The history of English band Quartz dates back to the early Seventies where they rode the wave of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Recognized mostly in their native land, their larger claim to fame was being signed to the legendary Jet Records label, and having their self-titled debut album (1977) produced by none other than Sabbath's Tony Iommi. Quartz would go on to open for or tour with Black Sabbath and other period heavyweights like UFO, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Rush, among others. They also released two additional before disbanding in 1983.
With Too Hot To Handle Skol Records reaches back to those final years to resurrect the band's music. To be clear, this is not an album of new music. It's actually their last album Against All Odds with five additional unreleased tracks recorded between 1981 and 1982. It's curious that the title of this compilation and the song itself is also the name of a quite famous UFO song, Too Hot To Handle.
With one look I had high expectations. However, what I found is that Quartz reminded me of the post-Schenker UFO era around the time of Mechanix and Making Contact. This is not to say that Quartz "sounds" like that great band, just that I was struck with some familiarity. Unfortunately, that period UFO wasn't all that interesting, and I'm almost constrained to say the same of Quartz's music.
Basically, this is English melodic hard rock of that era, infused with a slight metal edge. A simple spin finds that Quartz was big on melody and harmony, a solid rock groove, sharp riffs and ambitious leads, and clean harmonious vocals, with more than a few catchy hooks. There are some of those heavier, more metal, songs with Hard Road, Silver Wheels, or It's Hell Livin' Without You, for example. That last song is just one that gave me the UFO deja vu, where both bands could inject speed and heaviness into the groove, all the while offering a catchy chorus and rippin' lead guitar solos. Additionally, I'm not quite sure how to characterize the production. It's clear, but there's also something subdued or muted about it as well.
To that this music sounds old is probably unfair. To say that it sounds like music of that early Eighties period, UFO or otherwise, is likely better. Which makes me wonder if the only people who will fancy this album are the fifty-something (or older) white males who there, back in the day, like me.
Quartz's Too Hot To Handle offers us both a glimpse into the band's music and later years, but also a portal in history of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
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