UNSUNG HEROES: The firepower of Algy Ward’s TANK – a shell by shell review.

Straddling first wave punk and NWOBHM like the boss he is, Algy Ward confounded the press and scene police in the 80s with his pre-crossover project TANK, a band that would release several unsung ‘bang your head to ‘orrible room reverb’ classics, before eventually fracturing and reforming into two identically named and logo using groups, who hated each others guts. But which is better? TANK…..or TANK? Only one way to find out – fiiiiiight! Long time fan and OMM writer Swag comes out swinging on behalf of Algy’s TANK, and gives a run down on each release. You think you can….kick me out of the band?

Article by Swag

I discovered Tank when they supported Motorhead at Birmingham Odeon on the 1982 ‘Iron Fist’ tour.

I guess I’d read about them in Kerrang ! and was already aware of Algy Ward as I owned and worshipped ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ by The Damned. (A unique album by any standards and bloody brilliant all the way through).

That’s the same Algy Ward that had been in The Saints, presumably where The Damned discovered his talents.

That’s The Damned who dismiss Algy in one sentence in the recently released official story of The Damned film as “an alcoholic who wouldn’t open his guitar case until you gave him a bottle of whisky”. Those cunts.

This is at a time in the UK of musical tribes which worked against Tank at the time I believe. To me the band were great, but fell between the 2 stools of punk and metal which at the time was considered a crime by many ! Not until ‘crossover’ could you get away with this.

As with many new metal bands of the early 80’s they struggled with press comparisons to previous rock or metal heavyweights – in Tank’s case the aforementioned Motorhead. 

Of course, apart from being a 3 piece metal band in leathers they were a different proposition altogether – far more punky and snotty. Not better or worse than Motorhead, just different. In fact the main similarity in my view was that both bands were fuckin ace, and they were an ideal support band for Lemmy and Co……

A classic….

FILTH HOUNDS OF HADES L.P. (1982).

So, I wanted to get hold of their debut album urgently and got it, pleased to see there was a sticker on the cover proclaiming a ‘free single from the Motorhead/Tank European tour 81/82’ would be enclosed. Like the young fool I was I thought this meant it would have tracks from Tank AND Motorhead on it !

Tank at this initial stage was the mighty Algy on bass/vocals and the Brabbs brothers, Peter and Mark, on guitar and drums respectively. And they’ve roped in Fast Eddie Clarke to produce the album (along with Will Reid Dick engineering), who does a wicked job as the LP has a great dynamic sound.

Simply put, a better opening to an album you will be hard pressed to find. A tribal chant gives way to Algy bellowing “Wakey wakey !” and the all time classic ‘SHELLSHOCK’, a perfect Damned/Motorhead hybrid – dirty, ramshackle and blistering ! 

No gap, straight into another breakneck paced treat ‘STRUCK BY LIGHTNING’. God, what a racket for a 3 piece – high energy stuff ! Foot off the gas a but here as a low bass rumble takes us into ‘RUN LIKE HELL’, but we’re soon into ‘BLOOD, GUTS AND BEER’, which kicks off with a cracking riff. Still mid-paced but a much better proposition…”What’s inside me? Blood, guts and beer !” THAT’S WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF’ finishes side one (opening line “Her love is like dragging yer balls across barbed wire…”) -ace riff and Algy’s rough as fuck vocals sounding well lived in !

The first single from the album (2nd single overall) ‘TURN YOUR HEAD AROUND’ is a furious start to side 2. Very fast, very ‘eavy ! Next it’s ‘HEAVY ARTILLARY’ with its fist pumping chorus “Therse are your orders – you must obey ! Heavy aaaarrtillaarrryyyyyyyy !” The war theme from the soldiers point of view a constant feature through all the albums. A very strange an inventive riff shows a bit of style and dexterity on the next track ‘WHO NEEDS LOVE SONGS’ – quite a departure and very effective, and segueing perfectly into THE TITLE TRACK via Algy bellowing “Bizzy Lizzy let’s get busy !” from a kids TV show I vaguely remember from the early 70’s. Another great track – “We’re the Filth Hounds ! You bet your ass !”

The album finishes with the fantastic second single to be chosen ‘(HE FELL IN LOVE WITH A) STORMTROOPER’ as showcased on Hazel O’Connor’s tea time drama ‘Jangles’ at a prime time kids slot (twice as it was repeated). I remember trying to tape it with my flat cassette recorder with external microphone pointed at the TV speaker, until I realised they were miming to the record !

And so to the free single. ‘DON’T WALK AWAY’ (live in Dusseldorf) on the A.side. Not a favourite of mine and surprisingly a studio version not on the album was released as the debut single. An odd choice I reckon. And this live version is no more exciting for the fact that it was “recorded live on Dieter Dierks mobile unit”….. Algy’s rough arsed vocals carry the tune though.

However, the real treat is on the flip. I have to confess that the majesty of The Pink Fairies was still a year or 2 away from gracing my ears, so I weas not aware of their amazing track ‘THE SNAKE’, but once I had heard it, I was still convinced that this fantastic punked/metalled up version still gives the original a run for it’s money – the speedy chugging riff done even faster and the cataclysmic ending unparalled for sheer bombast. Top notch ! This SHOULD NOT have been hidden away on a limited edition free 7″ !!!

Subject: Tank 2 – ’81/’82 singles and Friday Rock Show session.

DON’T WALK AWAY E.P. (1981)

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The title track, although not a classic Tank cut in my opinion, is a far more dynamic version than the live track on the free 7″ with the debut LP. It’s a banging version and Algy is on fucking fire vocally to say the least !

Next up is the track that should have been the A. side. The track that could potentially have kicked the doors open (or dynamited them !) for the band from the off (who makes these decisions…fume !!) – ‘SHELLSHOCK’. A smack to the face and maybe their best track ever ! Fast, furious, drunken, violent…the fucking business. I struggle not to smash the bastard room up when this is on ! Bass, drums and guitar all going mental and I’m so glad they had the sense to keep this raw take and release it, and not polish up the timing. It sounds utterly live, just about staying on the right side of the very edge of chaos. RIGHT ON THE FUCKING EDGE. Much the same as when The Damned (with Algy) played ‘Smash It Up’ and ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’ on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Almost up there with is next track ‘HAMMER ON’ on here – never on an album ! Fucking criminal ! 

A wild drunken hard as nails classic relegated to the B. side of an EP !! This sounds like it was recorded first take and no overdubs, but captured brilliantly. As it should be …”you betcha !”

They sound just on the right side of drunk and lairy on these 2 tracks – this kinda racket could not be made without a ton of booze I imagine.

‘TURN YOUR HEAD AROUND’ 7″ (1982).

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Same recording as the debut album, but sounds better on a 7″. B.side, ‘STEPPIN’ ON A LANDMINE’,  is a substandard 

plodder, lacking a good hook or chorus, Tank trademarks, and was wisely left off the LP.

‘(HE FELL IN LOVE WITH A) STORMTROOPER’ 7″ (1982).

————————————————————————-

Same cracking version as on the ‘Filth Hounds…’ LP I think. Lovely pic disc  with the utterly great Tank logo (the best band logo of all times perhaps?). As previously mentioned, they got on teatime TV with this. A deserved single choice. A well recorded live version of ‘BLOOD, GUTS AND BEER’ is on the flip.

TOMMY VANCE FRIDAY ROCK SHOW SESSION (1982).

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Available on youtube. T.V. was an early convert to Tank and supported them throughout their 5 album run.

Tracks played: HAMMER ON/DON’T WALK AWAY/HEAVY ARTILLARY/STORMTROOPER.

It’s a great rough and ready set benefitting great production. Including the sublime ‘Hammer On’, and topped off by a brilliant 6 minute version of ‘Stormtrooper’, a track I could listen to all day.

‘CRAZY HORSES’ 7″ (1982).

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“Waaaaaaaaaaaa….waaaaaaaaaaa” bang ! bang ! bang ! bang ! bang ! bang ! What a row ! Brilliant and pisses all over the album version.  I’m not going to say it’s better than the original but it’s an ace heavier version all the same. And guess what, another FANTASTIC track hidden away nowhere else but a B. side ! ‘FILTH BITCH BOOGIE’ (nice…). Shoulda been on the ‘Power Of The Hunter’ LP as it’s way better than most of the tracks on there. And it contains one of the best false endings you’ll hear.

Opening line 

“WHO NEEDS LOVE WHEN ALCOHOL IS GOOD ENOUGH” sets the scene to the eyebrow raising (let’s leave it at eyebrows!) chorus 

“SHE DON’T MIND WHO’S BIT SHE’S CHEWING SHE’S UP ALL NIGHT DOING THE FILTH BITCH BOOGIE” !!

POWER OF THE HUNTER (1982).

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2nd album in a year. The Brabbs brothers are still in place .

No Eddie Clarke at the production helm this time, but Nigel Gray does an equally good job. He also produced the 3rd Girlschool LP this year, but was better known for producing the 1st 3 Police albums !

 A great chugging start – ‘WALKING BAREFOOT OVER GLASS’ – couldn’t be anyone else but Tank.

Algy’s vocals sound like he’d been gargling glass !

Second up it’s ‘PURE HATRED’, which is a below par number and the first indication that putting two albums out in one year

is inevitably going to lead to a drop in quality on occasion. Not a great deal going for the next track either, ‘BITING AND SCRATCHING’. A nice little riff does show off Pete’s dexterity a bit and has a catchy chorus, and Algy’s vocals are raspy as fuck – just how I like em ! It does plod along a bit though. ‘SOME CAME RUNNING’ sounds a bit tired, then at last a fast paced number, the instrumental ‘T.A.N.K.’ – I could see this going down well live….heads down no nonsense stuff.

Side Two is overall far better. ‘USED LEATHER (HANGING LOOSE)’ begins with a deceptively mellow intro before giving way to a thudding slowburner. Mean shit to be sure. This track sums up what Tank were, at their best, during this early period. A punk/metal minimal 3 piece with solid verses and memorable, shouted chorus’s.

Next it’s the Osmonds cover of ‘CRAZY HORSES’. Not a patch on the single version (see later). A cracker though, with Algy’s gruff delivery and clanking bass giving it the Tank stamp.

The charmingly titled ‘SET YOUR BACK ON FIRE’ chugs along nicely, with prolific and clear as a bell use of the word ‘motherfucker’ and lyrics like “I’ll blow a can of gasoline…only for a laugh !” no doubt keeping it off Tommy Vance’s playlist…

‘RED SKULL ROCK’ picks the pace up and then the best track, THE TITLE TRACK, is at the end. Starting with an Algy bellow “Hold on to your toupees !” a kick ass rumbling riff and a blinding chorus.. Algy: “Feel the power of the hunter!” Band: “Feel the power !” over and over. Fist in the air mayhem !

So, a definitely a markedly weaker LP than the debut, but I still find myself nodding my head, shouting out the chorus’s and punching the air during most of the tracks. A few crackers dotted throughout still making it an essential purchase for a Filth Hound. I guess to sum up, the LP overall is a great noise. They totally have their own sound. Perhaps some of the weaker verses are the main negative. Criticism at the time suggested they needed to fill out the sound with a second guitarist. Something needed to change to move the band forward for sure., but as a fan I was worried they then might use their unique sound with another guitar. Is this the beginning of the end? Thankfully, the best is yet to come…….!

‘THIS MEANS WAR’ (1983).

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Up until now all Tank releases had been on Kamaflage records, whose only other signings appear to have been Kerrang! cover stars Baron Rojo, Tytan and Bernie Torme (previous punk and more recently fresh from Ian Gillan’s band). Minor successes for early Kamaflage releases by Bernie Torme’s debut metal album (number 50-weeks on chart, 3) and Tank’s debut (number 33 – weeks on chart, 5) were all they had, so it was no surprise that they went ponto.

Thankfully Algy had found a home with one of the most prolific metal labels of the next few years, Music For Nations.

Third album and third producer – this time John Verity and as before, the producer done good.

But this album was a radical departure from former glories and otherwise. All tracks were credited to the whole band as previously, but there’s a new name added. A 2nd guitarist is now in the fold. Mick Tucker from NWOBHM band White Spirit is in, and a different kettle of fish is on this platter…..

Tommy Vance’s ears were on for sure and he played what I think are the best 2 tracks on his show in the ensuing weeks (the title track and ‘Echoes Of A Distant Battle’).

I vaguely recall that Algy issued a press statement at the time of release proclaiming that the tracks on this new album would rival Rainbow’s ‘Rising’ LP for epic compositions ! Well that had 6 tracks on and the new Tank album had 7 so in length the tracks certainly aren’t far off. (The previous Tank albums both had 10 tracks on).

First track starts with a keyboard intro….very bloody worrying ! But it’s a false alarm as it soon mutates into a heavy fast beat with an Algy scream,. That’s better. This is ‘JUST LIKE SOMETHING FROM HELL’. It’s a fantastic opener and the sound is noticeably fuller. It soon becomes clear that the foray into tongue-in-cheek (!) smut is out now and there’s only one topic………….War !!!! (from the point of view of the man in the trenches / at the front line).

As it fades out, the next track fades in…’HOT LEAD COLD STEEL’ ! A heavy and driving drum beat with a fantastic riff. The production actually comes across as a bit muddy, but it suits the trench warfare vibe perfectly. 

Next…well…let’s just say One Of The Best Metal Tracks Ever shall we? Jesus wept, what a classic THE TITLE TRACK is !

If this doesn’t get your toes tapping, your head banging and your gob sneering you’re a fucking new romantic ! When I first heard Thermos The Flask, Sorry !  Thomas The Vance play this I couldn’t believe it’s awesome power ! It’s a long track (only 3 tracks on side one) but I could listen to that riff, chorus and mob terrace backing vocals for hours !

Side 2 starts with a blasting intro like Tank at the top of their game – ‘LAUGHING IN THE FACE OF DEATH’ powers ahead with relentless riffing and drumming with Algy lamenting the soldiers fate in the heat of battle.

‘(IF WE GO) WE GO DOWN FIGHTING’ is another mob shoutathon and the first of 2 tracks that don’t hit the mark like the other 5. There are a few keyboard washes in the mix during the verses and the guitar breaks are a little unimaginative, but after the previous 4 tracks you need to go and make a cuppa and calm down anyway ! To be fair a flashy solo would probably undermine the primal vibe anyway. The breather from the mayhem continues with ‘I (WON’T EVER LET YOU DOWN)’ and whilst the chorus is totally ‘Tank-sorted’, it’s a bit pedestrian, although it still pummels the listener with a pounding rhythm section and rolls forward with sheer intent, despite the brief interlude it offers from the war theme.

Finally, the first track T.V. played when the album was released (and released as a 12″ single) and a fucking corker to finish –

‘ECHOES OF A DISTANT BATTLE’. Heroic vocals, dang dang danging bass line and a fantastic drum sound (evident on the whole album). A Tank choral trademark of call and response from him and the band….a winning formula !

Algy bellowing “Where are they coming from?!!?” 

Mob chorus: “Echoes ! Of a distant battle ! Echoes !”

A chant that stays in your head for weeks once heard ! 

Playing this album again now I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clenched my fist and punched the air just like I did 37 years ago, Haha ! It never gets old.

The album ends with some crazy tribal chanting that should have started the LP

God I wish I’d seen them play at this stage in their career. However it transpires that not many did, as almost immediately after the release there were more line up hassles. This lead to a short hiatus for the band.

Of course Kerrang! scoffed at the ‘Rising’ comparison, but who needs Rainbow (of more later !!!) when you’ve got this classic !

All the early promise of the first albums has resulted in this amazing opus. Gawd knows how Algy hit on this original formula of no frills genius but certainly at this stage no one but a tone deaf tosser could suggest they were a 2nd rate Motorhead now (not that they ever were).

Of course, like most great metal albums, this didn’t catapult them to stardom as it would in a decent world..no…too grimy…dirty…too real…no attempt to write a ‘hit’…..

‘HONOUR AND BLOOD’ (1984).

—————————————-

Still a 4 piece here but a different 4 piece ! The Brabbs boys have gone, and in their place joining Algy and Mick Tucker were Mick’s former colleague in White Spirit, Graeme Crallen at the drum stool, and one Cliff Evans on guitar.

Thankfully the band have held on to their deal with Music For Nations  

The band themselves are credited as producers on this one, and as previous albums, the production is up to scratch.

This album also starts with a keyboard intro, but I’m wiser now and sure enough it isn’t long before it gets battered by the punishing supercharged riff of ‘THE WAR DRAGS EVER ON’. This track would have fitted seamlessly on the last album, (and again it’s 7 long tracks on here.) Algy’s vocals remain gravel garglingly great !

‘WHEN ALL HELL FREEZES OVER’ follows, and is slower and more deliberate. Another fist in the air bellowing chorus of the title – no frills balls to the wall heavy rock.

Highlight time now as THE TITLE TRACK kicks in. This is prime time Tank. Easily up there with the very best of their tunes.

This is a track to bang your head clean off to ! This has everything – pace, fantastic chorus and verses, a blinding riff, everything firing on all cylinders !

So far so great. 

Side 2 though, is a disappointment.

A cover of Aretha Franklin’s ‘CHAIN OF FOOLS’ is hit and miss, although there’s a great solo.

Fair play to them on next track ‘WASTING MY LIFE AWAY’ trying something new. Algy comes on all gothic Dave Vanian for this one, a goddamn rock ballad as it happens. It’s not bad at all actually.

The third track in a row about love (shock, horror), ‘TOO TIRED TO WAIT FOR LOVE’ is a faster paced heavy number, again it’s not amazing, but the growl sees it through. Mind you, he’s almost ‘singing’ on this and the last track at times, which is a new one !

Final track ‘KILL’ although returning to the bands favourite topic, does little to return things to the glory of side 1, but it’s bog standard Tank again which is good enough for me.

From memory, this release barely registered in the music papers, even the metal press, and I didn’t see any interviews. Their public profile was practically nil, at least in the UK, now. They were dropped from MFN and Graeme left……

‘TANK’ (1987).

——————

Recorded with the same line up as previously, notwithstanding new drummer Gary Taylor from Accrington’s mighty Buffalo (see ‘Cold As Night’ for a highlight of the Heavy Metal Heroes compilation LP). Funnily enough Gary was a dead ringer for Mark Brabbs !

Algy is credited with keyboards on this album, so presumably he played them on the other records too.

Thankfully another big independent rock label, GWR, have picked the band up, and again the band are credited with production duties.

An eerie keyboard intro (yes ! Another album starting with keyboards !) leads…BANG !….into ‘REIGN OF THUNDER’ with a trademark Algy war cry. What’s immediately noticeable is that this album seems to be cut significantly louder than the others.

A powerful number for sure, and leading into ‘MARCH ON SONS OF NIPPON’ which thunders in and grinds slowly along like a tank about to conk out (how apt). It’s a good track though, with Algy/ band call and response chorus.

Next is the very mediocre ‘WITH YOUR LIFE’. Here’s one filler you could never imagine them playing live. As always with tracks such as this, Algy’s growling vocals save it from the dumpster….

‘NONE BUT THE BRAVE’ finishes the side. A bit of an improvement but still below par, the insistent riff saving the day.

Side Two’s ‘THE ENEMY BELOW’ is another typical mid-paced Tank cut but they are just cruising here. Nowt wrong with it though, and the solo pricks the ears up.

Then by Tank standards a bit of a ballad, ‘LOST’. The production on this album doesn’t suit a track like this, and it’s not a strong number anyway.

‘(THE HELL THEY MUST) SUFFER’ bangs along on a marching beat, and again benefits from some great guitar playing.

Final track ‘IT FELL FROM THE SKY’ is another unremarkable effort I’m afraid.

The production is a bit muddier on this album, but on the other hand, a sparkly production would possibly have taken away the raw edge of the band and it’s subject matter.

Still an enjoyable album, but the weakest of the 5.

Any hope of me seeing Tank play in Birmingham, or even the UK, was dashed once again as a letter I’d received from Algy, (on ‘Tank’ headed notepaper !) in response to me writing to the Filth Hounds fan club, explains he is once again auditioning guitarists, (so presumably this is when Algy fell out with Cliff and Mick)., he hopes to tour with a new band in ‘”88/89″ and that no merch was currently available. He did send me a sticker though !

After this the story gets messy. The band split and Algy  is involved with other bands like ATOMGODS and NECROPOLIS.

I saw Atomgods at the Bob Calvert Memorial all dayer at Brixton Academy and I’m fairly certain Algy was in the band then, but can’t be sure. I wasn’t actually aware that Algy had joined them at that stage, and the place weas full of dry ice.

There are various brief reformations that Algy puts together and compilations and live albums. 

Unfortunately, whilst Algy is in ill health, it seems that Cliff and Mick put together a new line up of Tank, tour all over the world, release new studio albums, play tracks live and on record that were made by Algy before they were even in the band. Use the original logo on merch and sell cd’s of albums released before they even joined. Even an ex-Rainbow vocalist, one Doogie White, sings for the band for 3 years !

Tank was clearly Algy’s band from day one. 

Algy is furious quite rightly in my opinion.

Eventually he gets well enough to record his own Tank album in 2013 (‘BREATH OF THE PIT’), a total solo project with all songs written, performed and all instruments played by Algy.

The thanks list is littered with medical specialists (orthopaedic, oncologist, audiologist, physiotherapist) medical centres and 3 hospitals. He’s clearly been very unwell.

The album sounds very different to Tank in some ways, but it is EXTREMELY powerful and fast from beginning to end, and for the most part the war theme remains. (He’s also not long released another album that I’m yet to hear).

There are some very telling lyrics on ‘Breath Of The Pit’.

The track ‘Crawl Back Into Your Hole’ contains these words……

‘They don’t care what they’ve done to me.

But I still have my dignity

So why can’t they change the name of my band

To another?

Sick of their lies totally

They’re devoid of integrity

Like an unwanted child

That you know you just have to smother.

Haven’t got the guts to go out on their own

Without my name they’re unknown

Crawl back into your hole

When it’s killing time

They know who is going to suffer’.

Unambiguous or what??!!??

Also the track ‘Retribution’ contains these lines…

Anyone would’ve thought,

That I would’ve died for you

Anyone would’ve thought,

You were a bunch of fucking cunts.

To end then, a great band. And much love, respect and good health to Algy Ward. A man whose work I have respected all my life.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/tank-algy-ward-official-fan-page-the-real-filth-hounds-56523431497/

https://www.tankofficial.com/band

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