October 17, 2020

Well, it’s time to get your wallets out again boys (and girls) as we have another must have album here from a band that you may remember (but most likely will not) from the NWOBHM movement and they have returned with an absolute stonker of a record. It’s so steeped in early ’80s metal and took me back to my youth so much that I’ve just had to check the mirror to see if I have got long hair again. Sadly not, but the euphoria at this hard hitting and equally hard rocking album will not go away.

I think it is fair to say that Airforce is most probably not one of the first names you would shout out when recalling the bands from the NWOBH period but this just goes to show the quality that came out of it, some bands made it huge, some big and others did OK but should have been much bigger.

Originally, Chop Pitman (guitar) and Tony Hatton (bass) played together in a band called E.L-34 which split in the mid-’80s. Being a good friend of Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) he asked if he knew any drummers as he and Hatton were looking to form a new group and Harris introduced them to former Maiden drummer Doug Sampson and thus Airforce was born. The band continued with a variety of vocalists but didn’t really have a settled line-up and it was probably the lack of the right man on the microphone that held them back for so long but it seemed they were on an upswing when Dilian Arnaudov came on board and song writing began in earnest but it seems he had to return home and, eventually, through a long and twisted series of Machiavellian type events the band ultimately found themselves with a new and formidable line-up of old stagers Chop Pitman on guitars, Tony Hatton on bass and Doug Sampson on drums and new vocalist Flávio Lino, a man with the voice the band were always looking for and really needed. The Iron Maiden legacy has remained with the band and they have also recorded with Paul Di’Anno and Paul Mario Day, both early Maiden vocalists) on a couple of EPs from 2017 and Di’Anno also makes a guest appearance on this new album too.

This is an energetic and melodic rock album full of hooks, riffs and sing-along choruses and it is amazing just how much Lino sounds like Bruce Dickinson but it seems that the band did discover him singing in an Iron Maiden tribute band, where have we heard this story before? Chop Pitman is an excellent guitarist and what is strange about the band is they do not have the more usual twin guitar attack but Pitman more than makes up for this with his incessant riffing and lead breaks. The songs are a fine selection of classic British melodic rock and, of course, there is a military theme to many of the songs which is not so surprising and the sound of a screaming engine (I really hope it is a Spitfire) is heard on the album on several occasions. They even include a mighty fine version of Alex Harvey’s Faith Healer, a song still recognisable but definitely given the full Airforce treatment. Strike Hard is simple NWOBH from an earlier day and is so much the better for it, forget fashions or trends, when it is this good you just have to sit back and revel in a time when we ruled the world with our rock bands.

If you do not dance or head bang to Airforce then you are most probably dead. Beg, steal, borrow but preferably buy a copy now.

Strike Hard track list

  1. Finest Hour (4:48)
  2. The Reaper (5:06)
  3. Son of the Damned (5:02)
  4. The War Inside (5:20)
  5. Band of Brothers (5:20)
  6. Fight (3:58)
  7. Feel your Pain (4:39)
  8. War Games (5:36)
  9. Don’t Look in Her Eyes (4:50)
  10. Die for You (5:02)
  11. Faith Healer (5:17)