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Before Bruce Dickinson became known as the wailing banshee of Iron Maiden, he fronted Samson, a vehicle for Paul Samson, a guitarist who peacefully resides as an unheard giant of the new wave of British heavy metal. For the first time since the ’80s, their third and final album with Dickinson gets a deluxe remastered vinyl reissue for budding metalheads to worship.
As much as it points to the direction Dickinson would take shortly after, Shock Tactics showcases a unique band that should have received more recognition in their heyday. Paul Samson certainly listened to more than heavy metal, as proven by the dub reggae break in “Blood Lust” and the driving ’77 punk vibe of “Bright Lights.” While “Go to Hell” screams as the bastard lovechild of Motörhead and The Dead Boys, “Earth Mother” throbs in proto-new wave Billy Idol territory. Bruce Dickinson, on the other hand, delivers with youthful fury, his voice fresh and untainted as he ranges from Rob Halford shrieks to his signature dramatic attack. Most interestingly, his lyrical subject matter strays from the warfare and dragon-slaying that has marked his career in favor of more openly material screeds about sex, death and violence. It’s a classic case of the band that should have but didn’t.
This lineup of Samson, featuring bassist Chris Aylmer and drummer Thunderstick, who performed in a cage while wearing a gimp mask, tragically dissolved amid managerial conflict and a failing record label, driving Bruce Dickinson to seek refuge with the band that would jettison him to mega-stardom. Listening to Shock Tactics, though, one can’t help but wonder…what if?
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