remastered by Patrick W. Engel/ Temple of Disharmony
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 and whose “Name, Rank & Serial” number was covered by Mythra in the very early days, 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.
So would it be fair to say that Mythra belonged to the same school within the NWOBHM as Jaguar, Raven, Satan and Blitzkrieg? A lot of critics do view them as true originators of proto-speed metal. “Wow, great bands one and all,” comments original singer Vince High. “Raven and ourselves were gigging around our local region of North East England at the same time in the late 1970s. Those Gallagher bros were special even then and it's fantastic to see what John and Mark (along with band mate Joe of course) have achieved in their 40 year career. Jaguar, Satan and Blitzkrieg came along slightly later but yes, for sure, all the great NWOBHM bands you mention were and are once again delivering quality metal. Whether or not Mythra was proto-speed metal however is, I guess, for the fans to decide.”
Mythra were originally formed in South Shields in county Durham in 1978. Vince High takes over the story: “Yes, we got together in 1978 having all been in previous local bands as young teenagers. The nucleus of the band at that time included John, Maurice and Peter (Melsom) who were known as Zarathustra. When Barry (Hopper) and I hooked up with them we became Mythra. We immediately built up a great following on the regional music scene with up to three gigs a week. Our sets were made up of covers by amongst others Black Sabbath, UFO and Scorpions plus our own original material which went down a storm and led to us entering the studio to record our first EP.”
The mentioned »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. So why didn’t Guardian Records actually release a Mythra album back in 1980? “Great question,” muses Vince High. “The record deal with Street Beat should have led to the release of follow-up singles and a Mythra album back then but sadly it didn't happen. The success of our EP enabled us to establish a great following, we signed with a major London agent, were gigging nationwide including performing at the legendary ‘Heavy Metal Barn Dance’ with Motörhead, Saxon, Girlschool and others. It is unbelievable that the commercial success of our first EP was not capitalised upon through follow-up releases but that's the situation we found ourselves in. Following the success of the initial pressing of our first EP, which sold out in days, we signed with a company called Street Beat who re-issued the EP. This recording went on to spend twelve weeks on the UK Independent Record Charts in 1980 peaking at #2. The original intention was to release two further singles plus an album but for reasons unknown to the band, as mentioned earlier, no follow-up recordings were issued despite the fact the studio recordings had been completed and were available. There were mutterings of alleged disputes between our management and the record company but we as a band were never party to any of those dealings all we cared about was our music. It was an extremely frustrating time for us as young musicians for the absence of follow-up recordings led to the tailing off of live work opportunities as our agent had no new music with which to promote the band.”
With the double album »Warriors Of Time« High Roller Records is now proud to present the ultimate Mythra anthology. The album has taken quite a long time to evolve. Was it worth the long wait after all? “Definitely,” answers Vince High. “It’s the ultimate Mythra collection of songs. It features all of the band's studio recordings from 1979 to 1981 including the self financed four tracks from our popular »Death And Destiny« EP.”
As a special treat »Warriors Of Time« contains the songs “Reaching Out”, “The Best Is Yet To Come”, “You”, “Face In The Mirror” and “Faith, Fate, Hate”. Vince High explains: “These five tracks are all brand new recordings written by the current band and recorded in June/July 2015. We recorded them at Phil's Downcast Studios in Gateshead. Following on from our appearance at Brofest UK we were totally blown away by the incredible reaction from the fans, many of whom had traveled from across Europe with some even further afield from the USA and South America. We wanted to give them something new as a thank you for their incredible support and so we recorded some new music to include as bonus tracks on the anthology album. We think we have stayed true to the spirit of the NWOBHM with the new songs as they have the energy and power of that era including great riffs and of course our twin guitar attack.”
When Mythra appeared at the aforementioned Brofest (UK) in February 2015 simultaneously there was the first (and probably the last) PEGIDA demonstration in England taking place at Newcastle city centre. On stage, the band dedicated the song “England” to various anti-fascist organisations. Not a lot of NWOBHM bands (with the exception of Triarchy) deal with politics at all... “The words to some of our songs are political for sure”, confirms Vince High, “but the band are not political activists in any shape or form. We do, however, have a social conscience which comes through in songs such as 'England', 'Vicious Bastards', 'Machine' and 'The Best Is Yet To Come'. Like most decent human beings in this world we care about people and dislike injustice in all its forms and those sentiments have found their way into the words I've written for some Mythra songs at least. There are other sides to our lyrics too, however, including the fantasy side with 'U.F.O.', 'Warrior Of Time' and 'New Life' and the deeply personal 'Together Forever', 'Reaching Out' and 'You'. I do agree that this mix of themes sets us apart from other NWOBHM bands. I wrote the words to 'England' around 1978. It's basically a song about celebrating diversity which aimed to raise awareness of the racism that was growing across the UK in the mid to late 1970s. Me and my mate Mick Doran were supporters of the 'Rock Against Racism' movement that emerged at that time and I guess 'England' was my modest contribution to the messages we were trying to get across to people at that time. Irony is that the message in 'England' is as relevant today as when I wrote those words...”