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Anthology Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

Few bands amid the overlooked throngs of New Wave of British Heavy Metal talent are as deserving of being unearthed for reassessment as the Channel Island's greatest treasure, Legend. Perhaps the ultimate underdogs within a movement that was virtually defined by said adage, Legend quietly assembled in the unlikeliest and remotest of locations, managed to record and tour behind two fine albums and one EP with no financial or promotional support, and left a legacy as enduring as any by contemporary also-rans such as Angel Witch or Witchfynde. It's therefore nothing short of thrilling to revisit these forgotten glories via 2002's two-disc Anthology -- which offers a lavish, informative and, most exciting of all, complete career wrap-up of Legend's original recorded output (new millennium comeback L.P. Still Screaming notwithstanding). As such, disc one kicks off with the band's rough-hewn, but surprisingly mature eponymous debut of 1981 -- a unique melding of Black Sabbath's inexplicably refined primitivism (typified by the lead-footed advance of "Hiroshima" and "Buried Alive") and the N.W.O.B.H.M.'s more energetic, post-punk aesthetic (as in the deliciously raucous "Bad Girl"). Next, four selections from 1982's Frontline EP (the original band's final official release) showcase evolving songwriting chops bringing them closer to hard rock, and highlighted by the forlorn ballad "Sabra & Chatila" and the near-perfect metal single "Stormers of Heaven." Disc two steps back in time just a bit to feature album number two, Death in the Nursery (also 1982), where Legend had begun to refine and simplify their compositions (witness career-topping efforts like "Anthrax Attack" and "Warrior") while simultaneously introducing both more mainstream and unconventional elements that infuse songs like "Choices" and "Prisoner" with funkier and other experimental accents. Although recorded as a four-piece following the departure of second guitarist Marco Morosimo, Death in the Nursery benefits from superior sound quality than its predecessor, and scuttles any doubts about the quality of singer Mike Lezala's versatile voice once and for all. It also serves as a veritable guitar hero coming-out-party for lead fret-slasher and main songwriter Peter Haworth, whose remarkable chops literally explode all over pyrotechnic tracks like "Lazy Woman" (including an "Eruption" like intro) and "Prologue" (featuring an incandescent barrage of ending licks reminiscent of Riot's underground classic "Overdrive"). Once this metallic mania finally concludes, Anthology wheels out another six, never before heard demos from a 1983 session that betray a significantly lighter, rockier approach than anything that had come before. But as well as being just demos, after all, this development is more unexpected than necessarily unsuccessful; a sign of potential songs yet to come which, sadly, never did. But all is well that ends well, and Legend's worthy contributions to the N.W.O.B.H.M. cause will thankfully live on, in great part thanks to this release.

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