Michael Keating presents GODSPEED
I first heard Godspeed in early 1986. I remember having mixed feelings that night. Firstly I was impressed that such world class metal was being produced in that shabby rehearsal studio in Taren Point in the south of Sydney. I was also disheartened because I realised how far behind my own attempts at creating memorable metal were, not only in the quality of the material but in the standard of musicianship.
Godspeed was the brainchild of Gray’s Point, Sydney guitarist Michael Allan. At the time I first heard them the rest of the band was made up of Keiran Cullen on drums, bassist Andy Hatton and guitarist Matt. The position of vocalist was at that stage vacant. I
was to work with Godspeed as a roadie, lighting tech, & session bass player for the
remainder of their short career and am still best of friends with Michael to this day.
Michael had recorded a four track demo in 1984 playing all guitars and bass parts with Keiran Cullen on drums. Vocals were provided by Steve Shotton who sung in Michael’s previous band Archangel and would later surface in White Widow. This four track demo is now available for the first time through Quarterpipe Records.
Although the production is typical of what you would expect from a demo from an unsigned band at the time what is clear is Michael’s clarity of vision and intent. Bombastic, classy metal anthems, soaring guitar and vocal harmonies. Triumphant, authentic metal with much for the listener to discover. “Lest We Forget”, Michael’s tribute to the late great Randy Rhoads is typical of this set of songs – fast paced before an arpeggio breakdown at 2:47 leads to a great duelling lead. “Long Live Metal”, its catchy riff my personal favourite, is memorable for its chant of “Long!, Long!, Long!, Long, Live, Long!” provided by an assembled gang of Sydney metal scene stalwarts. Steve’s vocals to my mind at times reminiscent of Manowar’s Eric Adams. “Til Death Do Us Rock”, another heavy riff with Godspeed’s trademark, harmonising guitar parts over bombastic accents. At 2:30 the song becomes heavier without ever losing melody. “We Are Forever” in which Michael by his own admission pushes Steve to his limit with soaring up-lifting falsettos. Such was Michael’s determination to achieve on tape what he heard in his head he hired at great expense the Sydney Men’s Choir to contribute to this track.
Godspeed’s live line-up was completed by the addition of Dave Crompton, ex-Surrender, on vocals and Michael “The Doc” Evans on guitar. After a few live shows, Andy Hatton was replaced by Peter Schenker. This is the line-up that recorded the second demo in 1987. “Bound For Glory” begins with a guitar-only harmonised piece before crashing accents give way to a rolling rhythm and the entry of Dave’s vocals. Note the layered vocal harmonies on this track of which Michael was especially particular. Lyrically the song celebrates the triumph of human spirit. So much for the listener to hear in the one track! At the time Godspeed’s live show featured a cover of Tony MacAlpine’s instrumental track “The Raven” to highlights Michael prowess on the guitar. He then set out to write his own guitar instrumental showpiece. “Flight Of The Phoenix” was the result. I distinctly remember other Sydney guitar heroes listening in amazement as this song was let rip live. “Falling” was a reworking of Surrender’s “Out of Love”. “Godspeed” was written as a centrepiece to an album or live show, a near ten minute epic beginning
with a picked acoustic guitar and synth. Dave’s voice enters quietly, eerily, at first almost a whisper, before building to a cry of “Godspeed!” at 2:44. The track includes an Maidenesque instrumental passage before at 6:34 starting again with just acoustic guitar and bass runs before the synth once again colours Dave’s plaintive vocals. The heavy outro ends fittingly with a last note falsetto.
I am unashamedly Godspeed’s biggest fan. This is classic metal from a time before Metallica became the benchmark for “heavy”. For fans of technical yet memorable guitar riffs and vocalists who are judged on the strength of their falsettos. Godspeed were a short-lived shooting star across Sydney’s heavy metal scene. I am very proud to be able to present for the first time these eight timeless songs exclusively through Quarterpipe Records.
Michael Allan’s personal account of GODSPEED
My favourite bands growing up in the late 70s and early 80s were Kiss, Queen, The Scorpions, Sabbath, Purple, Judas Priest and even Meatloaf. I was mesmerised by quality musicianship, big sounds, exciting stage shows, great riffs, melodies and harmonies, and epic, memorable songs.
I wanted to recreate the euphoric effect these bands had upon me, mixing the best parts from all of them into one hopefully unique style. That was the dream anyhow. I was practising guitar 8 hours a day, quitting jobs at the drop of a hat when music called, and spending every dollar I ever earned on equipment and rehearsal studios. Of course, the most difficult of feats was bringing together, and harder still, holding together, talented musicians.
The band went through many incarnations. First we were Trojan, then Archangel, and finally Godspeed. Over 30 musicians were dumped along the way. My obsessive attitude meant that if anyone missed a rehearsal without good reason, or lacked dedication, they got ‘the call’.
can’t say that I ever created the exact sound or quality of song that I dreamed of, but I did get close a few times. Flight Of The Phoenix and Bound For Glory were my favourites – and I am reasonably proud of them for different reasons. The first because it represented the height of my guitar playing – the second for pure song quality.
I hate writing about myself, and have only managed this much due to my great mate Michael Keating, who threatened me with physical harm if I didn’t knock something together. Michael was the type of guy without whom our shows would never have happened. He roadied, advised and supported the band tirelessly, while I yelled and screamed like a lunatic from back stage because some amp, light or smoke effect wasn’t working properly. Mikey was and is the man!
My most memorable moments in Godspeed included getting two songs (Lest We Forget and We Are Forever) on Australia’s first heavy metal compilation album – Thunder Down Under – recording the Sydney Male Voice Choir on We Are Forever, playing the Hordern Pavilion to launch the compilation album (with an outrageous set including two massive painted angels, two 5 metre Greek columns and an 8 metre Godspeed sign which mimicked stained glass), and every single minute of recording because I love that process so much.
If there really is anyone out there who wants to hear my music – as Michael insists there are – please forgive the shortcomings and enjoy whatever you can. Oh yeah, and Godspeed to you all, whatever that means.
January 17, 2010
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