The Almighty were a Scottish band, forming back in 1988. Over a 12 year period, they released 7 studio albums, with line-up changes throughout their career. Only Ricky Warwick and Stumpy Munroe remained a constant throughout.
The Almighty’s importance to me and my journey through heavy metal can and should not be underestimated. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, I listened to the ‘Mega’ bands, such as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses and Bon Jovi. The Almighty were the first ‘small’ band that hooked me. This wasn’t a band that played arenas or stadiums. This was a hard-working, hard-rocking band who built themselves a fan-base that still supports frontman, Ricky Warwick, to this day.
Being a fan of The Almighty has nearly gotten me into a fight, upset my wife and taught me that bigger name bands are not necessarily better bands.
Please welcome Retrospective #4, The Almighty.
Album Retrospective – The Almighty.
In 1989, Blood Fire and Love was released via Polydor records and it was a bit of a banger! Full to the brim of anthems, it was an introduction that bands dream of. From the opening track, ‘Resurrection Mutha’ it grabs you and doesn’t let go. Even when it slows things down, with the title track especially, it turns things up to 11 with other tracks. To this day, I still sing ‘Full Force Loving Machine’ and ‘Wild and Wonderful’ in my head. In fact, I still own a ‘Wild and Wonderful’ t-shirt that is slightly worse for wear. My wife is disgusted that I have not thrown this out, but hey, ‘I’ve taken all that I can from the skies up above, don’t believe in God but I do believe in love…..’.
On a journey in a van from England to Scotland in 1991/92, I can’t quite remember, it was getting late in the evening and there was a rock show on a Scottish radio station. They were counting down a list of Scottish Rock/Metal bands and this was the first time I ever heard The Almighty. ‘Free n’ Easy’ was the song and it was taken from the, nothing short of superbsophomore album, Soul Destruction. I was hooked. Immediately, unabashedly, complete and utterly.
Again, Soul Destruction was a mixture of Hard Rock songs, with a smattering of slow songs, such as ‘Little Lost Sometimes’. Again, it is full of anthemic bangers, ‘Crucify’, ‘Devil’s Toy and the aforementioned, ‘Free n’ Easy’ are proper headnodders! The Almighty were on their way. World domination beckoned….. then lead guitarist, Tantrum, was no longer in the band.
Tantrum was replaced by the, ‘star of Waynes World and Canadian Club Whiskey’, Pete Friesen. Friesen was Alice Cooper’s guitarist and so he had a bit of pedigree. I remember reading a Kerrang! interview with Ricky Warwick, where he waxed-lyrical about the technical know-how of Friesen with regards to guitar tuning. It was also around this time that I saw The Almighty for the very first time, at Donington Monsters of Rock 1992. My abiding memory of that day was that it was very wet, but it didn’t rain on The Almighty’s opening set.
The band premiered a new song from the upcoming new album, ‘Addiction’. I was blown away with how heavy it was, and how radical a change it was from songs on the previous 2 albums. Friesen obviously had an impact on the upcoming album and I was gutted to have to wait over 6 months, it wasn’t released until April 1993 to get my grubby little hands on it. I bought it on cassette, and I still have it to this day. To my everlasting joy, my version of Powertrippin’ also has the ‘bonus’ Donington live set on there.
Powertrippin’ has a different sound to it, it still features the trademark ‘slower’ songs, but it came out at the beginning of the ‘Grunge’ era, and the sound of the album is more akin to that than the previous hard rock from before. It is all the better for it. This is an album that is well worth an hour or so of your time.
In 1994. The Almighty changed record labels, and again there was a slight evolution of their sound. I remember buying this on the Saturday of its release, putting the cassette in my car stereo, driving home and, as I ejected the cassette, it caught in the stereo and the tape snapped. I immediately turned on the engine, drove back to the shops and bought a 2nd copy. It is worth it Crank is their 4th album and it is cracking. ‘Wrench’, ‘Jonestown Mind’ and ‘Crank and Deceit’ dominate a very good album. One of the funnier album reviews appeared in a UK newspaper, I forget which one, but it would appear the song, ‘Crank and Deceipt’ scared the reviewer a little, as he criticised the song as being, ‘expletive laden’ and gave it a very low review. The Almighty were not made for pop music reviewers.
It was this album that nearly got me into a fight, or more specifically, my ‘Jonestown Mind’ t-shirt, complete with the lyrics, ‘You’re the Jesus that didn’t get nailed’ emblazoned on the back. In a bar in Leicester, I was wearing this t-shirt when I got a tap on the shoulder with an older Gentleman who proceeded to tell me how offensive he found my t-shirt and explain what would happen if I didn’t take it off…….. instead a debate ensued around the lyrical content of the song and we parted with no aggression. Happy days!
In 1996, The Almighty released their 5th album, Just Add Life. Again, there was a slight evolution in their music, this time with Horns being added to some of the tracks. In truth, it works more than expected. ‘All Sussed Out’ is a fine song, full of quotable lyrics (“You can’t fight the power, if you ain’t got the power to fight”). It is another strong album for the boys, but alas, it marked the end of phase one of the band. Our intrepid heroes had attempted to break into the US Market earlier in their career, but to no avail, and, despite never having dropped the ball with the quality of music, they decided to call it a day and it was over.
Except it wasn’t. In 2000, the band reformed with Nick Parsons replacing Pete Friesen on guitar and the eponymous 6th album was released. I was genuinely excited when I read that a new album was coming out and immediately bought it on CD. I wouldn’t say that the album disappointed me, it has a handful of excellent tracks, ‘Broken Machine’ and ‘USAK 47’ totally hit the mark, closely followed by ‘White Anger Comedown’ and ‘I’m in Love (with Revenge), but for me, some of the old magic was gone. It didn’t have the same feel about it as the pre-split albums and it still has the feeling that The Almighty had lost their mojo.
The band then followed up with the 7th and, so far, final studio album in 2001, the quickest time between releases in the bands history. A new bassist was introduced, Gav Gray, replacing founder member, Floyd London. Psycho Narco was the name of the album and to this day, it remains the album I have listened to the least. Even on this retrospective, it is an album that just doesn’t excite me in the same way their earlier albums did. Perhaps this is because of my ever evolving musical taste, but perhaps it was because Ricky had outgrown the style of music that The Almighty had developed. It is no coincidence that his first proper solo album was an acoustic album. I may be guessing, but perhaps both Ricky and myself moved away from The Almighty at a similar time.
It was an absolute joy for me to listen to these albums again, for the first time in many years and it is somewhat disconcerting the sheer amount of lyrics I remembered and could sing along to. Below is my ranking of these albums and I would urge you to check them out if you can and let me know your thoughts.
- Soul Destruction
- Blood Fire and Love
- Just Add Life
- The Almighty
- Psycho Narco
- Find out more – Check out ‘Blood Fire and Live’, released prior to Soul Destruction
- Off the beaten track – Track down a copy of (Sic) – Eyeball Kicks EP for Ricky Warwick’s early solo material after the split of the band in 1996