How could we fit the following terms all in the same text: Tom Jones, Manowar, a computer and Judas Priest? Could we add some teenage sketches and an obscure label as also the death of the band’s manager? Let’s make it even spicier. Let’s talk about a live recording with brand new unreleased songs that will be released as a studio album. Or something like that. Either way, let’s allow the events evolve without any other introductions and especially without letting the truth get lost between the lines and spoil the story…

We are in 1986 and Cloven Hoof are in a rather difficult phase. Although their releases had returned some profit, the reviews were excellent and their legend grew day by day, at the same time, David Potter had left his singing position (to join the French gods H-Bomb), the genre they served had started dying and the death of their former manager, David Hemmings, created legal issues with the record companies and their copyrights. As a machine god, the owner of the obscure label Moondancer Records from Birmingham came up front and showed the green light for the release of a live album that would basically become a regular studio one featuring unreleased tracks. It’ll be no exaggeration to say that without this record, Cloven Hoof would have disbanded.

Truthfully now, how much ‘live’ was ‘Fighting Back’? With the memories of the crowd and the Press being still vivid, with the rumors that Priest’s ‘Unleased In The East’ was tampered with, the poor production of ‘Fighting Back’ makes the entire result seem untrue. Let’s not forget that we are talking about 30+ years ago with the technology being in a relatively early phase in the use of computers. The producers were experimenting and the musicians were fascinated by the new technologies and their potential. The notorious Iron Maiden would add synthesizers, inaugurating ‘the sound from the future’ with the futuristic guitars that sounded like Heavy Metal of the new century… Judas Priest in ‘Turbo’ also uses these ‘tampered-with’ drums in the studio marking the time with plastic / disco drums. But the thing is that they came second after Cloven Hoof, who on the prompt of their drummer Kevin Pountney, launched the midi drums. At the same time, in addition to their drums and their ‘fake’ sound, the crowd (and its screams), due to the wrong positioning of the microphones, can be found in the background of the live recording. Of course we have to think that the audience wouldn’t / couldn’t have reacted the way we’d expect, since the tracks were essentially played for the first time…

Regardless of the sound issues, the compositions, which are in the centre of our interest, are at an extraordinary level once again. Lee Payne is the man of the next door but at the same time the N.W.O.B.HM blue collars’ hero. And as a typical everyday person, he listened to his mother’s advice and added to the track listing a cover of Tom Jones’ ‘Daughter Of Darkness’. A not-so-weird-after-all choice, as this particular artist had been charming his colleagues for a long time. Let me remind you of Bruce Dickinson and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band with ‘Delilah’ , while in 2000 Tony Iommi during the recording of his first album as IOMMI was looking for Jones to sing a track while many times he expressed his desire for a future cooperation in several interviews. The voice of the new Hoof singer, Rob Hendrick, also played an important role in the success of this cover. Having served in Trapeze and Budgie, his voice reminded us of that of Glen Hughes and fitted perfectly with Payne’s tracks. His skills with the guitar inspired Payne to use the twin guitars that gave birth to the epic and highly Maiden-ish ‘Reach For The Sky’. And while the tracks that stand out are the ‘Eye of the Sun’ – which will appear later on the 2006 album, likewise ‘Reach For The Sky’ and ‘The Fugitive’ were found in their next album, ‘Dominator’ – the two aforementioned tracks and ‘Raised on Rock’, the track that stigmatizes the album is ‘Heavy Metal Men of Steel’. With a title that could have been a Manowar inspiration, Lee Payne leaves his adolescent readings of the legendary Conan to take the form of a N.W.O.B.H.M. self-directional (to the band itself) anthem (and the concept of Earth, Fire, Water, Wind) that even though has a typical chorus, it sticks to your mind forever.

The album’s cover is adorned by Payne’s scetch, with a barbarian warrior attacking everyone who stands in his way. Just like the band stood and attacked everything that threatened its well – being. Even though the next years would be way kinder to Cloven Hoof, unfortunately, this would be the one and only time we would listen to Rod Hendrick, Steve Rounds (guitars) and Kevin Poutney (drums) before this great lineup drifted apart, without (thankfully) damaging the band itself. Purchase this release with your eyes closed whenever you find it available, especially that celebratory release that came out by the Brazilian label Classic Metal (30th Anniversary Edition) that came with a 12-page booklet with lyrics, photographs, newspaper scraps and a great poster.