Legend - s/t + Death in the Nursery + Frontline. 1981-1982 Jersey (UK/Channel Islands)
Legend - Death in the Nursery. 1982 Workshop
Legend - Frontline. 1982 Workshop
CD reissues: 2002 Monster ("Anthology" - includes all 3 albums plus a 1983 demo); 2009 Rockadrome
LP reissue for Legend: 2011 Svart (Finland)
LP reissue for Death in the Nursery: 2012 Svart (Finland)
Release details: All 3 albums are privately released single sleeve issues on the band's own Workshop label. Originals are scarce, but not terribly expensive ($50-$150). The LP reissues are adorned in gatefold covers, which is a nice bonus. I picked up one of these reissues only because I was able to source one dirt cheap. My introduction to Legend's music came via the awesome 2 CD set from Monster, which includes all of the band's work from 1981 to 1983. Features fine liner notes with historical newspaper clippings and photos. The 2009 repress demonstrates continued demand for the title. The CD is the way to go here I think.
Notes: Legend are a band from Jersey, which sits in the Channel Islands. For all intents and purposes they are part of the United Kingdom, but technically are separate. And if you look at a map, you'll see that Jersey is just off the coast of France. It's all intertwined with the Norman invasion of England, and thus has a mixed history and culture.
Understanding this isolation is critical to understanding Legend as a band and their place in metal history. Because they were like none other, and yet all very familiar as well.
The album starts harmlessly enough with the very good, though nondescript, 'Bad Girl'. Even here, though, one of Legend's many great characteristics is demonstrated: The vocals of Mike Lezala. He has a pleasant and soothing high pitched voice, absolutely perfect for the scratchy metal guitar sound provided underneath. He's no screamer, and can actually carry a tune. Starting with 'Taste of Life', the music becomes increasingly complex. Perhaps not in a technical way, but each song unfolds in unexpected fashion. Legend is superb in how they craft a memorable break via a crushing riff. So the familiar names of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest are brought to the fore - but in a way that is neither. Their sound isn't particularly heavy, almost hard rock, though there's just enough distortion to easily consider it metal. The guitar soloing is more psychedelic influenced, which I consider a major plus. The rhythms are also considerably more sophisticated than the usual 4/4 thumping beats one would hear in those early days of heavy metal.
In a perfect world, Legend would have been a great companion band to Iron Maiden on their rapid trajectory through the sales charts. Legend were miles ahead of bands like Saxon, Def Leppard, and Motorhead at this point in their career, especially in terms of creative songwriting. Only Iron Maiden and Diamond Head could compete this early on in the NWOBHM sweepstakes.
Despite the small press private release, Legend were not unknown amongst the 1981 metal intelligentsia, and received very good press from the UK metals mags of the day. Why they weren't signed up immediately is one of the great music industry tragedies, and one has to think their geographic location was the primary factor. I remember Legend being mentioned often, but always in the margins of an article. I never actually had a chance to hear them until Monster released the superb "Anthology" CD in 2002.
Legend's second album attempts to streamline their sound a bit, and tighten up the ship. And fortunately... they failed. Legend is one of those bands that just can't seem to help themselves when it comes to creative songwriting. One gets the impression that if you told Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) to write more poppy material, he'd come back with similar compositions as found on 'Death in the Nursery'. While no one would dare label Legend "Prog Metal", they are in fact more unpredictable than any established band in that field of music. Side 1 is a tad weaker than the debut, though almost all the material is still excellent, with 'Time Bomb' being their token "ordinary" metal track, similar to 'Bad Girls' from the debut. Side 2, however, opens up Pandora's Box, and the tunes begin to stray all over the place without rhyme or reason. Awesome.
Still marching forward without a label deal, Legend gives it a 3rd go with Frontline, this time going with the EP format. 'Stormers of Heaven' was the track that received the accolades from the metal press of the era, and it would seem to be the best choice for a single. For Legend, however, it's a bit ordinary. The other tracks, of course, are unpredictable with fantastic breaks/riffs, and cool psychedelic solos. It is the sound of Legend, one that most of the world unfortunately was deprived of for so long. If only a single enlightened label had come along...
Legend reformed in 2003, and we'll cover off on those albums in Under the Radar at another time.