While Black Sabbath were setting the very bones of what we’ve come to define as heavy metal music, there were a slew of other bands in the late 60s and early 70s playing righteously heavy music. Mixing boogie, psychedelia and straight ahead rock in the vein of bands like Cream and Blue Cheer. Bang, for a time, were set to be the Next Big Thing, even opening for Sabbath. Their self titled 1972 debut was a powerhouse of tight, adventurous hard rock but, as is evident on Ripple Music’s recent compilation The Best of BANG, there was a lot more to the band than a couple hard licks and a footnote in the annals of metal. Bang were a dead on, kick ass rocking unit.
Sifting through the legacy of three albums from Capitol Records, it’s a shame but sadly all too common story of a band full of promise getting a run of bad luck with their record company, their management, and rigors of the time. It certainly wasn’t anything to do with the music that kept Bang from moving into the upper echelons of rock majesty. The first track on the compilation, “Death of a County” is a 10-minute epic ride of classic metal that touches on doom and progressive rock so potently Lee Dorrian released it and the band’s shelved 1971 album of the same name on Rise Above Records in 2004. “Lions, Christians” feels like it could have been a natural track on any Sabbath album, and really lets the vocal prowess of Frank Ferrera shine through. Doubling as the band’s bassist he’s a formidable talent: incredibly only a teenager at the time of the band’s formation along with fellow high school dropout Frank Glicken on guitar and 31-year old Tony Diorio on drums.
Track after track of this compilation is a treasure: the band’s first single “Questions” is another Sabbathian stomp that plays better the louder you turn it up. Even more traditional rock songs fall prey to heavy doom and odd quirks that make them sound as fresh as when they were recorded. “Keep On” starts with a lilting, almost pleasant line which is completely submerged in a wicked chug and blast a minute in. “Humble” is a way-laden blues barnstormer, Diorio’s percussion keeping the track locked and tight as Ferrera’s voice and Glicken’s power chords move things up into the clouds and into space.
By the time of the band’s third album Music things took a little turn, but the move away from straight ahead hard rock still works, the band refusing to adhere to a certain style and simply let the songs take them where they will result in some great gems like “Don’t Need Nobody” and the southern fried rock of “Windfair” that still have that singular speak that makes Bang such a great band to come back to.
My heart is always drawn to this kind of music – beautiful analog rock built atop the foundation of the almighty riff. Bang did it better than most, and though their time in the light may have been short, its poised to come back on the heels of a killer compilation like this. News that the band is also reunited and touring gives me hope for more killer tunes in the future.