In the late ’70s, the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) struck the U.K. like a bolt of lightning. Bands like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, and Venom bulldozed their way in, changing the genre forever in their wake. Saxon, Angel Witch, and Girlschool propelled the headbangers of the Isles (and later the European Continent) into a white-hot frenzy. But one band stands supreme, and coulda-woulda-shoulda been the kings of them all: Diamond Head.

Formed in Stourbridge, England, in 1976 by guitarist Brian Tatler, singer Sean Harris, drummer Duncan Scott, and bassist Colin Kimberley—all teenagers at the time—the band wrote insanely catchy songs that still ring through the halls of heavy metal infamy. Influenced by bell-bottomed fret lords Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page, Tatler was the only guitarist from the NWOBHM movement who even came close to writing riffs on par with those of Sabbathian maestro Tony Iommi. (And let’s be real: Sean Harris was probably the best vocalist of the era, too.) And yet, Diamond Head might still be languishing in obscurity were it not for the unwavering patronage of Metallica.

When Diamond Head recorded their full-length debut, Lightning to the Nations, in 1980, no one cared. None of the big labels—and most of the smaller ones—gave a flying fuck. The band ended up pressing the record themselves and releasing the first thousand copies in a plain white sleeve. The album contained seven songs. Metallica later covered five of them, recording iron-clad classics “Am I Evil?,” “Helpless,” “The Prince,” and “It’s Electric,” as B-sides of singles and linchpins of covers collections. Every once in a while, they’d bust out Diamond Head’s nine-minute blowjob anthem, “Sucking My Love,” in concert.

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In fact, the only reason most people under 50 even know about Diamond Head is because of Metallica. That’s bananas, because Lightning to the Nations is one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time. And Metallica? They might not even exist without Diamond Head. Just ask Lars Ulrich. “When I was 15 or 16, I got an MCA Records compilation called Brute Force,” the drummer told . “I’d recently read about this band called Diamond Head that I hadn’t heard of before, [and] they were the opening cut on this album. The song was called ‘It’s Electric,’ and I think I listened to it like 9,000 times that month. If there was ever a song that made me want to be in a band, that was it.”

A few years ago, Brian Tatler came across some old versions of Lightning to the Nations songs he’d never heard before. Forgotten for decades and rescued from a flooded studio basement, the lost mixes from the album will be released on September 30, 2022. Being the lifelong Diamond Head fans that we are, CREEM seized the opportunity to speak with him.

CREEM: What was your life like at the time you started Diamond Head?

BRIAN TATLER:
In 1976, I was 16 and I was about to leave school. But before I did, I wanted to form a band. I’d already got a guitar, and I’d been learning to play for a year or so. I talked one of my best mates, Duncan Scott, into being the drummer even though he hadn’t got a drum kit. So, we made our own drum kit out of biscuit tins and plastic tubs and stuff like that. We realized we needed a singer, so we started looking around the school. We happened upon Sean Harris, who could really sing, so we asked him to join. The band kind of went from there.

I talked one of my best mates, Duncan Scott, into being the drummer even though he hadn’t got a drum kit. So, we made our own drum kit out of biscuit tins and plastic tubs.

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