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Articles Home » 1980 Articles » Samson - 1980 Head On
Samson - 1980 Head On

ARTIST: Samson
ALBUM: Head On
YEAR: 1980
CD REISSUE: 1990, Grand Slamm, SLAMCD16 * 1991 Repertoire, REP 4037-WZ * 2000, Air Raid (UK), AIRCD 9


LINEUP: Bruce Bruce - vocals * Paul Samson - guitars * Chris Aylmer - bass * Thunderstick - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Hard Times * 02 Take It Like A Man * 03 Vice Versa * 04 Manwatcher * 05 Too Close Too Rock * 06 Thunderburst * 07 Hammerhead * 08 Hunted * 09 Take Me To Your Leader * 10 Walking Out On You


Samson's second album was a marked improvement over the debut and a NWOBHM classic that got lost in the shuffle with Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon etc. Bruce Bruce (aka Dickinson) was now lead vocalist proper, bringing with him the most sought after vocals of the whole movement. Musically the sound was more metal, a departure from the sometimes experimental hard rock of the debut. The band was still at the forefront of the scene in 1980, resulting in a top 40 chart placing for 'Head On'. In terms of notoriety they were peaking, with masked drummer Thunderstick indulging in bizzare behaviour on and off stage, capable of only making animal noises according to Dickinson. His likeness made for one of the all time classic album covers though: the masked hardman wielding a gullotine in menacing fashion.

The Songs
'Hard Times' is a classic opener, brazen riffs from Samson and Dickinson's distinctive warble a great pairing. Thunderstick was a great drummer for all his excess, and annihilates his kit for this and most of the album. There's no let up with 'Take It Like A Man', which demonstates Samson's ability to keep it heavy while stamping melody down also. It's an acquired touch that usually only the great's can do. Nothing even remotely AOR here. 'Vice Versa' has a 70's atmosphere, not unlike what Thin Lizzy sounded like during their 'Chinatown' period, with some unsettling riffs and overall vibe. 'Manwatcher' is more advanced than most British bands in 1980, state of the art riffs and clean production with another accessible chorus. High gear is reached with the explosive 'Too Close To Rock' which posesses an insanely fast passage mid song, a forerunner to thrash. The true sound of British heavy metal. Steve Harris (Iron Maiden, bass) co- wrote the instrumental 'Thunderburst' with Samson, essentially an early 'Ides Of March', that later showed up on Iron Maiden's 'Killers'. The melody is the same, amazing this has been forgotten. Same goes for the pivotal 'Hammerhead' and 'Take Me To Your Leader, both breathless energetic metal. A more sinister, slower tone is reserved for 'Hunted' and 'Walking Out On You', the latter the final track of a timeless album.

In Summary
While a certain amount of acclaim has always been reserved for 'Head On', it's never been on the level of Iron Maiden or Saxon. Whether Paul Samson's untimely death during August 2002 will bring it a greater level of recogniton remains to be seen. But through Dickinson's stints with Iron Maiden, there has always been an interest in his work with Samson, and his vocal's were impressive from the start. Not to be forgotten either was Paul Samson's fiery playing, fast or subdued. 81's 'Shock Tactics' was equally as powerful, but once Dickinson left, Samson were left behind in the NWOBHM rush. Time has not diminished 'Head On's impact and stands as a testament to Paul Samson's legacy.

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#1 | Jez on January 27 2007 12:30:19
Along with Saxon's mighty 'Wheels Of Steel' & Maiden's 'Number Of The Beast' one of the standout albums of the NWOBHM. Unfortunately, this was criminally overlooked for the most part as most people got stuck on Saxon, Maiden and an up and coming Def Leppard. A real shame as this album has songs to match the best of those bands and then some. Powerful, yet very melodic in places, this is one hell of an album that EVERY metal fan worth his/her salt should have in their collection!
#2 | sabace on December 25 2007 19:58:27
featuring the talent of bruce bruce who in my opinion ruined the magic of early maiden .
#3 | gdazegod on December 25 2007 21:07:03
Ah you crack me up John! lol clap
#4 | sabace on December 25 2007 22:25:07
#5 | vinyldinosaurus on February 14 2008 14:30:49
Bruce sounds more like Ian Gillan than Bruce on this one!
#6 | george_the_jack on July 06 2008 15:14:49
Lol! Dickinson joined Maiden to ruin them! No comments...As for the album and Samson in general? Very average band that no one would remember today, if Bruce wasn't a member at that time...
#7 | sabace on December 08 2009 14:44:18
vice versa is a great track, to be fair!
#8 | reyno-roxx on February 27 2013 19:09:31
Lemon are reissuing this album shortly with bonus tracks.
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