When Vanadium unveiled their humble debut album, Metal Rock, in 1982, through the independent Durium label, there was no real Italian heavy metal scene to speak of, but there soon would be. Since forming in 1979, the Milanese quintet had been gradually developing a modern heavy metal sound derived from predominantly '70s-rooted influences, such as Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and Rainbow. These bands (and others, besides) belonged to a specific school of heavy metal where organ riffs and solos were showcased as aggressively the guitar's; and even though Vanadium were essentially adhering to that older tradition with the songs on Metal Rock, its musicians also exuded some of the youthful excitement and unbridled energy of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. For starters, singer Pino Scotto (formerly of hard rockers Pulsar) possessed a distinctive, gravelly voice that usually helped listeners overlook his far from perfect command of the English language, and the newly installed rhythm section of bassist Mimmo Prantera and drummer Lio Mascheroni held up against any foreign competition. But it was ultimately the hair-raising instrumental duels undertaken by keyboard player Ruggero Zanolini (a gifted Jon Lord disciple) and guitarist Claudio Acquini (himself a talented last-minute replacement for army-bound band founder Steve Tessarin) that fueled Ferrari-fast speedsters like "We Want Live Rock 'n' Roll," "I Never Lost Control," "Make Me Feel Better," and the stupendous "On Fire" into overdrive. And although Vanadium's songwriting instincts would flourish by leaps and bounds in very short order, additional heavy rockers like "Looking for Love" and "Running on the Road" were competent enough, and the closing ballad "Queen of the Night" was surprisingly well wrought and executed, so the only all-out stinker in evidence was the unimaginatively named "Heavy Metal" (originally the B-side of their debut single). Given all this, it's not inaccurate to pinpoint Metal Rock, and certainly Vanadium, as the crucial catalyst responsible for jolting Italy's heavy metal scene into second gear -- even though many of the groups that followed seemed reticent to admit as much.
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