With just four compilation tracks and one 7" EP issued in the early 1980s, Hollow Ground did have a rather low profile at the time of the original New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. However, their first and only single »Flying High« (issued on the collectable Guardian Records label) became an instant collector's item. Today copies with the scarce picture sleeve fetch rather insane prices. Before the release of the single Hollow Ground had recorded the four songs 'Rock On', 'Fight With The Devil', 'Flying High' and 'The Holy One' for the Guardian compilation album »Roksnax« (the album was re-issued on CD via Cherry Red Records/British Steel in 1996). Hollow Ground carried on to record more material (such as 'Promised Land', 'Easy Action', 'Rock To Love' or 'Loser') but an album deal was not on the cards. As a result singer Glenn Coates left to join local rivals Fist and Hollow Ground split up in mid-1981.
In comparison to some of the more conservative-sounding New Wave Of British Heavy Metal acts at the time (for example Fist), Hollow Ground did show a lot of promise. Guitarist Martin Metcalf knows why: “I think we had a wider range of influences as opposed to just heavy bands, we took things from all over the rock spectrum. We were like sponges soaking everything up, from the funk of Aerosmith, the hard-rock of Montrose to the proginess of Rush. All in the rock genre though. We just wrote songs that we wanted to hear. We were learning all the time… Fist were our friends, as were Hellanbach, Mythra and Saracen.”
A certain Lars Ulrich selected Hollow Ground's 'Fight With The Devil' for his »N.W.O.B.H.M. '79 Revisited« compilation in 1990. The band's style would have fitted perfectly well with Metallica, but Lars' boys do not seem to have ever covered a Hollow Ground number. Martin Metcalf takes over the story: “Guardian Records supplied the original Hollow Ground masters for the »N.W.O.B.H.M. '79 Revisited« album. Lars didn't contact us directly but Guardian told us about one of our tracks being used in the »A Year and A half in The Life Of Metallica« video. Glenn and I decided to investigate further, so we went to see Metallica who were touring the UK with the black album at the time. When Lars heard that we were there, he invited us backstage, gave us all-access passes, including the snakepit. Lars was very knowledgeable about Hollow Ground and made us feel very welcome. Spending time with the huge Metallica machine were some of the best days we’ve ever had! In an interview with a rock magazine about the »N.W.O.B.H.M. '79 Revisited« album, Lars stated Hollow Ground were 'personal favourites of mine'. He told us at the gig that he bought the »Roksnax« album back in the States. We didn’t even know it was released out there! I would love to hear Metallica’s version of one of our songs that would be a real treat!”
Up until the present day, there's not been an official Hollow Ground retrospective album/CD, only a shoddy Brazilian bootleg. Martin Metcalf explains why: “We were offered this sort of deal from the people you’d expect, but we received conflicting advice from different third-parties.”
With 22 songs the Hollow Ground anthology album on High Roller Records contains virtually everything the band has ever recorded professionally. Martin has all the details: “We still have cassette tapes of rehearsals and one from Neat Records’ live demo sessions. The last demos we did were supposedly for EMI but we never saw any official EMI documents from Terry Gavaghan. The »Raw Tapes 79« CD-R release sold at Headbangers Open Air in 2007, which is part of this album, came from one of our rehearsal tapes. We just used to stick a cassette recorder in a corner under some coats (for the volume!) and leave it running so we could listen to it back at home. Of course, they were never meant for release just for our ears only. We thought we should do something a bit different for Headbangers Open Air, so we released that CD at the gig only. We did 80 individually numbered discs and any that were left over were sold to Jess Cox.”
Today, the band has no contact whatsoever to former Guardian boss Terry Gavaghan. The label was originally based in Pity-Me near Durham.
As mentioned earlier, Hollow Ground (who never changed their line up) appeared live in 2007 at the Headbangers Open Air festival in Northern Germany. It was an awesome gig. So what happened after this classic appearance? Martin Metcalf: “We returned home and got on with our lives. We received some offers of gigs but some of them didn’t materialise. The thing is, we’ve never looked for or chased any gigs but have accepted offers - as and when they come in.”
There was also talk of Hollow Ground issuing a brand new studio album back in 2007. What happened with that plan? Martin Metcalf: “Some tracks were recorded but unfinished. No vocals were recorded on any tracks. I had to have major eye surgery which took quite a bit of time out of my life and when I recovered from that the other eye had to be operated on in exactly the same way. So the last few years have been spent having surgery and recovering etc. I still intend to re-record all our stuff from back in the day and I’d like to start again from scratch. I have a couple of songs that have developed at rehearsals, but I wanted to release all the stuff from 1979 first as they haven’t officially seen the light of day. New stuff can be for the future. I’m sure you know that the Fist track 'Guardian Angel' (from the »Storm« album I did) was an old Hollow Ground track I wrote with lyrics re-written by Keith Satchfield. Following the recent Brofest gig, we have a greatly renewed enthusiasm so I started again recording everything again from scratch. Its going really well… ”
Unlike other bands, Hollow Ground has never changed band members and still has the original line up. How many other NWOBHM bands can say that? Hollow Ground is: Glenn Coates (vocals), Martin Metcalf (guitar), Brian Rickman (bass) and John Lockney (drums).