Along with other acts such as Raven, Satan, Jaguar and Blitzkrieg, Mythra from the North East of England might as well bee seen as indirect forerunners of American speed metal outfits such as Exodus, Metallica and Slayer. In contrast to other groups from the North East active around the same time, for example Axe, who later turned into Fist, Vince High and his boys did show precious few similarities with seventies bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. Mythra’s sound was geared towards the future of metal, not re-visiting past hard rock glories.
Mythra were originally formed in South Shields in county Durham in 1978. Their »Death And Destiny« EP was originally issued in 1979 by Guardian Records (based in Pity-Me near Durham), and re-pressed by Street Beat Records a year later. Combined sales were rumoured to have reached the incredible mark of 20,000 copies. However, due to mismanagement no follow-up singles and no Mythra album was ever issued.
In February 2015, Mythra celebrated their comeback appearing live at Newcastle’s legendary Brofest. This was followed by the release of »Warriors Of Time«, the ultimate Mythra anthology containing all the band’s studio recordings plus five new songs written by the current band and recorded in June/July 2015.
It seemed to be only a matter of time until Mythra would come up with a brand new studio album. And indeed it was Vince High (vocals), Maurice Bates (bass), John Roach (guitar), Alex Perry (guitar) and Phil Davies (drums) who recorded »Still Burning« in October 2016. Technically speaking, »Still Burning« is the band’s debut album. “Yeah, that's right,” laughs vocalist Vince High. “It's the first time the band has gone into the studio and recorded a complete album all in one go. We flew out to Poland in October 2016 to work with Bart Gabriel as producer. It was a superb experience and we all had a great time working with him. We were totally blown away when High Roller Records signed us to record the album and cannot thank them enough. Their support has been incredible.”
Unlike a lot of NWOBHM bands, Mythra have reformed with mostly original members. “Phil is the only one who wasn't involved with the band first time around,” explains Vince High. “Maurice and I are the 'ever presents' and have been members of Mythra throughout. John left the band after we recorded the »Death And Destiny« EP in 1979 and was replaced by Mick Rundle. Mick played lead guitar on most of the tracks on what became the »Death And Destiny« album. Alex joined us after Mick's departure at the end of 1980. Line-up changes aside, we regard the four of us as being original members as we were all involved in the early days.”
»Still Burning« sounds like an autobiographical album title, so are Mythra still burning to make music and get out on that stage...? “Absolutely,” is Vince’s answer. “The words I wrote for the very first verse on our title track sums it all up: ‘Flame still burning, fever strong, temperature rising, can't be wrong, rhythm pounding, defining the song, live the moment, sing along.’"
Mythra enjoyed themselves so much on stage at Brofest 2015 that it seemed quite clear that there was going to be new studio material (eventually)... So was Newcastle the spark to re-ignite the band? “The promoters originally contacted me asking, if the band would reform for Brofest #2 in 2014,” explains Maurice Bates. “Work commitments made it impossible at that time but we were coaxed out of retirement for Brofest #3 the year after.” Alex Perry adds: ”We arrived very excited to do one performance and to 'put the record straight', so to speak. We left with a mountain of enthusiasm and the motivation to put the record straight again, but in a different way with new songs and more gigs... what a night!” Vince High sums up: “Doing Brofest #3 was very important to us and we were determined to give it everything. We made sure we were fully prepared and had rehearsed solidly in the months leading up to the gig. We were aware that fans travelled from across the world to attend Brofest and so, in paying respect to them, we wanted to make sure we were at our best and give them a performance they would enjoy and hopefully remember. The incredible reaction we received that night was so humbling and something I will never forget. That was definitely the spark that re-ignited us!”
Not many NWOBHM bands are very successful at recording a striking new studio album after so many years. But with»Still Burning« Mythra recorded a very strong record, it’s old school traditional metal but not sounding dated at all... “You have summed up perfectly what we were hoping to achieve with the new album,” smiles Vince High. “We wanted the 'all killer, no filler' approach: strong songs that stay true to our metal roots, but with a high quality, contemporary sound. The support of High Roller Records and Bart's excellent production has enabled us to achieve that.”
Mythra do have a unique sound, this shows (again) on »Still Burning«, but what constitutes the overall sound/style of the band? “When the »Death And Destiny« EP was recorded in 1979 we were playing up to three night a week on the pub and club scene in the North East of England,” knows Maurice Bates. “We started out by playing a lot of covers by rock bands from the early/mid 1970s which helped our playing and our sound. We gradually introduced our own songs into our sets. During this period there was also the punk explosion in the UK, the energy of which also influenced us.”
When Mythra put out the mentioned »Death And Destiny« EP, a lot of fans and critics compared the band to English proto speed metal outfits such as Raven, Jaguar and Satan. Did that comparison fit at all? “Great bands and all still going strong!”, comments Vince High. “When we went into the recording studio in 1979 to record our first (self-financed) EP we didn't know what to expect in terms of a reaction from metal fans and critics. Mythra were amongst the first of what came to be known as NWOBHM bands but we never compared ourselves to others. We were just kids and probably like most other young bands in that we just wanted to do our own thing and put some of our music out there to see where it could lead us. When Lars Ulrich put out his 10th Anniversary »1979 NWOBHM Revisited« compilation album in 1989, he wanted to include our track 'Death And Destiny' but he couldn't get the required permissions.”
Regarding the material on the new album Vince High states: “All of the tracks are brand new 2016 compositions, with the exception of 'Fundamental Extreme' which was written in 2001 when John and I put together a collection of demos. The words I wrote back then have remained more or less unaltered as they are still relevant to what's happening in the world at this very moment. It's basically an anti-terror song written in the same way as I wrote the words to our song 'Vicious Bastards' back in the late 1970s. It's asking our global decision-makers to ‘make your mind up and decide, your position you can't hide, from the violence many fear. It's black or it's white, wrong or it's right. There's no in-between’. Asking them: What you going to do about it? All of the tracks on the new album have messages, some of which are political. My main intention for all of the songs on the new album was to make those messages positive. In the track 'Silence In The Sirens' for example the verses refer to acts of terror and outrage but the ultimate message in the chorus is for silence no more... we need action! I just think it is so important to give positive messages, and messages of hope, as there is so much negativity in the world, and in people's individual lives, too.”
Unlike most NWOBHM bands, Mythra tend to spread political messages through their music once in a while. Vince High explains: “The words I write for Mythra songs fit into three categories, i.e. fantasy/escapist, social comment, and personal. The band are not political (and certainly not party political) but yes, my words do sometimes reflect what is happening in the world. When I wrote the words to 'England' back in the late 1970s it was basically to say let's stand together and respect one another irrespective of the colour of our skin. Not particularly clever words but definitely from the heart! I cannot say what motivates other bands to write the words to their songs as, for me, and for them too, lyrics are always a personal thing.”