Nightman Listens To – Urchin – High Roller (Non-Maiden Series)!

Urchin - High Roller (2010, Vinyl) | Discogs

Greetings, Glacers! It’s time for another history lesson for any of you budding metallers out there. In fact, I’ve probably already mentioned this before, so the brief version is that Urchin were formed before Iron Maiden by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Murray only played on a song or two, while Smith became one of the main driving forces. They were essentially a live only band and Smith went on to form a series of other bands. Every so often he would get Urchin together for the odd show. Their limited album releases are collections of singles and live stuff. So they say, I haven’t heard them yet. UNTIL NOW!

Keeping It Mellow: A loose and mellow opening which is much smoother and softer than I was expecting. If anything, it sounds reminiscent of Free’s All Right Now. Just good cruising music for nice weather. It’s far from amazing, the vocals are a little scratchy and the production isn’t great but much better than what I was expecting. A simple, easy listening rock song which says everything it has to say well within three minutes, yet keeps going for another two. There’s a tasty solo in those two minutes, but still could have done with some shaving.

Life In The City: Another good intro, some guitars with a flange or phaser effect, the vocals are a little too shouty and plain for my liking. There’s an ever so faint touch of Maiden in there, but it more accurately sounds like a tonne of American MOR rock bands. Parts of the solo go full Maiden at times.

Watch Me Walk Away: A subtle melding of cymbals and bass gives way to some synthesized guitars for something with sounds like an up tempo ballad. I don’t think that’s what the lyrics are going for. There’s that 70’s rock beat again. It’s another good song – not anything that’s going to change anyone’s world and if I heard it on the radio I wouldn’t go searching to see who it was by – but I wouldn’t change the station.

Countdown: Well, this is a collection of oddities – a very nice and atmospheric opening which reminds me of the slower, mysterious stuff from the first two Maiden albums gives way to chugging chords clearly borrowed from Phantom Of The Opera – the opera, not the Maiden song. Then it feels like 22 Acacia Avenue. The vocals suit the song better this time around, and the solo is great too – very Maiden.

Lifetime: This is verging on cheesy. There’s a slow, stomping beat and all this twinkling keyboard stuff, and the lyrics are all lovey dovey. Still, the extended intro has a certain level of intrigue. It’s not bad. One thing missing from the songs for me is any real sort of emotion, beyond the fact that the band seem to enjoy playing, and that there are no standout hooks, no big chorus, no major melody. The solo here goes pure futuristic, or at least what they thought the future would sound like in the 70s.

The Late Show: Another distinctly Iron Maiden sounding song. Once the verse starts it turns pure Pink Floyd – Time to be precise. It’s a softer Maiden with a more bluesy, jazzy texture. We even get an organ solo. It’s still just missing the hook.

My Lady: Oh, this one tops 8 minutes. Are they gonna go for it? That’s a pretty great intro, again quite Maiden in tone, especially with that swirling guitar. The vocals are too flat in the verses and the chorus is far too plain. It’s the same issue I had with most of Di’Anno’s vocals – just boring to me, ignoring any Dickinson comparison. We get a solo, instrumental section just before the 4th minute, assuming it’s going to change gears for final half. Well over a minute of guitars, no gear change yet. Back to the verse, that’s a shame. A song this long, you gots to change it up. This is meant to be emotional or something, but it doesn’t work. Decent song, but no need in being so long.

Animals: Well, this takes a different approach. It’s not disco, but it’s certainly funky. Still rock of course. Topical lyrics. It almost, dare I say it, has a ska feeling. We head into a groovy instrumental section, the lead jangling chords linking with the constant drum beat while Smith lets loose on the six string. This doesn’t feel like Maiden in any way. An interesting end.

That was a lot better than what I was fearing. It’s a pity then that none of the songs really standout as a crusher. For picking my playlist tracks I could really pick any of them for the same reasons – none are bad, none are great – they’re all equally good. They’re all equally B- grade. You can tell their influences quite easily, and you can also tell how the sound went on to determine that Maiden sound. Taken as a whole they feel like any number of 70s rock bands who haven’t quite nailed down their own sound and direction and hit that niche where they can express creatively and deliver what they are capable of.

Let us know in the comments what you think of High Roller!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Keeping It Mellow. Countdown.