|Hugely influential New Wave Of British Heavy Metal trio Vardis, who famously inspired metal giants such as Metallica and Megadeth, have signed to Steamhammer / SPV to release their first new studio album for 30 years, ‘Red Eye’, as a digipak CD (with 2 bonus tracks + poster), red vinyl LP (with printed inner sleeve and CD in paper sleeve) and download, on May 20th.
Vardis, who were formed in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, by vocalist / guitarist Steve Zodiac in 1973 at the age of 15, honed their craft down in the Working Men’s Club circuit of northern England, where anything less than total commitment was treated with no mercy. They quickly gained notoriety and a big live following due to their high energy, no holds barred performances, incorporating elements of blues, 70's Glam Rock and Heavy Metal with Zodiac's searing, untamed Telecaster sound.
They were soon snapped up by Logo Records, and their debut, (entirely live) album ‘100 M.P.H.’, (which famously ‘Guaranteed No Overdubs’), hit the top of the heavy metal chart and crashed in to the UK national album chart at 52 on release in 1980. Vardis then set off on tour with Hawkwind on their 33 date Levitation tour on 1980, reaching an ever wider audience along the way.
Following the release of their first studio album ‘The World’s Insane’, Vardis recorded their BBC Session for Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show and played the legendary Port Vale Heavy Metal Holocaust Festival in August 1981, alongside Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Marino’s Mahogany Rush, Triumph and Riot. The end of that year saw Logo release a compilation of Vardis singles and B-Sides, ‘Metal Power’.
Ignoring label pressure to be “more like Van Halen”, Vardis’ 1982 studio album, ‘Quo Vardis’ remained hard and fast but pushed the boundaries of heavy metal, incorporating saxophones, bagpipes and mandolins, plus featuring guest musicians such as Squeeze pianist Jools Holland & Status Quo’s Andy Bown on keyboards. This caused a certain amount of confusion amongst rock and metal journalists, who struggled to quantify the band’s sense of fun and experimentation, leading to mixed reviews from some of the established Heavy Metal press, alongside support from more open-minded journalists and DJs, with John Peel championing the trio’s direction on BBC Radio 1. The same year saw Zodiac proclaimed as one of the world’s top 15 rock guitarists by Sounds Magazine before Vardis embarked on a massive UK Tour with Slade.
But the band’s progress was halted in its tracks when Zodiac felt that he had been ripped off for most of his earnings and rights and took Vardis’ management and publishing companies to court, winning his songs back after a pyrrhic two-year battle. After Vardis released 1986’s stripped down, balls to the wall ‘Vigilante’ album, a vicious indictment of industry use and abuse of original artists, for the Raw Power label, Zodiac walked away from music for 30 years.
Then in March 2014, Zodiac began remastering the ‘Vigilante’ album, and to coincide with the re-release on Hoplite Records, he reunited the Zodiac / Horbury / Person line-up to headline Brofest II in England, going on to perform at festivals in the UK and Germany before an emotional homecoming show at Unity Hall, Wakefield, where it all began. After the warm reception of fans at the reunion shows, Zodiac and bassist Terry Horbury not only felt at the top of their game, but that they had more gears to hit, and so decided to continue.
Recruiting the dynamic powerhouse drummer Joe Clancy, who had spent the previous ten years in Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith’s side project Blues Band, Vardis set to work on their first new material since 1986. Steve Zodiac recalls that “Reuniting after a 30 year hiatus was a leap in the dark, but the response has been tremendous. Terry, Joe and I have hit upon a creative chemistry that makes me as excited to be recording the 5th Vardis album as I was cutting our first demos in ’76.
After the tragic death of bass player Terry Horbury from cancer in December last year, the band recruited Martin Connolly (ex- Rick Wakeman, Paul Fox, Entire Population of Hackney) and played their first successful show with the new line up at last years’ Up The Hammers Festival in Greece.
Steve Zodiac comments: “We are very lucky to be able to welcome Martin Connolly to the band. Despite knowing Vardis would continue, after losing Terry so suddenly it took some time before we could consider playing with another bassist. By the time we were ready, the job required someone with the musicianship and experience not only to maintain the power of our live shows but to form a tight chemistry quickly. After just one rehearsal we knew we wouldn’t need to see anyone else, Martin is a top bassist and has brought a new dimension and fresh energy to Vardis as we rebuild to get the show back on the road this year. Thank you all for your support and patience, we are proud to rock on with you in tribute to a man whose life was music.”
Vardis, who are set to star at the Hard Rock Hell Road Trip in Ibiza on May 12th, Scotland’s Wildfire Festival on June 26th and Hard Rock Hell NWoBHM’s ‘The Xmas Rocka’ at Sheffield’s 02 Academy on December 3rd, promise more UK dates in the pipeline.