Bodine — Anthology
I'm a completist at heart. So for many of my favourite bands I have bought the original vinyl, the first CD pressing, a remastered CD with bonus tracks and at the end of their careers, the all-encompassing box set. I go at length to gather gems like demos / unreleased B-sides, newly added live tracks and never before encountered pictures, stories and memorabilia, when available and reasonably priced (my wife reads this as well). It is a passion I think I share with lots of people.
Thankfully, experienced labels like Pseudonym Records share the same passion and release anthology box sets from artists that contain the original albums in remastered form, with detailed information, storytelling liner notes and much sought after demo material. The affordable price, makes it a must-have for any fan of the band involved. Their latest box set covers one of the first metal bands to emerge from Holland, Bodine.
Before anyone raises an eyebrow as to why do a review on a box set by a relatively unknown Dutch metal band, let me pitch two unique selling points. The major first one is the fact that it sees one of the first ever footsteps in the music business by Arjen Lucassen, known today from Ayreon and his many other escapades. The second one sold the box set to me right away, as there's a personal aspect that's been following me ever since I engaged with Bodine.
For this we have to go back to around 1998, when I worked at a liquor store in Bussum. Here visitors could catch sounds of my favourite music in the back of the store, where I listened to all sorts of progressive rock, AOR and heavier stuff. One day, while Cities On Flame by Blue Oyster Cult played in the background, a humble, introverted regular costumer walked in and upon recognising the riff, surprisingly stated that he had seen the band at the Paradiso, Amsterdam in 1975. Needless to say we hit it off and talked quite a bit on the topic of music, after which he left without saying his name.
Several visits later I had deducted that he worked as an illustrator and some entertaining conversations later he, almost apologetically, confessed to having played in a hard rock band going by the name of Bodine. His name was Axel Langemeijer. Dumbstruck, for I didn't make the link at all before, our conversations from then on went all over the place. Our bond became stronger when one day he walked in, and out of the blue explained that for the first time he had tried his hand at a comic strip called "De Swingende Slijter" ("The Swinging Liquor Salesman"), inspired by our conversations, and to my amazement handed it over to me.
From that moment on, different rocking comic strips and special drawings came my way, nowadays carefully framed and tucked away. A fond and precious memento, which I still hold dear. Some five years later, on the 19th of March 2003, Axel passed away far too quickly at the age of 47. So in memoriam to him, all the more reason to embrace the music, now that it's been so carefully restored by Pseudonym Records.
For the review of this box, I started with the information about the box here, but I will review the albums inside the box separately below.
Bodine — Bodine
Bodine started under a different name in 1978, when drummer Gerard Haitsma met up with Rene Rijsdijk (guitars). With the addition of Armand van der Hoff (bass) two years later, the now stable formation changed their name towards "Doreen" and started looking for a singer. Unsuccessful in finding one through auditions, a tip led them to contact vocalist Jay van Feggelen, who also suggested a name change for the band, circumstantially leading up to Bodine.
Sending demos to Dutch radio stations eventually gave them their desired platform and the first album was recorded in 1981 at the studios of Chiel Montagne (a famous TV host for "Op Volle Toeren", a Dutch music show with music that was more popular among older people) under the careful guidance of mentor Alfred Lagarde (DJ for Veronica Radio) and Okkie Huijsdens as producers.
And from the raw, energetic, melodic, seventies-inspired heavy blues rock, it is easy to see why they landed a contract, for even today it proves to be an exciting rock 'n roll experience. Tracks like Gonna Get Back, New York City Streets and Ooh Wee Baby ooze brilliantly executed heavy rock in the style of Mountain's Nantucket Sleighride and Flowers Of Evil. The greasy, solidified rhythm section builds a firm foundation for Rijsdijk to shine on guitars, whipping out many superb solos, hooks and riffs, and the bold charismatic vocals by van Feggelen are impressive to say the least. Hard to believe he was still in his twenties at the time.
Foggy Fantasy and You Didn't Give Me Love would have given Atomic Rooster a run for their money, while tracks like On The Look Out and Backstreet Crawler ignite thoughts of an inspired Blue Cheer and Free/Bad Company. The more straight-forward, uptempo hard-rock compositions such as Freight Train Runnin', Shooting Dice and Rock Rosetta furthermore swing like 1974 where Moxy meets Rush, suggesting that if these guys had been American/Canadian they would have been so much more successful.
Although known as one of the first metal bands from Holland, this first outing bears no resemblance to that sound, but rather proves to be an excellent, cohesive record of blues rock, that has stood the test of time marvellously and is a very recommendable effort for fans of The Cream, Led Zeppelin or any of the aforementioned bands.
Bodine — Bold As Brass
The initial success of Bodine and the effect of two singles and exposure on radio shows, saw the fan base growing, but musical differences resulted in the band in need of a new vocalist. For this Arjen Lucassen, at the time unknown, auditioned. The band was severely impressed by his skills and songwriting, and he ends up joining the band as a second guitarist. With time running out to record the all-important second album, they decide to invite Axel Langemeijer along to audition for the vocalist job.
This second line-up sees Bodine soar into heavy metal surroundings. Encaged within a superbly functioning rhythm section, we're met with double bass drum parts and excellent twin guitar combinations in likeness to the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). The difference to the debut album is immediately noticeable in the fierce opener Rock Machine, speeding away with solid shreds and a forceful, upbeat tempo, igniting thoughts of Judas Priest and early Triumph (Rock'n'Roll Machine, Allied Forces).
Langemeijer's raw and rugged vocals fit perfectly, while he fills many bridges with screams, yells and vocal ad-libs, sounding like a mixture of Biff Byford (Saxon), Bon Scott (AC/DC) and David Lee Roth (Van Halen). Heavy Rain, suspiciously starting with thunder, roars like Saxon's iconic Heavy Metal Thunder, showcasing Bodine's U-turn from bluesy guitar, to rushing metal shreds most evidently.
Featuring some delicious twin guitar parts and Langemeijer's vocals, in combination with a darker atmosphere, Aragorn slowly forms images of the Stuntrock soundtrack by Sorcery. The blues-inspired Heavy Metal Heart, cemented in massive heavy riffs and a thunderous bassline, sounds like a concrete Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh), dynamically driven forward by a powerful guitar solo. Meanwhile the initially slow-moving ballad Wild Fire Queen, unleashes speed towards a Judas Priest environment.
The last of the metal tracks is Pumpin' Iron that sees Bodine fly into highly melodic metal, with flashes of Iron Maiden and Saxon, after which Jailbreak Musings (Breakin' Out) and Regular Rocker returns Bodine's sound to that of their first album, filled with bluesy hardrock. Flashy heavy metal injections and epic guitars in both tracks irrefutably show the transition between the albums, with Jay van Feggelen's writing credentials still audibly present.
Despite fierce competition with bands such as Iron Maiden (Number Of The Beast), Y&T (Black Tiger) and Motörhead (Iron Fist), all releasing iconic albums at the same time, this album was met with great enthusiasm. The sheer quality and consistency of the material should have propelled them onto the international market, for support slots to Manowar and Accept were lying just around the corner.
In light of the given references and the impressive quality of the music, they certainly deserved it, but various obstacles at the time didn't make this happen. With Armand van der Hoff announcing his departure, another setback occurred, forcing them to recruit a new bass player for their already scheduled third strike.
Bodine — Three Times Running
Unable to find a replacement for Armand van der Hoff prior to recording their third album, the decision was made that bass parts were to be divided between Arjen Lucassen and Rene Rijsdijk. Once the recordings were finished, substitute Jeroen Bos joined Bodine, making them once again a force to be reckoned with. Credited on the cover as Geronimo, now almost every member, apart from Gerard Haitsma had an illustrious stage name: Axel Langemeijer nicknamed as Mad Man Axel, Arjen Lucassen as Iron Anthony and Rene Rijsdijk as Rheno Xeros.
The opening track Shout is a direct continuation of the sound they embraced on Bold As Brass and turns out to be a powerful, uptempo rocker with a delicious shredding and flying twin guitar duel by Lucassen and Rijsdijk. It is an enjoyable track gliding towards approachable heavy metal in a similar vain to Demon's The Unexpected Guest and Fist.
Langemeijer's ad-libs, screams and howls, a trademark on the second album, are less apparent, and as a result some of the band's raw energy is lost, emphasising the mainstream feel of Bodine at this time. Despite this, the music manages to leave an iron-clad impression. Battlefield features playful twin guitar parts, great solos and playful drums that easily compete with contemporary bands in the field.
Black Star Risin' and Hard Times continue in delivering competent melodic metal, reminiscent to Y&T, with excellent twin guitars, which by now have become their biggest asset. Rampage unconsciously wants you to raise your fist and run towards the hills with its bold attitude and Iron Maiden-inspired, fast-paced metal. The highlight of the album, the excellent The Force, can be seen as the album's anthem. A gorgeous twin guitar opening is the precursor to a composition filled with many shifting, catchy melodies and melancholy, while screaming, thrilling guitar solos finish the track in grand style.
Curiously, out of the eight tracks, two are instrumental and both of them feel more or less like improvisations, instead of actual compositions. The inspirational Below The Belt is a tour de force, with an ongoing hurricane of flying solos, melodic improvisations, inventive drumming and intoxicating guitar eruptions. The album closer Free Kick incorporates a drum solo amidst all this guitar extravaganza and loosely emits a Thin Lizzy vibe. It does however lack a certain punch, and proves to be an uncertain ending to an otherwise strong album.
This vigorous album stood proudly amongst many of its contemporaries (Dio and Metallica for instance) yet internal troubles caused Bodine to run out of steam, with Arjen Lucassen departing to Vengeance in April of 1984. His replacement by Henry van Manen (ex-Picture) failed and not long after Bodine had run its course.
Bodine — Bodinism
Accompanying the three remastered albums in the box set is the aptly titled Bodinism, a disc of demos, outtakes and miscellaneous. The term 'Bodinism', frequently used in interviews to express their belief in their own style, can be heard in the last section of the CD, featuring the first ever Bodine Interview on Dutch radio from 1981. Conducting the interview was their producer, Alfred "Big Al" Lagarde, also accountable for many jingles promoting the album, of which some are incorporated in Jingles Album Bodine.
These are nice, nostalgic additions, but it's the demos and outtakes that make this disc interesting. Firstly it features six demos recorded prior to the debut album's recording sessions. Many bands nowadays would feel blessed by the quality of those demos, for they sound very fresh, clean and alive, even after 38 years. What's more, is that it sees an aspiring young band, with a huge potential, showcasing their many musical talents as captured on their debut album.
Shooting Dice, Rock Rosetta and Backstreet Crawler have that energetic blues swagger, though they are relatively less heavy than the finished product. Think of it as Bodine 'light' with a delicate touch of April Wine and Whitesnake. The Mountain feel in Gonna Get Back and On The Lookout is just as heavenly, but the real gem here is the non-album track Find The Road. It is a seventies-styled blues rock track with subtle changes and great guitar-virtuoso work by Rijsdijk.
The five studio outtakes showcase the interaction and tight skills of the band most perfectly. Many of the tracks live up to their finished studio presentations. The rough outtake of You Don't Give Me Love is of particular interest, as it features soft organ touches instead of guitars. The vintage, organic combination of bass, drums and expressive vocals already reveals it to be a 'Bodinism' track at heart.
The closing tracks, Rock Doctor and Regular Rocker, were recorded prior to the release of the second album with Jay van Feggelen still handling vocals. Both of them are bursting with inspired, energetic seventies heavy rock, mindful to Free, Bad Company and Mountain. With the former (incomplete) CD re-issues from 1996 containing several of these tracks, now out of print, this bonus compilation is a great addition to the set.
Eight years after their demise, another incarnation of Bodine tried a comeback with new material and a line-up consisting of Oscar Holleman (ex-Vengeance, guitars), Jeroen Bos, Gerard Haitsma, Erik van der Ven (guitars), and Robert Soeterbroek (vocals). Jay van Feggelen even stepped up to the plate once again as lead vocalist some time later.
Although praised during try-out gigs the new line-up proved only to be a temporary eruption, after which the final curtain fell upon Bodine. Not included within the box set, tracks from this period can still be found on the ultimate Bodine tribute website Regularrocker.nl, a devoted fan site with sublime information, many soundbites and the missing lyrics, which curiously haven't been included in this box set.
As it stands, this anthology box set is a marvellous collection, showcasing the brilliance and outstanding quality of one of the best metal bands to ever emerge from Holland. Even today, the fresh and energetic nature of their compositions stands the test of time, and with just a bit more luck they could have succeeded big time. Hearing these albums after so many years gives me the impression that with a little more time, they too could have composed immortal power ballads like I Believe in You (Y&T) and Beyond The Realms Of Death (Judas Priest) or a timeless classic such as Saxon's Dallas 1PM. What remains is this gratifying testimonial box set, which is hard to beat in its concise research and audio fidelity.
And in case you wonder whatever happened to "De Swingende Slijter", I'm delighted to say he's always been within me, and ever since my involvement in DPRP, has firmly awoken. One can once again hear all sorts of progressive rock and metal at the back of the stockroom, although nowadays with consideration to the unaware costumer. Some interesting conversations have begun already, so I'll toast to that. Cheeers!