“Life’s a bitch and then you die!”
NWOBHM veterans Vardis originally called it a day in 1986 before reforming in 2014. This album comes in the wake of the tragic death of their bass player Terry Horbury last year. Horbury had been with the band on and off since the early 1980’s and is replaced by Martin Connolly (ex- Rick Wakeman, Paul Fox). The cover art was painted by legendary horror artists Graham Humphries (Evil Dead, Death Waltz Recording Company) and features the band as disembodied heads (with red eyes of course) and Horbury is depicted, which serves as a fitting tribute to him.
I had the pleasure of playing a gig alongside the newly revived Vardis a couple of years ago (with the late Horbury on bass) and while they were great live, they did not have quite as much energy as they have on this album. Red Eye sees the band firing on all cylinders, blasting out ten tracks of Status Quo influenced rock with just a hint of Motorhead thrown in for good measure. Although they were part of the NWOBHM, they are more of a rock band than a heavy metal act. They do have their metallic moments though, such as the very metal drum intro to seventh track ‘Jolly Roger’.
While there are a few moments where frontman/guitarist Steve Zodiac’s voice show it’s age a little, on the whole, Red Eye more than stands up to today’s bands. The rhythm section of bassist Connolly and drummer Joe Clancy are as tight as any you’re likely to hear, and easily give younger bands a run for their money. The album benefits from a warm, clear production with plenty of bass while allowing room for each instrument to cut through the mix, which hasn’t been lost in the mastering process. Red Eye is a great example of a veteran power trio blasting out heavy rock with no bullshit attached.
Vardis are a band that are only too aware of the uncertain nature of life. They won’t be around forever, so catch them while you can, because you won’t either!
Red Eye is out now on Steamhammer/SPV