Red Eye was always going to be a bitter/sweet album for me to review. 1985 saw the release of Vardis’ last studio album Vigilante and the following year saw them split. I’ve been a fan since 1979 so I was ecstatic when they finally got together again about 3yrs ago and their return to the live stage a few months later at the Brofest 2014 NWOBHM festival showed they were still a well oiled machine.
An E.P titled 200MPH containing live tracks and 2 brand new studio compositions whetted our appetites last summer for an upcoming studio album Red Eye which is now with us, released today via SPV/Steamhammer Records. Tragically, not long after it was recorded, bass player Terry Horbury passed away 6 months ago after a very short illness and he has left a fitting legacy behind. The first play of the album went by on an adrenaline rush and it took a second and third play until I could get my reviewing head on.
Founder member Steve Zodiac who formed the band in 1973 seems to have turned his guitar right up to 11 and beyond and delivers some unashamed histrionics from start to finish, point proven by album opener ‘Red Eye’ as he delivers a huge grinding riff on a slow burning groove that eases the album in with a raucous Billy Gibbons like solo midway. The ZZ Top vibe continues with following track and first single off the album ‘Paranoia Strikes’ as the opening guitar lines bring to mind ‘Waiting For The Bus’. Once again, the solo kicks hard. Vardis were never classed as a heavy metal band in the NWOBHM genre and are more blues rock, point proven by the catchy but heavy ‘I Need You Now’.
‘The Knowledge’, which featured on the 200MPH E.P is more rawer here with Steve pushing his voice and guitar solos as Terry and drummer Joe Clancy provide a heavy duty backing rhythm. The couplet of “Hit you with a left, I’ll hit you with a right, hit you with an uppercut, I’m gonna put up a fight” sums up the knockout blows of the riffing in ‘Lightning Man’ as it closes with a full on headbanging finish. Dynamics hit hard during ‘Back To School’, a joyous rock and roll romp. ‘Jolly Roger’, also from the 200MPH E.P has also been given a good kicking as this rollicking shanty has 2 in your face guitar solos amongst the power chords with some serious pounding from Joe.
‘Head Of The Nail’ is almost Country & Western, albeit dominated by a huge riff which brings the song kicking and screaming into rock territory. Guitar fanatics will revel in Steve’s intense slide work throughout ‘Hold Me’ as the album draws to a close with ‘200MPH’ which is basically a warts and all take on their early 80’s number ‘100MPH’ and surprisingly out heavies the original. It is basically a 7 minute guitar solo, which is not a bad thing really! There is a nice little outro left in at the end of the song in the studio with Terry and Steve cracking jokes.
2 bonus tracks include a full on boogie run through of ‘Living Out Of Touch’, another early 80’s live favourite, another oldie beefed up to the max which leaves ‘200MPH reprise’, a wah wah drenched slowed down ending to the original which melts your head played through headphones!
Vardis‘ next UK gig will be at the Wildfire Festival in Biggar, Scotland that runs from the 24th-26th June 2016 with new bassist Martin Connolly. Red Eye is available in the following formats, a DigiPak CD that includes 2 bonus tracks and a poster, a red vinyl album with printed inner sleeves and the CD in a paper sleeve and thirdly, a digital download version.
Album track listing :-
I Need You Now.
Back To School.
Head Of The Nail.
Living Out Of Touch (bonus track).
200MPH Reprise (bonus track.
Vardis band line up :-
Steve Zodiac – Guitar/vocals.
Joe Clancy – Drums.
Martin Connolly – Bass guitar (Terry Horbury plays on the album).