moore) and they asked him to 'send a tape'. He did. A blank one. Great voice, but...